Science Policy

Electrifying Success?

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Science  07 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6013, pp. 11
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6013.11-c

Concept House, site of the UK Intellectual Property Office.

CREDIT: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE

Liberalization of the UK electricity sector beginning in the 1990s restructured the market by privatizing assets and reforming regulations. The goal was to improve the efficiency of the industry by increasing competition. Jamasb and Pollitt have now analyzed the impact on UK patenting activity and R&D investment in the electricity sector. They noted that whereas government R&D investment had already been declining, this trend was amplified after liberalization, although some increase has been seen in recent years, particularly in renewable energy. Private R&D also diminished after liberalization. Patenting activity, a marker of technology innovation, initially increased, probably reflecting increased emphasis on commercialization of R&D in the electricity industry. In recent years, though, UK patenting has slowed, which the authors attribute to decreased investment in basic R&D and increased foreign ownership of large utilities, which may lead to the transfer of R&D efforts out of the United Kingdom. They highlight efforts such as the Energy Technologies Institute and Innovation Funding Incentive, which aim to integrate public investment and market incentives to promote long-term R&D needed to ensure industry innovation.

Res. Policy 10.1016/j.respol.2010.10.010 (2010).

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