Blue Sky Research for Energy Technology

14. - 15. June 2017
University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

A workshop to understand the role of blue sky research in addressing energy challenges. The Workshop Summary Report is available for download.


IEA's Experts Group on Energy R&D and Priority Setting


In this workshop, the EGRD examined ways to stimulate blue sky research within the energy sector in the broadest sense of the word. Different methods had been presented and discussed. The goal was to find examples of practical results borne out of blue sky research, determine how lessons from these examples could be applied to stimulate the pace of innovation in the energy sector, and advise policy makers as to how to engage at critical points in the process.

The goal of this workshop was to learn from examples of how the transition from BSR to application has been successfully undertaken in other sectors for example, space research, medicine or solid state physics in the context of microelectronics, and to identify from current basic research selected areas or ideas that might potentially have a huge impact on the energy sector. This should inform an understanding of how different governments engage in, fund, and structure their investments in energy-related basic science programs.

This workshop focused on blue sky research and its possible contributions to the developing energy system in various countries. With input from speakers representing public authorities, research institutes and the private sector, the participants discussed the rising demand for innovation, specific technologies, various models for applying public funds, target-oriented R&D programs and reasonable incentives to harvest the lessons and results of blue sky science for the development of the energy system of the future.

Presentation documents


Session 1: Introduction

Chair: Gavin Harper, University of Birmingham

  • Introduction
  • Blue sky research
  • The role of innovation

Session 2: From concept to reality – and beyond

Chair: Birte Holst-Jorgensen, Danish Technical University

  • Sustainability in turbulent times
  • Spin-offs from space
  • Google little box challenge
  • UK cyber security programme

Session 3: Converging and enabling technologies for energy

Chair: Johannes Tambornino

  • Technologies
  • Materials
  • Processes
  • Business models

Session 4: From blue sky research to practical applications – and beyond

Chair: Robert Marlay

  • Disruptive innovation
  • Negative CO2 technology
  • The promise of fusion
  • The quantum technologies hub
  • How to drive very fast on solar power
  • Energy storage

Session 5: Policy and regulatory frameworks

Chair: Rob Kool

  • Opportunities and challenges
  • Mission Innovation
  • New concepts in radical innovation

Session 6: Synthesis and take-aways

Chair: Herbert Greisberger

Discussion and recommendations


Target Audience

In addition to EGRD members and national experts, we are seeking input from RD&D decision-makers, strategic planners, and program managers from industry, academia, think tanks, national laboratories, and government. Participation is by invitation only.

Contact Address

Diana Louis