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Clean Energy Innovation Analysis

With increased global competition for market share in alternative energy, innovation in energy will be a major contributor to national economic competitiveness in the coming decades. NREL's innovation analysis focuses on understanding the innovation dynamics of clean energy technologies to inform research investment decisions and innovation and technology transfer policy.

NREL's innovation analysis studies show that:

  • Different energy technology areas exhibit unique patterns of invention and innovation.
  • New empirical methods of estimating technical and commercial impact (based on analysis of patent citations and web presence) to better target research expenditures could augment the speed and scale of innovation and deployment of clean energy technologies

Highlights of Recent Studies:

Assessment of Technical and Commercial Breakthroughs in Clean Energy Technologies

This study employed regression models and multivariate simulations to compare social, institutional and geographic drivers of breakthrough clean energy innovation, as follows:

  • CA dominates across all RE technologies; clean energy patents increasingly coming from non-US sources, primarily Germany, Japan, Canada and France
  • DOE and NASA historically account for one-third of renewable energy patents
  • Solar shows highest levels of inter-organizational linkages and biofuels shows lowest levels; extent of collaboration networking lags pharma and software

The study also employed a new a new empirical methodology to estimate the impacts of clean energy innovation in the marketplace, and found that:

  • Web presence may provide a better representation of the commercial relevance of clean energy patents than patent citations
  • Factors impacting breakthroughs and commercial relevance vary across RE technologies

To find out more about this study, please download: Clean Energy Innovation: Sources of Technical and Commercial Breakthroughs.

For questions about this project, contact Mackay Miller via our Webmaster page.