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Driving energy innovation

Glob. Environ. Change (2012)

Research has recently emphasized the importance of new energy technologies to achieve environmental sustainability and energy security, especially in light of possible future oil shocks. However, little is known about the international variation in the form and quality of energy technology innovation.

Andrew Cheon and Johannes Urpelainen of Columbia University, New York proposed that increases in international oil prices induce different energy technology innovation responses across sectors depending on how good sectors are at innovating. The ability to innovate in a specific industry depends on the political influence of private businesses that expect to benefit from energy technology innovation because such influence enables public investment. The researchers test this integrated political–economic account by using data on public research and development expenditures and patents in the domain of renewable energy technology for industrialized countries from 1989 to 2007.

They found strong support for the interactive hypothesis: only sectors with a history of successful innovation in renewable energy will have a powerful political–economic response to changes in international oil prices.


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Contestabile, M. Driving energy innovation. Nature Clim Change 2, 146 (2012).

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