Innovation Challenges FAQs

On November 14, 2016, Mission Innovation countries came together at the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of Mission Innovation and endorse seven Innovation Challenges. Frequently asked questions about the Innovation Challenges are answered below.


What are Innovation Challenges?

Innovation Challenges are global calls to action aimed at accelerating research, development and demonstration (RD&D) in technology areas where Mission Innovation members believe increased international attention would make a significant impact in our shared fight against climate change.  The Innovation Challenges cover the entire spectrum of RD&D; from early stage research needs assessments to technology demonstration projects. The seven challenges are the following:

  1. Smart Grids Innovation Challenge – to enable future grids that are powered by affordable, reliable, decentralised renewable electricity systems
  2. Off-Grid Access to Electricity Innovation Challenge – to develop systems that enable off-grid households and communities to access affordable and reliable renewable electricity
  3. Carbon Capture Innovation Challenge – to enable near-zero CO2 emissions from power plants and carbon intensive industries
  4. Sustainable Biofuels Innovation Challenge – to develop ways to produce, at scale, widely affordable, advanced biofuels for transportation and industrial applications
  5. Converting Sunlight Innovation Challenge – to discover affordable ways to convert sunlight into storable solar fuels
  6. Clean Energy Materials Innovation Challenge – to accelerate the exploration, discovery, and use of new high-performance, low-cost clean energy materials
  7. Affordable Heating and Cooling of Buildings Innovation Challenge – to make low-carbon heating and cooling affordable for everyone


Why are Innovation Challenges important?

Innovation Challenges mark an important step towards the delivery of Mission Innovation’s mission.  They aim to catalyse global research efforts in order to meet Mission Innovation goals of reducing GHG emissions, increasing energy security and creating new opportunities for clean economic growth.

Through the Innovation Challenges, Mission Innovation members aim to encourage increased engagement from the global research community, industry and investors, while also providing opportunities for new collaborations between Mission Innovation members.


Why did we choose these Challenges?  

Mission Innovation members mutually agreed that these Challenges are areas of common interest and importance to groups of members and where collective efforts can particularly have a material impact.  However these are not the only areas of innovation that Mission Innovation members consider important. This is also not an exhaustive list of areas of focus for Mission Innovation; other important work under the Mission Innovation sub-groups will continue, and more challenges may be developed in the future. For example, R&D Opportunities Workshops  hosted by MI governments could help frame clean energy research portfolios and identify additional areas of potential collaboration among MI members.


How were the Innovation Challenges developed?

The Innovation Challenges were developed through a collaborative process between Mission Innovation members. Policy and technical experts from member countries exchanged information on national needs and priorities, and came together in a workshop where these seven technology areas were identified as suitable topics for initial MI Challenges. The seven Innovation Challenges launched to date are not an exhaustive list; with sufficient interest from MI members, new Innovation Challenges could be launched in the future.

Following the workshop, the development of the Innovation Challenges has been led by groups of interested members under the guidance of the Mission Innovation Steering Committee.


How will the Innovation Challenges be implemented?  

Work programmes for each Innovation Challenge are currently being developed by groups of interested Mission Innovation members that will complement existing national research programs of individual members. Due to the diverse nature of the seven energy areas covered by the Challenges, work programmes will differ and could include a range of activities  – potentially including some or all of: determining current RD&D needs, sharing information on plans and progress, convening technical workshops of experts, promoting opportunities to innovators and investors, strengthening existing relevant international partnerships and launching new collaborative activities such as joint funding calls and innovation prizes.


What does participating in an Innovation Challenge mean?

Engagement in an Innovation Challenge is entirely voluntary and is built around a coalition of interested Mission Innovation members. By participating in an Innovation Challenge, members are recognizing the area as an important objective for energy innovation activity worldwide and are willing to explore further action that can be taken to accelerate innovation. Once work programmes are developed, member countries will be free to participate in any of the activities that align with their individual interests and capacities.


Which countries are engaged in which Challenges?

MI members can each choose which challenges to actively engage in. Not all members will engage in all Challenges and some may choose not to engage in any. We also expect engagement will evolve over time so there is not a fixed membership of each Challenge. At this stage we are not providing details of roles but further details will be made available at a later date.


Do the Innovation Challenges affect national RD&D plans and priorities?

Since Mission Innovation members encompass a wide diversity of perspectives and innovation systems, Innovation Challenges are not necessarily reflective of each member’s national RD&D priorities.  Supporting an Innovation Challenge does not require a member to change their national plans or funding decisions. Instead, the Challenges are about adding a member’s voice to champion the Innovation Challenge objective, sharing info on members’ plans and progress and engaging with others to explore how members might accomplish more together than they can on their own.


How do Innovation Challenges relate to other Mission Innovation activities?

Innovation Challenges are not intended as the sole focus of Mission Innovation, as there remains a strong need to accelerate energy innovation in other technology areas. Member countries will continue to explore opportunities for accelerating innovation and promoting collaboration in areas outside of the seven Innovation Challenges, such as collaboration opportunities identified in the R&D Opportunities Workshops.