A meta-analysis of the capability and performance of the energy innovation system in 40 countries

Dr Fionn  Rogan, University College Cork, Ireland

Dr Paul Bolger, University College Cork,Ireland

Prof Brian ó Gallachóir, University College Cork, Ireland

This analysis undertakes a meta-analysis of innovation capability in a range of 40 countries. In order to limit global warming to below 2 degrees (and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees, as per the recent Paris Climate Agreement), it is necessary to decarbonise the energy system by at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990. This will necessitate extensive innovation, and given the historical low rate of innovation in the energy sector, this emphasizes the severity of the innovation challenge for the energy system.

This analysis seeks to answer the following research questions:

Are countries that are ranked the highest for innovation, competiveness, and entrepreneurship metrics also ranked the highest on metrics for clean-tech, energy sustainability, and the green economy?


Are competencies in general innovation and competiveness part of the enabling conditions for innovative clean-tech, energy sustainability, and the green economy?


Is there a positive relationship between countries that manage their environment and countries that are innovative and competitive?


What individual factors (such as levels of green procurement, levels of collaboration, levels of investment) can predict highly ranked energy innovation system?


This analysis will bring insights into the multi-faceted nature of the innovation system and the energy innovation and based on analysis of the performance of 40 countries will reveal useful lessons for the current and future energy transition. It will discuss the role of policy within the holistic framework of the innovation system.


Information and data on the ranking and performance of 40 countries for innovation, competiveness, entrepreneurship, clean-tech, energy sustainability, and green economy metrics were taken from the following eight indices, as published by a range of universities, business schools and consultancies:

1.         Global Innovation Index 2015, Johnson Cornell University

2.         Global Competitiveness Index 2014/2015, World Economic Forum

3.         World Competitiveness Scoreboard 2015, IMD Business School

4.         Global Entrepreneurship Index 2015, Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute

5.         Environmental Performance Index 2015, Yale University

6.         Energy Sustainability Index 2015, World Energy Council

7.         Cleantech Innovation Index 2014, Cleantech Group and WWF

8.         Green Economy Index 2014, Dual Citizen LLC


The overall results and detailed sub-results from these indices were collated into a unique single data set. 40 countries were chosen for analysis, from which individual parameters were identified and investigated for correlation and positive relationships. The data set enables investigation (e.g. through regression analysis) of the research questions already mentioned. The data set also enables more detailed statistical analysis of some of the factors that can help predict green economic performance.


Preliminary results suggest that competence in general innovation and competiveness policy is part of the enabling conditions for innovative clean-tech, energy sustainability, and the green economy, but that there are many exceptions which provide interesting insights to the innovation system required for the transition challenge. For example, the UK scores well on general innovation and competitiveness metrics but scores poorly on green economic performance, owing in part to the contradictory policy signals that the green economic sector receives in the UK. Another exception is Israel, which ranks very high for cleantech innovation, but ranks poorly for more general innovation and competitiveness indicators.


In conclusion, this analysis demonstrates the importance of having a long term plan, having short term policy that aligns with long term targets, having high levels of collaboration between entities such as industry, academia and the government sector, and having robust systems to evaluate and monitor the performance of the energy innovation system.

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