John Loughhead, outgoing UK Chair of the Mission Innovation Steering Committee with Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India Minister of Science and Technology in Kolkata, November 2019. Credit: British Deputy High Commission Kolkata
The UK was a founding member of Mission Innovation in 2015, recognising that to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement we need to accelerate the pace of innovation so that every country and sector can affordably meet net zero by 2050 or before.
In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to legally commit to reaching Net Zero by 2050. Innovation is essential to this goal – better products, processes and systems will drive down the cost of clean technologies.
The UK is a global leader in research, development and demonstration, and has committed to increasing support for R&D as a key pillar of our Industrial Strategy to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. Innovation is also central to the UK’s recently announcement Ten Point Plan, which includes a commitment to launch the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. This will accelerate increases in the accessibility and attractiveness of clean technologies, enabling them to deliver economic gains whilst generating significantly lower emissions. We want to ensure we harness and support the creativeness, ingenuity and entrepreneurship of our universities and businesses in tackling the challenge of ensuring secure, affordable and clean energy for all.
However, we cannot achieve this alone. We know that by working together, we can make greater progress on clean energy innovation. We can develop solutions faster, increase economies of scale, and bring down costs quicker. This is why the UK has played a leading role in Mission Innovation over the past five years through launching the Innovation Challenges, hosting the Head of Secretariat and Chairing the Steering Committee. The UK has also more than doubled its clean energy innovation spend over the past five years, meeting our original Mission Innovation investment commitment. This has included funding the CryoBattery project, the world’s largest and first commercial liquid air battery facility, development of the UK’s first Carbon Capture Usage plant and design of the UK’s first hydrogen home boilers.
The UK has benefited from the strengthened relationships as a result of Mission Innovation and we have participated in 15 new international collaborations with other MI members. For instance, in September 2017 the Prime Ministers of the UK and Canada agreed a Clean Growth and Climate Change Partnership. On account of this, and supported through our Energy Innovation Programme, we launched the Power Forward Challenge offering over £11 million to develop the best smart energy systems for the 21st Century. The UK also held a £6 million competition with South Korea on Smart Energy Innovation to collaboratively develop innovative smart energy solutions.
The UK has co-led two Innovation Challenges. The Carbon Capture Innovation Challenge co-led with Saudi Arabia has resulted in the expansion of the Accelerating CCUS Technologies to more countries, and the ‘Priority Research Directions’ identified through Mission Innovation workshops have helped to inform how MI countries invest in CCUS R&D projects, with US$103 million in investments mobilized for collaborative R&D among MI countries and beyond. The Affordable Heating & Cooling of Buildings Innovation Challenge co-led with the European Commission and United Arab Emirates has resulted in programmes such as the Global Cooling Prize to develop disruptive technologies that can drastically cut cooling emissions with limited cost increases.
Overall, Mission Innovation has raised the importance of accelerating clean energy innovation on the global stage and enhanced knowledge sharing, relationship building and cooperation between countries.
The UK is proud to be a leading member of Mission Innovation. Innovation and enhanced global cooperation will be critical to achieving net zero and achieving an ambitious second phase of Mission Innovation is a priority for the UK during our COP26 Presidency.