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Innovation

A critical driver of clean energy transitions

Through research, investments and collaboration, a wide variety of energy fields are being reshaped by technology improvements, reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and boosting deployment. Effective policies are needed to support the best ideas from lab to market.

Key findings

Spending on energy R&D by listed companies, 2015-2021

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Innovation in clean energy technologies needs to accelerate to get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario

There has been important progress in 2021-2022, including in R&D in key areas such as low-emission hydrogen-based steelmaking, small modular nuclear reactors, and lithium-free batteries. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, governments are spending more and more on energy R&D – which could reach USD 40 billion in 2022 assuming steady growth – and venture capital investments in clean energy start-ups reached an all-time high in 2021.

While it remains early to draw firm conclusions on the impacts of Covid-19, there are signs that it has not been a significant setback, and may be followed by a major boost to spending as economic recovery takes effect. Governments around the world earmarked funding increases in 2021 as part of stimulus packages, much of it for hydrogen, CCUS and energy storage.

Early-stage venture capital investment in clean energy start-ups by technology area, 2015-2022

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Clean energy innovation must be accelerated, but if you cannot measure it then you cannot reliably improve it

The goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 will be out of reach without major innovation efforts to improve and commercialise known technologies this decade, and quickly bring less mature ideas to market as soon as possible to minimise the costs of energy transitions.

There is considerable uncertainty about the extent to which countries’ energy transitions are on track. For innovation, there are few reliable and high-quality metrics available in most countries to support evidence-based policy decisions on energy technologies. Around the world, governments are asking more questions about technology progress, innovation gaps, national strengths and the effectiveness of energy and climate innovation policies.

Global public energy RD&D budget, 2015-2021

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Detailed breakdown of public budgets on energy RD&D submitted to the IEA by its member and association countries

The explorer displays public budgets on energy RD&D submitted to the IEA by its member or association countries. The data is available in the IEA Energy Technology RD&D Budgets database, which is updated twice a year in May and October.
Our work on innovation

The energy sector has a long history of disruptive innovation leading to sweeping changes in energy markets, mobility and society at large. Governments are increasingly looking to guide and accelerate the development of technologies for energy transitions and competitive advantage in a changing energy system.

The IEA works with policy and decision makers around the world to track innovation spending, patents and start-ups, model technology potentials, share good policy practice and promote multilateral collaboration. Notably, the IEA Committee on Energy Research and Technology (CERT) co-ordinates and promotes the development, demonstration and deployment of technologies to meet challenges in the energy sector.