Press Release: U.S. Technology and Innovation Policies: Lessons for Climate Change

For Immediate Release
November 19, 2003

Contact:   Katie Mandes


Washington, DC — Government policies will be critical to the development and adoption of new technologies needed to abate global warming, according to a report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  The report, U.S. Technology and Innovation Policies: Lessons for Climate Change, examines U.S. experience with technology and innovation policies—both successes and failures—and draws lessons for climate change policy.  “We cannot solve the problem of global climate change without the development of new technologies, but new technologies don’t just happen—the market needs a signal, and that signal needs to come from government,” said Pew Center President Eileen Claussen.  “Well-crafted policies can create a setting for continuing innovation where technological improvements build upon one another.” 

In U.S. Technology and Innovation Policies: Lessons for Climate Change, report authors John A. Alic (Consultant), David C. Mowery (University of California, Berkeley), and Edward S. Rubin (Carnegie Mellon University) examine a range of policies and programs—including intellectual property protection, energy and environmental regulations, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, and the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles—to glean lessons for future applications, including climate change policy.  The authors found that because innovation is a complex, iterative process, different policy tools can be employed as catalysts at various phases (e.g., invention, adoption, diffusion).  Some key insights revealed in the report include:

  • R&D, by itself, is not enough. A balanced policy portfolio will also promote diffusion of knowledge and deployment of new technologies.
  • Policy-makers should channel funds for technology development and diffusion through multiple agencies and programs to promote competition and support a diversity of options rather than particular technological choices.
  • Ideally, short-term political pressures should not factor into the development of technology.
  • Uncertainty is a part of innovation.  Policy-makers must be prepared to tolerate some “failures” (i.e., investments that do not pay off), and learn from them as private sector entrepreneurs do.

The authors caution that technology policies, while important, cannot by themselves achieve the GHG reductions necessary to mitigate climate change.  “Technology policies are only one piece of the solution, and will only work if coupled with other ‘non-technology policies,’ such as a GHG cap-and-trade program,” said Claussen.


The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment.   The Pew Center is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change.  The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Click here for a complete copy of this report and previous Pew Center reports.