Author Archives: Finbarr Livesey

Technology Innovation in Energy in the Run-up to Marrakech

By Dr. Laura Diaz Anadon 

Today the COP22 (Conference of Parties) of the United Nations Framework Convention in Climate Change starts in Marrakech.  For the next two weeks, representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector and academia from all over the world will discuss some of the most important actions that need to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2oC global average temperature goal.

COP22 is meant to advance the agenda put forward by the December 2015 Paris Agreement in COP21, which entered into force last Friday.  There is relative consensus around the fact that the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) presented to fulfill the Paris Agreement will not result in sufficient greenhouse gas emissions reductions, even if successfully implemented. This is why over the past year, a growing amount of attention and initiatives have focused on the role that technology innovation can play by reducing the costs of climate mitigation and thereby enabling more ambitious national goals.

Two particular new efforts have catalyzed most of the attention. The first is the Mission Innovation pledge, in which 20 major countries committed to doubling public energy R&D investments between 2015 and 2020. The second is the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a commitment from 28 high net worth individuals (to date) to complement Mission Innovation with patient and long-term private sector funding and expertise.  I recently presented in different events aimed at exploring how to accelerate technology innovation in clean energy technologies in the context of both of these efforts.

In early October I was invited to speak at the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF 2016) in Tokyo. This was the third installation of an annual event organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the New Energy Development Organization (NEDO) of the Japanese Government focused on the role of technology innovation.  In my panel on the “Desirable R&D for Innovative Technologies and the Potential for International Collaboration” there was widespread agreement that the focus should now be on how such efforts should be structured. I also participated in an International Symposium organized by the Canon Institute of Global Studies on “The Role of Innovation for Long-term GHG Mitigation”.

Panel Discussion of the International Symposium on “The Role of Innovation for Long-term GHG Mitigation” organized in Tokyo by the Canon Institute of Global Studies on October 7

Together with Professor David Victor (from UC San Diego), Professor Carlo Carraro (from FEEM, and Vice Chair of the IPCC WG III), Dr. Yoichi Kaya (President of RITE, in Japan), Professor Jun Arima (from the University of Tokyo), and Dr. Yarime Masaru (CUHK) (see picture above) we presented on and discussed the institutional, organizational and technological requirements of domestic and international efforts in technology innovation. It was refreshing to see that instead of focusing on how much support for energy R&D is necessary (an important area that many of us have contributed to for many years), the conversation is now also including research on what types of funding and institutions are necessary for what technologies and actors (from startups, to universities, to large firms); on how to learn from past experience; and how to build stable collaborations.  Recent work with colleagues published in Nature Energy on the U.S. National Labs as well as our 2014 Transforming U.S. Energy Innovation book  and ongoing work on public private partnerships were of particular interest.

Dr Laura Diaz Anadon

Dr. Laura Diaz Anadon, during her presentation at the CIGS Symposium in Tokyo

And just last Friday I presented in a session on Demand Pull Policies and Energy Innovation at the 38th Fall Annual Research Conference organized by the Association in Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) in Washington D.C. It was wonderful to see so many great colleagues again and to have the chance to discuss the work with Prof. Claudia Doblinger and Dr. Kavita Surana on the impact of different types of partners and partnerships on the performance of clean tech startups. The focus of institutional design in the session continued with Prof. Nemet’s work on technology demonstration projects, Prof. Tobias Schmidt’s work on the location of learning across different types of energy technologies, and Prof. Varun Rai’s work on learning in solar PV in China. Many of my colleagues in these panels are able to make it to Marrakech, so I am sure the conversation on the “how” will have a chance to move forward!

Dr. Laura Diaz Anadon is University Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge. She is also a Bye Fellow at Peterhouse, an associate researcher of the Energy Policy Research Group at Cambridge, a Fellow at C-EENRG, and a Research Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) at Harvard University.

A new year on the Cambridge MPP

As the new academic year begins we have welcomed our fourth cohort into the Cambridge MPhil in Public Policy (MPP) and we are off to a flying start. Our first week was a blur of orientation activities, matriculation dinners in the various colleges our students are resident in and a lovely drinks reception with Lord Smith, the Master of Pembroke College, at his residence.

Students and faculty at the Master's Lodge Pembroke College

Students and faculty at the Master’s Lodge Pembroke College

For this year we are also very happy to welcome new faculty to the MPP, with Dr Laura Diaz Anadon and Dr Dennis Grube joining the MPP team. This extends the topics and regions that we both study and teach and allows for greater one to one supervision time for our students. We are also in the process of bring a new Professor of Public Policy to Cambridge which will extend our research and teaching capacity even further.

But what about our great new cohort? Well we have a rough 50/50 split in terms of gender, with 11 countries represented from the USA to Pakistan, and the United Kingdom to Australia. Each of our students has some policy experience and everyone is committed to having an impact in the public sphere, whether that is in a government department, working with an NGO or from the private sector. The students have dived into macroeconomics, philosophy and statistics, as well as cases on welfare spending and industrial policy, and testing themselves in the professional development stream attempting new forms of writing. The year is short but there is a lot packed into the time that students are here.

Having taken over as the Director of the MPP I am very excited to be able to take the MPP forward, building on the successes of the first three years and continuing to evolve both what we teach and how we teach. In further blog posts I will discuss the identity of the MPP and also go through the course structure in more detail. But for now I just want to welcome all of our new students and encourage those of you thinking of applying to dive in.

Dr Finbarr Livesey

Director MPP

Out into the real world

A key element of the Cambridge MPP is the placement project that each student undertakes to bring together all of the academic and professional development work of the course. These are based on four to six weeks on site with a policy actor, for example in central government, with a think tank or an NGO, followed by another 10 weeks of research and writing to produce a policy recommendation paper on a live issue for the organisation they have been working with.

Below are some quick reflections from some of this year’s MPP cohort as they transition from the on-site portion of the placement back to Cambridge for the Easter term. I hope it gives a sense of the breadth of work our students get to address and how the course transitions from the classroom to the real world. As ever our sincere thanks to all of the organisations who provide us with placements and such challenging problems.


Ethan Bowering

For five weeks over the Easter break, I completed a work placement with the Behavioural Insights Team in London. This was the first part of a 14-week placement working on a project examining behavioural biases in project management decision-making in the civil service. There is a real push to integrate behavioural economics into policy-making – both in the UK and back home in Australia – and I thought this placement would be an excellent opportunity to develop a solid understanding of behavioural sciences and how it can be applied to solve policy problems. And I wasn’t disappointed. The placement was a terrific opportunity to put into practice what I had learnt at Cambridge to date, while also gaining new knowledge and skills that I wouldn’t have been able to pick up from completing coursework alone. I really valued the opportunity to undertake a placement with BIT and I’m confident that I’ve developed new skills that will be useful in my future career in policy.

Travis Gidado

During Easter vacation, I was staffed with the Social Investment and Finance Team (SIFT) at the UK Cabinet Office. My task was to consider whether a blended fund (e.g., a fund that brings together diverse categories of investors with different levels of risk tolerance) could be used to support organizations that used sport as a means of producing socially beneficial outcomes, such as improved employment results or increased community cohesion. I was based in Westminster, and I had considerable access to senior leaders at a number of social investment firms, frontline organizations and other key stakeholder groups. Our conversations have given me tremendous insight into how the Sport for Development sector has evolved over the last decade and what can be done to bolster growth in the space. My final product will include presentations to Cabinet Office staff, partners at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and a roundtable with the Sports and Recreation Alliance, one of the UK’s largest sports advocacy organizations.

Vicky Grove

The research placement at RAND Europe opened up two new worlds to me.

First, the world of think tanks. I learned about how they operate, their methodologies and their objectives. Second, the world of the UN and cybersecurity. My mission was to assess the impact of the UN’s Group of Governmental Experts on developing norms for international security in cyberspace. It meant I needed to learn about foreign policy, international law, and the academic theories around norm development. I then had to overlay cybersecurity onto this, which presents its own challenges due to the unique attributes of cyberspace resulting in the problems of attribution, jurisdiction and dual-use to name just a few. I was lucky enough to interview influential people in the field and learn from experts at RAND in order to produce my report. Overall, a brilliant experience and I’m looking forward to writing up and sharing my recommendations.

Rob Kalonian

As an interim policy advisor at the Centre for Social Impact Bonds within the Social Investment and Finance Team of the Cabinet Office, I assisted in the implementation of the Prime Minister’s Life Chances Strategy. My responsibilities entailed: reviewing reports and statistics on existing provisions for pupils with special educational needs; consulting stakeholders to identify gaps; and collaborating with DfE, DWP, DCLG, BIS, and Treasury on the development of a social impact bond to address these gaps. I also met with potential donors, investors, commissioners, and service providers to gauge interest. I have developed a proposal which is both feasible and enjoys departmental support and am currently fine-tuning it for presentation to the department directors.

Brandon Levin

Jointly supervised by the Director of Economic and Business Policy and the Demography and Policy Analysis Manager at the Greater London Authority (GLA), I joined the team shortly after the release of London’s City Data Strategy. My role was to help advance the Strategy by researching what eight leading cities were doing in the open data domain. I conducted interviews with technology officials in many of the cities and will be producing a report recommending which aspects of other cities’ open data approaches could be beneficial for London.

Tom McMinigal

I have been working at the Behavioural Insights Team, as part of the Health and Tax team. My main duty has been to provide research support to two projects: one which seeks to reduce non-urgent attendances at A&E by children with fever, and another which is trialling ways to increase the awareness and use of the NHS’ patient choice policy. As part of this work, I have embarked on field visits to hospitals and GP practices in London, Southampton and Barking. I have also been involved in other bits and bobs, including attending an All-Party Parliamentary Group hearing on e-Cigarettes at the House of Commons and rolling out a food labelling trial at York Hospital.

Rebecca Tabachnyk

My placement was at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and focused on next generation digital infrastructure. The main questions I am tackling include: what are the demand needs for very high-speed and reliable broadband, where will the digital infrastructure market independently get to by 2020, what barriers are hindering further market development and what can the government feasibly do to alleviate these barriers? My project sits at the cutting edge of policy and industry and has given me a fascinating insight into how the two interrelate.  I have had the opportunity to meet with representatives of forward-thinking technology companies and experienced policy-makers from across government, and am greatly enjoying the process of coming up with policy solutions that will hopefully inform the future government digital strategy.