United Kingdom


National Innovation Pathway

The UK Government’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution sets out the approach we will take to build back better, support green jobs, and accelerate our path to net zero and identifies where we will invest to make the UK a global leader in green technologies. This plan mobilises £12 billion – and potentially more than three times as much from the private sector – to place green jobs at the heart of our economic revival.

A range of analyses, have provided confidence in what, based on current understanding of technologies, are the high-level priorities and likely low regrets measures on a sensible pathway to Net Zero by 2050. These include the Committee on Climate Change’s advice to Government, the Energy Systems Catapult’s recent Innovating to Net Zero report, and the Energy Innovation Needs Assessments[1] (EINAs) which combined techno-economic modelling, with market analysis and insight to identify innovation priorities for the whole energy system, where action has the greatest potential system value.

Whilst recognising that this is a systemic challenge and that each carbon-emitting sector of the economy interacts and depends on one another, specific priorities and targets in the ten point plan are:

  1. Offshore wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030.
  2. Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
  3. Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors.
  4. Electric vehicles: Backing our world-leading car manufacturing bases to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles.
  5. Public transport, cycling and walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future.
  6. Jet Zero and greener maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonise industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.
  7. Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
  8. Carbon capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today.
  9. Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.
  10. Innovation and finance: Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London a global centre of green finance.

We are developing a number of innovation programmes across government that will support these targets. These include:

Ensuring a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon power supply: We will provide £100 million for Energy Storage and Flexibility innovation challenges – essential technology as we move towards an increasingly renewables-heavy system to allow us to store energy over hours, days and even months.

Accelerating hydrogen energy for heat, transport and energy storage: Hydrogen is one of ten key priority areas in the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. We will also invest £81 million  for trialling homes using hydrogen for heating and cooking, starting with a Hydrogen Neighbourhood in 2023, moving to a Hydrogen Village by 2025, with an aim for a Hydrogen Town – equivalent to tens of thousands of homes – before the end of the decade. We will also support hydrogen deployment with £240 million of Government co-investment in new hydrogen production facilities out to 2025. We have established a Hydrogen Advisory Council to formalise Government – Industry Partnership in the development and implementation of our Hydrogen Strategy.

Developing a minimal-emission transport system for people and goods: we will invest £20 million into the Clean Maritime Demonstration Programme to develop clean maritime technology. We are already running hydrogen ferry trials in Orkney and due to launch a hydrogen refuelling port in Teesside, as we seek to revitalise our ports and coastal communities. We have established the Jet Zero Council as a sector-wide partnership to accelerate the development and adoption of new technologies to help develop our strategy to reach net zero aviation. Moving to sustainable fuels is one of the key steps to success that we can unlock. We will run a £15 million competition to support the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) in the UK.

Nuclear Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs): we are investing up to £215 million into Small Modular Reactors to develop a domestic smaller-scale power plant technology design. We are also committing up to £170 million for a research and development programme on Advanced Modular Reactors. These reactors could operate at over 800°C and the high-grade heat could unlock efficient production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels, complementing our investments in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen and offshore wind. Our aim is to build a demonstrator by the early 2030s at the latest to prove the potential of this technology.

We have already launched the first phase of a £100 million investment in brand-new Greenhouse Gas Removals technologies including Direct Air Capture in November 2020, which captures carbon dioxide emissions directly from the air.

Ahead of hosting COP26, the UK will bring forward a Net Zero Strategy which sets out the government’s vision for transitioning to a net zero economy. This will detail how we will continue the UK’s strong record in decarbonising whilst growing our economy; innovation will play a key role in ensuring these continue to go hand in hand. To help to deliver its public investment in net zero research and innovation efficiently and effectively, the UK expect to develop and regularly refresh a Net Zero R&D Delivery Plan overseen by the UK Government’s Net Zero Innovation Board. We have also announced the publication of a new Innovation Strategy in the summer. The Strategy will outline how we look to achieve our ambitions in innovation and where we want to focus our efforts over the next decade. It will aim to set out the strategic objective and create the confidence for increased business investment in R&D and innovation.

[1] The EINAs are based on modelling carried out with the whole system model ESME (Energy System Modelling Environment) complemented with expert consultation. More information can be found via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-innovation-needs-assessments