Innovation in the energy sector: paradigm busting or paradigm reinforcing?

Speaker: Professor Jim Skea, CBE # Imperial College and RCUK Energy Strategy Fellow

25th Nov 2014

15:00 - 16:30

Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation


The last decade’s developments in energy innovation can be seen as a challenge to the existing energy paradigm focused on conventional fuels and technologies, with the traditionally incremental pace of energy innovation speeding-up. While much of the recent efforts have targeted technologies that promise to reduce carbon emissions, however, others have extended the fossil fuel resource base and reduced the cost of its extraction.

The talk aims to articulate more clearly the overall pattern of development, drawing on empirical evidence relating to the public sector R&D portfolio, private sector activity and evolving institutional arrangements in a number of countries. It will also highlight the changing shape of energy R&D portfolios and the balance between public and private sector activities.

Overall, there is a tension between the drive on the part of public bodies to transform energy systems, mainly motivated by the need to combat global climate change, and more self-motivated private sector activity which serves to reinforce and extend existing patterns of energy provision. The key issue is whether technological change is enabling or frustrating ambitious carbon goals, over different timescales.


Jim Skea is the UK Research Councils Energy Strategy Fellow and a Professor of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College. He was founding Research Director of the UK Energy Research Centre. He has operated at the interface between research, policy making and business throughout his career. He is a member of the UK Committee on Climate Change and a Vice Chair of IPCC Working Group III. He was awarded a CBE for services to sustainable energy in 2013 and an OBE for services to sustainable transport in 2004.

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