Faculties and research

Fuel Cells

Pioneering work funded by EPSRC/AIM on fuel cells as a radical, potentially disruptive innovation.

The 'uncertain middle': the role of demonstration projects and trials in influencing success in sustainable innovation

(2007-10) £350,216. Principal Investigator: Chris Hendry; Researchers: Paul Harborne & Jim Brown; Doctoral student: Ben Armstrong-Haworth

This project is funded by the ESRC through the 'Targeted Innovation Initiative' of the Advanced Institute of Management Research.

Research Questions

1. What impact do demonstration projects and field trials have in accelerating innovation in renewable energy technologies (focusing on wind, solar photovoltaics and fuel cells for stationary power)?

2. What role do external factors (such as policy measures and follow-on activities) have in affecting success?

3. What impact do demonstration projects and field trials have in accelerating innovation within firms?

4. What factors internal to the firm affect their ability to manage and exploit the opportunities presented by demonstration projects and trials?

Key Outputs

Brown, J. & Hendry, C. (2009), 'Public Demonstration Projects and Field Trials: Accelerating Commercialisation of Sustainable Technology in Photovoltaics', Energy Policy, 37, p.2560-2573

Harborne, P. & Hendry, C. (2009), 'Pathways to commercial wind power in the US, Europe and Japan: the role of demonstration projects and field trials in the learning process', Energy Policy, 37, p.3580-3595

Hendry, C, Harborne, P. & Brown, J. (2008), 'The 'uncertain middle': the role of public demonstration projects and trials in influencing innovation success in renewable energy systems', Cass working paper.

Hendry C, Brown, J.E., Harborne, P. (2007), 'Niche entry as a route to mainstream innovation: Learning from the phosphoric acid fuel cell in stationary power', Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 19(4), p.403-425

Hendry C.N., Brown, J.E., Harborne, P. (2007), 'An emerging market in fuel cells? Residential combined heat and power in four countries', Energy Policy, 35(4), p.2173-2186

Hendry C.N., Harborne, P., Brown, J.E. (2007), 'The Development and Diffusion of Innovation: Demonstrating an Application for Fuel Cell Technology in Buses', Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, 19(2), p.167-187

Hendry C.N., Harborne, P., Brown, J. (2010), 'The Uncertain Middle: Innovation lessons for low carbon energy technology from demonstration projects and trials', Executive briefing, Advanced Institute of Management Research

Hendry C.N., Harborne, P., Brown, J.E. (2010) 'So what do innovating companies really get from publicly funded demonstration projects and trials? Innovation lessons from solar photovoltaics and wind', Energy Policy, 8, p. 4507-4519

The Development and Diffusion of Fuel Cell Technology as a Disruptive Innovation

(2002-2005) £228,019. Researchers: Chris Hendry, Paul Harbourne, Dinos Arcoumanis (Dean of Engineering), James Brown and Talal Ous

This project is funded under the ESRC Sustainable Technologies Programme, which is an integral part of the UK's Sustainable Technologies Initiative. The Programme seeks to analyse what makes technologies sustainable, to assess the roles technological and behavioural change can play in achieving more sustainable futures, and to reveal the social and economic processes that foster or inhibit innovation for sustainable development. STP is a five-year £3 million programme launched in January 2002, and the City fuel cell technology project is one of six commissioned in the first round. For further details of the programme see the sustainable technologies website.

Research Questions

  1. What business and market processes are critical to the innovation and use of fuel cell technologies in the UK?
  2. What drivers and barriers exist to the development and uptake of fuel cells?
  3. What broader lessons for disruptive sustainable technologies can be drawn for policy?

This area is based on the pioneering work of Lakis Kaounides in new materials science, technology strategy and R&D management, and of Joseph Lampel on emerging industries. It continues with important new research into sustainable energy technologies, with a focus on fuel cells and the evolving hydrogen economy.

UKERC Carbon Crucible Programme Awards

UKERC Carbon Crucible Programme Awards

Dr Sharon Lin has been awarded two grants totalling £29,400 under the UK Energy Research Centre's Carbon Crucible grant programme.

Financial vs. Carbon (2009-10, £12,900). Researchers: Sharon Lin, with Heriot-Watt University, Imperial College and Eon Energy

A study of the monetary and carbon payback from photovoltaic systems, the research will develop a monetary, energy, carbon and policy life cycle approach for the comparison of current and emerging photovoltaic (PV) energy technologies.

Standard Carbon Metrics (2009-10, £16,500). Researchers: Sharon Lin, with Edinburgh and Teeside Universities

The study will produce standard carbon metrics for the public and private sectors. This will go beyond standard economic indicators, such as GDP, to integrate environmental dimensions, thus reflecting a truer picture of progress.

The uncertain middle: the role of demonstration projects

The 'uncertain middle': the role of demonstration projects and trials in influencing success in sustainable innovation - ESRC/AIM

(2007-10) £350,216. Principal Investigator: Chris Hendry; Researchers: Paul Harborne & Jim Brown; Doctoral student: Ben Armstrong-Haworth

This project is funded by the ESRC through the 'Targeted Innovation Initiative' of the Advanced Institute of Management Research. It builds upon the previous study of fuel cells as a radical, potentially disruptive innovation, which analysed the industry's development and company cases in the US, Japan, Germany and the UK.

Research Questions
1. What impact do demonstration projects and field trials have in accelerating innovation in renewable energy technologies (focusing on wind, solar photovoltaics and fuel cells for stationary power)?
2. What role do external factors (such as policy measures and follow-on activities) have in affecting success?
3. What impact do demonstration projects and field trials have in accelerating innovation within firms?
4. What factors internal to the firm affect their ability to manage and exploit the opportunities presented by demonstration projects and trials?

Project Theme and Focus. The challenge of creativity in innovation and managing the "fuzzy front end" of product development has engaged many scholars and practitioners. In contrast, there has been relatively little attention to the "uncertain middle" - that phase when a product undergoes testing and is progressively exposed to the market beyond prototyping and early R&D.

Innovation in energy systems has become increasingly vital in order to reduce carbon emissions, ensure energy security, and relieve energy poverty. Such innovation however is complex and difficult because of integrated and expensive infrastructures, dominant large firms, the institutions in which these are embedded, and the widespread conservatism of operators, users, and governments. Innovation in stationary power (our basic electricity supply) thus faces particular difficulties during the "uncertain middle" phase.

To overcome these barriers and advance the commercialisation of renewable technologies, publicly funded demonstration projects and field trials (DTs) have been widely used in the US, Germany and Japan. Claimed benefits from DTs include - improving the technology and its match to market opportunities; developing operational capabilities along the supply chain; building customer awareness, experience, and socio-political support; helping to create early markets; and delivering quasi-revenues to firms contracted to supply technology.

Government intervention on behalf of renewable technologies can take a number of other forms - public funding of R&D (technology-push); public procurement (to stimulate economies of scale and early markets); market subsidies (market-pull); regulatory change to remove market obstacles; and improving supply-side skills and industry supply chain. DTs sit within this armoury as an additional element, but are often overshadowed by publicly funded R&D and market subsidies. In fact, as our research already shows, DTs in the US and EU are often framed within R&D programmes to avoid the charge that they are supporting commercialisation (this being seen as the responsibility of companies). Less ideologically constrained countries (such as Japan) have less problem with blurring the boundaries between DTs and market subsidies.

Public DTs can thus fulfil a number of goals and vary in their emphasis on these at different times and in different places. They remain a matter of controversy, however, and we continue to find very different views about their proper use among industry experts, company managers, and politicians who have been involved with them.

The project focuses on wind power, solar photovoltaics (PV) and fuel cells (FCs) wind being the most technologically mature and furthest along the road of commercialisation. Fuel cells are the least advanced, and therefore the lessons from the research are likely to have particular value for their development. Extensive DTs have taken place for stationary power in these three technologies in three geographic domains (US, Japan, EU). Records, however, are dispersed and no comprehensive databases exist. A first task was therefore to collate records in a consistent format, and merge and crosscheck sources to get a reliable and detailed picture of DT programmes from the 1970s to the present time. Having a comprehensive view of DTs over an extended period internationally is essential for understanding their role and impact.

Hitherto there has been a complete absence of evaluation studies that look at the whole history of technologies' DTs programmatically in this way. Individual projects are usually assessed in their achievement of defined objectives (although the results are not always made public); single funded programmes have sometimes been evaluated (for example, the US TEAM-UP programme in PV); and the return on RD&D may even be calculated in cost-benefit terms (in the US by the DoE and by CRIEPI in Japan). But the particular role of DTs in the innovation process and the lessons that can be learned generally remain a black box, with little attempt to explain the mechanisms or to identify and apply best practice.

Phase 1. The first task was to develop a comprehensive database and accounts of the development and commercialisation of each technology in terms of the technical challenges and achievements, installation growth by country and region, trends in cost reduction, the leading companies, R&D expenditures, and policy measures aiding market creation. This was augmented by interviews with industry experts in the three technologies. The result is a picture of how innovation, installation growth, policy measures and DTs have interacted over the last 20-25 years in the three energy technologies.
The contribution of DTs to the energy innovation process is analysed in terms of three perspectives - progress towards a dominant product design; development of the market, industrial and institutional system (or 'socio-technical system'); and the role of knowledge spillovers through internationalisation and acquisition as a crosscutting process. The results are described in three papers:

Brown, J. & Hendry, C. (2009), 'Public Demonstration Projects and Field Trials: Accelerating Commercialisation of Sustainable Technology in Photovoltaics', Energy Policy, 37, p.2560-2573

Harborne, P. & Hendry, C. (2009), 'Pathways to commercial wind power in the US, Europe and Japan: the role of demonstration projects and field trials in the learning process', Energy Policy, 37, p.3580-3595

Hendry, C, Harborne, P. & Brown, J. (2008), 'The 'uncertain middle': the role of public demonstration projects and trials in influencing innovation success in renewable energy systems', Cass working paper.

Phase 2: Case Studies.
The second task was to develop company cases that shed light on innovation and learning from DTs, to establish what benefits they have derived and lessons for the design and management of DTs. Fifteen cases have been developed on solar PV companies in Europe, US and Japan, a further nine on wind turbine firms, and seventeen on fuel cells. The lessons for companies and policy makers are described in two publications:

Hendry C.N., Harborne, P., Brown, J. (2010), 'The Uncertain Middle: Innovation lessons for low carbon energy technology from demonstration projects and trials', Executive briefing, Advanced Institute of Management Research

Hendry C.N., Harborne, P., Brown, J.E. (2010) 'So what do innovating companies really get from publicly funded demonstration projects and trials? Innovation lessons from solar photovoltaics and wind', Energy Policy, 8, p. 4507-4519

Innovation Barriers to Growth in High-Technology SMEs: The Role of Absorptive Capacity

Innovation Barriers to Growth in High-Technology SMEs: The Role of Absorptive Capacity

(2006-07) £20,418. Researchers: Chris Hendry, Paul Harborne, James Brown, and University of Cambridge Centre for Business Research.

The Council for Science and Technology has commissioned this joint project to investigate 'how high-technology SMEs identify knowledge gaps during product development, how they resolve these, and how they make effective commercial use of their scientific knowledge'. The Council advises the UK government on policy and support for science-based SMEs. The project will develop a series of case studies and a report which assesses government policy in terms of how such companies learn and grow.

The research will target early-stage firms that need further significant R&D before they have a viable product. The Cass research will focus on the UK fuel cell industry, where there are a number of such start-ups still developing their capabilities and products in early market applications. As a sector at a critical stage of development with acknowledged significant medium- and long-term prospects, these cases are likely to provide insights into the imperatives of absorbing knowledge in high-technology SMEs.

The project builds on our research into the fuel cell sector in the UK, Germany, USA and Japan over the past four years. It will therefore contribute not only to policy towards high-technology SMEs in general, but is a further opportunity to influence attitudes and policy towards a sector that has important worldwide significance for reducing carbon emissions (and hence climate change) and for energy security.

The Development and Diffusion of Fuel Cell Technology as a Disruptive Innovation

The Development and Diffusion of Fuel Cell Technology as a Disruptive Innovation

(2002-2005) £228,019. Researchers: Chris Hendry, Paul Harbourne, Dinos Arcoumanis (Dean of Engineering), James Brown and Talal Ous

This project is funded under the ESRC Sustainable Technologies Programme, which is an integral part of the UK's Sustainable Technologies Initiative. The Programme seeks to analyse what makes technologies sustainable, to assess the roles technological and behavioural change can play in achieving more sustainable futures, and to reveal the social and economic processes that foster or inhibit innovation for sustainable development. STP is a five-year £3 million programme launched in January 2002, and the City fuel cell technology project is one of six commissioned in the first round. For further details of the programme the Sustainable Technologies website.

Fuel cells, which use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, are an attractive resource-efficient energy source, with a range of applications in the automotive industry, portable electronics, domestic heating, and power generation. While there are many technical problems to be overcome, there are also wider system issues that mark out fuel cell technology as a case of radical, disruptive innovation. This can be seen as a general feature of sustainable technologies, since they often have to confront entrenched industry and consumer interests, as well as needing to develop new forms of organisation. The research studies the key factors affecting the development, adoption and use of fuel cell technology, through the interaction of company innovation processes and system drivers (including government policy), and develops lessons to optimise its take-up. In doing so, it addresses the following key questions:

  • What business and market processes are critical to the innovation and use of fuel cell technologies in the UK?
  • What drivers and barriers exist to the development and uptake of fuel cells?
  • What broader lessons for disruptive sustainable technologies can be drawn for policy?

The research develops a picture of drivers and barriers through interviews with key players and interest groups in the industry, and case studies featuring innovating companies in fuel cell technology in the automotive, heating/power and portable electronics sectors, in the UK, Germany, North America and Japan. The project is supported by one of the world's leading firms in fuel cell development, Johnson Matthey.

The research provides lessons for company practice and government policy to encourage the development and adoption of fuel cells - including the impact of alternative regulatory regimes, new ways of thinking about radical innovation, and how to build momentum in the adoption of sustainable technologies. Overall, the result is a better understanding of the dynamics of large-scale change for innovation in sustainable technologies, and better models to guide the process.

R&D competition and cooperation in high technology

R&D competition and cooperation in high technology: a theoretical and empirical analysis of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology vs computers and optical communications

Researcher: Lakis Kaounides (1999-2002). (Currently, Director of Technology and Innovation, Department of Materials, Queen Mary, University of London.)

Kaounides, L. (2002). Nanotechnology and global competition in the 21st century.

Kaounides, L. and Granger, R. (2002), 'The core technological and organisational competencies of the corporation revisited', City University Business School.

Kaounides, L (2000), 'New technologies and International Business in the 21st century: technological convergence, networks, and global competition' in C.J. Millar, R. Grant and C.J. Choi (Eds), International Business: Emerging Issues and Emerging Markets, McMillan Press, 130-155.

Kaounides, L. (1999), 'Scientific and Technological Advance and Competitiveness in the Global Economy', International Studies in Management and Organisations, Special Issue, Spring, 29, 1, 53-79.

Kaounides, L. (1995). Advanced Materials: Corporate Strategies for Competitive Advantage. Management Report, The Financial Times. 315pp.

Kaounides, L. (1995). Advanced Materials in High Technology and World Class Manufacturing: The Materials Revolution and the Challenge to World Industry in the l990s. Advanced materials technology series, No.1, UNIDO, Vienna, Austria. 80pp.

Studies in Emerging Industries

Studies in Emerging Industries

(1999-2001). Researcher: Joe Lampel.

This project was concerned with the role of socio-cognitive processes in industry emergence through examples from nanotechnology, fuel cells, bio-informatics, and photovoltaics. Socio-cognitive models of industry emergence focus on the interaction between collective action and cognition in the pre-commercial phase. Collective action during this phase mobilizes resources by building on communal and social affiliation within clusters, energised by visions of future technological perfectibility. This perspective also highlights the role of industry visionaries - individuals who through foresight and persuasion exercise a strong influence on an industry during its formative stage, usually by promulgating and communicating collective action frames.

Lampel, J. (2001), 'Show and Tell: Product Demonstrations and Path Creation of Technological Change', in R. Garud and P. Karnøe (eds.), Path dependence and path creation. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Earlbaum, pp.303-328.

Lampel, J. and Shamsie, J. (2001), 'Betting On Technological Innovation: Towards A Competence-Based View of First Mover Advantage', in R. Sanchez and A. Heene (eds.), Advances in Applied Business Strategy. Research in Competence-Based Management, JAI Press, pp.165-185.

Skill Needs in New Technology Industries

Skill Needs in New Technology Industries

The Department for Education and Employment (1999). Researcher: Chris Hendry (with James Brown and Sally Woodward)

Hendry, C. (1999). New Technology Industries. Skills Task Force Research Paper 10, London: DfEE, 37pp.