Submission from the Energy Research Partnership
The work of the ERP has confirmed
that the development, commercialisation and widespread deployment
of any new energy technology, including those required for renewable
electricity generation, needs an effective energy innovation chain
to be operating in the UK.
The current energy innovation landscape
in the UK, whilst diverse, is also complex.
ERP has developed a future vision
for energy innovation in the UK, which suggests how the Energy
Technologies Institute (ETI) and the Environmental Transformation
Fund (ETF) could be used to simplify the UK's energy innovation
The Research Councils the Carbon
Trust and the Technology Strategy Board, also have central remits
to accelerate low carbon technology innovation. These agencies
are developing strategic partnerships with the ETI, for example,
starting with a £40 million collaborative offshore wind programme
between the Carbon Trust and the ETI.
Other agencies including Ofgem, the
Devolved Administrations, and the Regional Development Agencies
also have a role to play in delivering an effective innovation
process for the UK.
ERP is currently steering further
work with BERR, Carbon Trust, DIUS and the Royal Academy of Engineering
on ensuring an effective energy innovation system for the UK.
If the ambitions for UK energy innovation
are to be realised, the setting up of the ETI and ETF should result
in an increase in public funding for energy innovation compared
to that provided through existing programmes. It is essential
that the change to new mechanisms for funding is carried out in
a managed way to prevent any loss of momentum during the transition.
There is an international aspect
to any energy innovation activity, creating opportunities for
exploitation of the UK's strengths and more rapid development
of appropriate solutions.
Delivery of effective renewable electricity
generation solutions will be dependent upon having a sufficient
number of high calibre, committed and practising scientists and
engineers in the sector. Against this background, the ERP has
sought to understand the growing body of evidence that there is
a progressive, long term decline in the numbers of "next
generation" scientists and engineers available to support
UK industry and academia.
1. The Energy Research Partnership (ERP)
brings together senior individuals with roles from across the
energy innovation spectrum, and from different sectors, who have
the capability through their day-jobs to help the Partnership
to achieve its aim of bringing step change improvements to the
scale, coherence and impact of the UK's total energy research
and innovation investments.
2. The Partnership is not a formal advisory
or executive body, and its wide ranging membership
extending across government, industry and the research community
will sometimes mean that the views of its members diverge. Consequently,
the issues raised within this document are a distillation of views
that have been expressed at ERP Meetings, and reflect an on-going
debate between members as opposed to a final position to which
the membership has signed up.
3. ERP plays an important role and is uniquely
positioned to act as a forum for strategic dialogue and analysis,
including to consider policy development issues and options where
these set the context as drivers for technological innovation.
Government has found it a valuable sounding board for policy ideas,
alongside more formal bodies and processes.
4. The ERP, established in 2005 at the instigation
of the Chancellor, is jointly chaired between public and private
sectors. Dr Paul Golby is the current industry co-chair. Willy
Rickett, Director General for Energy in BERR, has recently taken
over from Sir David King as the public sector co-chair.
Energy Innovation Landscape
5. In discussion, the ERP has concluded
that development, commercialisation and deployment of new electricity
generation technologies, including those required to support the
effective use of renewable resources, requires a co-ordinated
programme of energy innovation in the UK (see Figure 1).
6. The existing landscape of organisations
and programmes in the energy innovation area is complex (see Figure
2), and the government support in many of these schemes is needed
because the market drivers are not strong or urgent enough to
drive technologies through the innovation chain.
7. Specific concerns have been raised about
certain aspects of this innovation landscape:
Support for the "demonstration"
stage is inadequate in some sectors.
EU State Aid rules may restrict support
for large scale demonstration projects.
Extended support is needed during
the early commercial deployment phase when market incentives are
Not all sectors have a coherent technology
The focus of academic research needs
to better directed towards sector priorities.
In most sectors the extension and
modernisation of existing R&D facilities would be more valuable
than the creation of new facilities.
8. The ERP has discussed a vision for
the future energy innovation landscape (Figure 3), centred
on an innovation chain extending from the Research Councils' programmes
of basic research, through applied R&D by the Energy Technologies
Institute, to demonstration and early stage deployment support
via the new Environmental Transformation Fund.
9. ERP Members have been pivotal in establishing
the ground-breaking Energy Technologies Institute (ETI),
with its key role to identify the most promising technologies
from research and accelerate these towards market deployment.
10. The ERP is playing an important role
in the development of the Environmental Transformation Fund
(ETF). BERR and Defra are using ERP as a "Steering Group"
to assist them in the development of a detailed strategy for this
fund, the ERP is also steering work by BERR, Carbon Trust, DIUS
and the Royal Academy of Engineering on the suitability of the
innovation chain to bring low-carbon technologies to market and
deliver UK benefit.
11. The key aspect of the vision identified
in Figure 3 is delivery of a better co-ordinated energy innovation
process for the UK, which supports the progress of technologies
through all the necessary stages of research, development, demonstration
and deployment. In doing this it seeks to address unnecessary
duplication in the existing landscape whilst at the same time
maintaining the diversity of activity that currently exists.
12. The complexity involved in moving any
particular solution through the innovation chain needs to be recognised.
13. The Carbon Trust, and the Technology
Strategy Board (TSB) also have central remits to accelerate
low carbon technology innovation alongside the Research Councils,
ETI and ETF. In particular, the TSB will have a key role in supporting
innovation in the energy sector through funding technology developments
both in that sector and in related technology areas, such as materials
14. Successful operation of an innovation
chain involving all these key players will require the development
of strong links between them to ensure that specific solutions
are taken forward by the most appropriate partners. An example
of the strategic partnerships that are being developing in response
to this need is the recently launched £40 million collaborative
offshore wind programme between the Carbon Trust and the ETI.
15. Other important aspects of energy innovation
activity in the UK include those supported by Ofgem, the
Scottish and Welsh Administrations and the Regional
Development Agencies (RDAs). The Devolved Administration and
RDA programmes are often focussed on development which takes advantage
of specific local opportunities, delivering regional development
objectives alongside broader climate change and security of supply
16. With effective support, the ERP suggest
that it should be possible to achieve the transition from the
current R&D funding landscape to the proposed simplified vision
within five years. It is essential that any change to new mechanisms
for funding energy innovation is carried out in a managed way
to prevent any loss of momentum during the transition.
17. The UK cannot operate in isolation from
other international energy innovation activity. The current profile
of climate change and security of energy supply issues has led
to a wide range of international activity, creating opportunities
for exploitation of the UK's strengths and more rapid development
of appropriate solutions.
18. The setting up of the ETI provides an
excellent opportunity to showcase the wealth of talent that exists
in the UK, and to act as a catalyst for the development of relevant
international collaborations. Crucially, it will also have the
ability to assess, evaluate and prioritise these opportunities
to ensure that those which are pursued will add the greatest value
to activities in the UK.
19. In addition, many of the UK based beneficiaries
of energy innovation activities either operate internationally
or are themselves part of much larger multinationals, and will
therefore play a key role in exporting technologies developed
in the UK and importing relevant internationally developed solutions.
20. Through a survey of ERP Members and
a review of published research, the ERP has sought to understand
the high level skills shortages in the energy sector. "High-level
skills" are taken to mean those required to contribute to
the research and development chain that provides innovative new
solutions to the challenges the UK energy industry facesand
to deploy them effectively.
21. This work has identified a growing body
of evidence about the progressive, long term decline in the numbers
of "next generation" scientists and engineers available
to support UK industry and academia. At the same time it is evident
that there are highly material challenges inherent in meeting
national energy policy goals (supply, infrastructure and asset
renewal, security of supplies, etc) which have particular relevance
to the renewable electricity generation sector. Technology innovation
and commercialisation are key to the success of this sector. These
in turn are dependent upon having a sufficient number of high
calibre, committed and practising scientists and engineers.
22. The key findings of the ERP study
Skills shortages are causing recruitment
problems in the sector.
It is specifically technical skills
that are in short supply.
The problem is only at its early
stageswithout intervention this situation is anticipated
to worsen to a severe shortage, particularly when the extent of
energy innovation and infrastructure replacement that is required
is taken into account.
It is the shrinking pool of graduates
that is at issue rather than any concern that their quality is
Organisations are looking abroad
for skilled resource, in part a direct response to worsening problems
The sector is seen to have a poor
image among young people, however it is recognised that we are
at a turning point in the sector with some very powerful tools
to change this.
A significant "outreach"
initiative could influence future career choices among young people.
When skilled labour leaves an organisation,
it tends to remain within the energy sector.
Energy sector pay compares favourably
in engineering, but it is recognised this will never be a competitive
advantage versus other areas such as financial services.
There is no evidence of post-training
attrition; retention rates in the sector compare very favourably
with those in other sectors.
The sector has strong competitive
advantages, the projects going on are engaging and exciting and,
once recruited, labour does not tend to leave the sector.
A key recommendation of the report
is that harnessing the above advantage by interacting with young
people at a very early age could make a significant impact on
the number of recruits coming through, and improve general public
It is recognised there are individual
organisational efforts, but the scale of the problem is likely
to require additional activity, the form of which will need careful
design and implementation.
23. The ERP is unique both in the extent
and level of its membership and in that it can concentrate on
could not be done by a single member
acting alone; and
have the potential to advance energy
research and innovation, development and demonstration in the
UK and internationally.
24. It has become apparent that the ERP
has the potential to significantly increase its impact and build
on the good foundations now established. It can only fulfil its
expectations if it succeeds in marshalling the full intellect
and abilities of all its members to ensure that its outputs are
greater than the sum of its parts. Consequently, the ERP is currently
establishing a a dedicated team, to be hosted by UKERC, which
will provide analytical and delivery support to inform ERP's work;
ensure a robust analysis base for informed dialogue with industry,
Government and other sectors; facilitate engagement with member
organisations and externally; and strengthen the ability of the
ERP to recommend and support solutions.
25. Through the development of this new
operating model, the ERP will be better placed to provide leadership,
develop a common vision and catalyse Government-industry partnerships
to examine, create momentum and accelerate, for example, low carbon
energy technology innovation and commercialisation.
26. By supporting and maintaining the highest
levels of engagement and dialogue across the public and private
sector, the ERP has a significant opportunity and ability to address
the challenges being faced across the energy research and innovation
252 A full list of current ERP Members is provided
as Annex 1 to this document. Back
The ERP has produced a report ("UK Energy Innovation")
which provides a more detailed analysis of these issues. It is
available on the ERP website: www.energyresearchpartnership.org.uk Back
A report giving full details of the outcome of this study is
available on the ERP's website: