This paper examines the major problems relating to energy access and the
potential application of innovation prizes to these challenges. Key
barriers to scaling up access to clean, modern energy were analysed
through conversations with around 120 sector experts. The major problem
areas were then evaluated using a Technology Innovations System model to
identify specific factors blocking wider access to technologies and
fuels. The potential application of innovation prizes to these
challenges was then considered, based on lessons from the literature on
innovation prizes and dialogue with sector experts. A number of areas of
potential intervention were identified, including some aspects of clean
cooking, mini-grid development and raising public awareness of the value
offered by certain technologies. Areas where innovation prizes might not
be effective were also identified, including mobilising finance – an
issue faced by many technologies – and policy reform.
The major conclusions from this analysis were:
In most cases the factors limiting access to cleaner and more
efficient energy supply are at the level of market formation,
financing and policy. The challenges are not primarily of a
technical/engineering nature. This means that the challenges lie in
areas where historically innovation prizes have not been widely used.
In spite of this, we were able to identify a number of aspects of the
problems where innovation prizes might be useful.
Few, if any, of the problems lend themselves to ‘global’ solutions.
The specific manifestations of a lack of access to energy vary from
country to country, market to market, technology to technology. A
detailed analysis of each specific context is required, followed by
careful and appropriate prize design if an innovation prize is to be
From this first phase of the research we believe that innovation prizes may be a useful tool to use alongside other types of intervention in specific contexts. Prizes linked to increased liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) access in Ghana will be run as a way of testing the usefulness of innovation prizes as a development tool.
Collings, S. Stimulating solutions to energy access through the use of innovation prizes. Ideas to Impact, London, UK (2015)