Panel agrees that further collaboration between private sector and academic institutions is vital.
Abu Dhabi, January 20, 2010 – The opening session of the third day of the World Future Energy Summit has witnessed animated discussions around the dramatic changes witnessed over the past 18 months in the world’s economic landscape and how regional and international Governments are pushing legislation and subsidies for driving a technological shift in favour of renewable energies. The session focused on the dual role played by the private sector and university research in moving the industry forward.
The discussion was chaired by Professor Reza Abhari, Director of the Centre for Energy Conservation at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
He was joined on stage by Professor Ernest Moniz, Director of the MIT Energy Initiative, Dr. Tariq Ali, Vice President of Research and Industry Relations at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Professor Nigel Brandon, Director of the Energy Futures Laboratory at Imperial College and Daniel Kammen, Professor in the Energy and Resources Group and Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley.
Discussing the changes needed to R&D to positively impact the energy market, speakers agreed that innovation and academic-commercial partnerships are vital, as well as the need for academics and researchers to have access to funds and industry partnerships. Ernest Moniz, highlighted that multi-faceted innovation is key, that innovation is not just needed in technology but also in business model innovation, and policy innovation, and what is needed is all three working in concert.
Moniz commented, “We are talking about a serious change in the way energy is produced and used. We must accelerate the transformation of the energy marketplace significantly if we are to meet prudent climate change risk mitigation goals, and meet demand and enhance security.”
He went on to highlight that the US CO2 emissions are currently about 19 tons per person and the goal is one or two tons per person, and further highlighted that the investments being made in energy innovation and infrastructure developments are significantly lower than is sufficient. He did add that positive signs are present however.
The importance of financing was an issue that was consistently raised throughout the session.
Nigel Brandon pointed to universities as the powerhouse of innovation in science and technology and that as organisations they must strive to increase the volume of this discovery pipeline. He also spoke of the importance of partnerships, as universities must continue to have access to capital and markets.
There is a strong correlation between investment in research and development and GDP productivity, according to Dr. Tariq Ali, Vice President of Research & Industry Relations at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, who highlighted the United States as a specific example, saying that university inventions contribute $20 billion and 150,000 jobs to the U.S. economy each year.
He went on to mention another example of technology addressing climate change, talking about a new technology ‘radiant cooling’ which would result in a 70% reduction in the annual Abu Dhabi electricity load and would reduce CO2 emissions by two million tons – the equivalent of taking 55,000 cars off the road.
We are facing a battle of ‘tipping points’, according to Professor Daniel Kammen, Director of the Renewable & Appropriate Energy Lab at UC Berkeley, who continued on to say that developing innovative technical and social ‘tipping points’ is vital in competing with the potential negative climate ‘tipping points’. He highlighted energy ‘systems research’ as being largely neglected yet vital.
The session closed with an interactive questions and answers session that discussed intellectual property as an asset as well as a barrier. Brandon said that often the route to market is through the major energy players and IP therefore needs to be managed appropriately and sympathetically.