In December 2015, world leaders from 20 countries announced Mission Innovation, an unprecedented increase in funds for accelerating affordable, zero-emission energy at global scale, doubling their respective clean energy research and development (R&D) investment over five years. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a parallel private initiative led by Bill Gates, secured commitments from 28 significant private capital investors to support innovations coming out of this expanded public research pipeline.
Near Zero invited global experts in academia and industry to provide their perspectives on the opportunities and priorities for these R&D funds. Twenty-nine experts participated in this expert discussion.
Twenty-three experts allocated a hypothetical total global R&D budget of $30 billion per year across the five categories that the Breakthrough Energy Coalition has said it will invest in (see figure).
On average, participants called for the largest share of funding to go to electricity generation and storage (35%), followed by transportation (25%).
Most experts advocated a broad R&D portfolio, allocating a portion of the funds across all categories.
Within these categories, experts recommended focusing on particular R&D priorities, the most favored being: Grid-scale energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for fossil generation, low-cost/high-density batteries for transportation, and carbon-neutral fuels for transportation that cannot be readily electrified.
Many experts emphasized innovation for developing nations, which could have different priorities than developed nations and where technology transfer has sometimes failed in the past.
Electrification of transportation should be a priority, most experts agreed. There was less agreement about whether energy efficiency R&D should be a lower priority than R&D in other sectors.