Innovation is key to the energy transition, but the right path for it can be disputed, a panel at today's EnTech conference heard.
In one of the afternoon's most talkative panel discussions, Adriana Laguna of UK Power Networks, Alexander Starchenko of First Imagine! Ventures, Nick Lyth of Green Angel Syndicate, and Neil Pennington of the Energy Web Foundation discussed the role innovation must play in tackling climate change and creating investor value.
A key point that arose quickly in the discussion, was whether big companies can really play a part in innovation.
“The role of innovation is central, and it has to be grassroots innovation, because you can't change as big companies,” asserted Lyth.
Laguna agreed that the “slow moving beasts”, the large energy companies, could struggle at times with innovation predominantly in the deployment, as the complex network of participants could lead to difficulties in moving forwards.
She estimated that 40% of her time was spent convincing people to adopt innovative technologies. However, overall the panel agreed that the energy transition can’t happen without change from the large companies.
Many key questions came from the audience, as they questioned how academics, engineers and business objects can align, and what the challenges involved in this where? Some felt that the industry could turn into engineers vs. entrepreneurs at times, and this could hold back innovation.
“I think the challenge that many engineers have, is if they've not been set a problem, they don't know what the problem is to solve it,” suggested one member of the audience.
Lyth believed that this problem was actually an issue of not knowing what the solution is to aim for.
With previous engineering challenges, those working on it had a really clear view of their end-goal. But with climate change, with overhauling the energy industry so that it utilises innovation in order to provide sustainable, secure and reliable power, we just don’t have a clear solution.
The EnTech conference continues tomorrow, 9 October, in London’s Shoreditch, at 99 City Road. A limited number of tickets for Day Two are still available, and can be purchased here.