26 May 2023
by Sarah Morgan

Cambridge policy briefing calls for demand-led innovation in foundation industries

Government needs to act urgently to support demand-led innovation in UK industry to pursue climate targets, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) policy briefing says.

© Solk Photography/Architype

Without decisive and urgent action by the government and by UK industries, the UK economy stands to miss out on the benefits that will accrue to companies that are among the first to develop cost-effective ways to produce materials and products with lower embodied carbon content, the Market driven decarbonisation: The role of demand-led innovation in supporting emission reductions in foundation industries briefing says.

Drawing on existing literature and discussions with their industry partners, the research identified three urgently needed actions that the UK government could undertake to support demand-led innovation in UK industry in pursuit of the UK’s climate targets.

These include:

  • Designing and implementing policies to create demand for low carbon products and materials.
  • Designing and implementing policies that support contextual conditions to encourage innovation or support the scaling up demand for innovative technologies and approaches by businesses across the foundation industry value chains.
  • Establishing international collaboration to accelerate demand for low carbon materials and products globally.

Current policies, such as the UK's Emissions Trading System, have been insufficient to drive deep decarbonisation in these industries, which require long-term investment and new technologies, a policy briefing by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) has said.

The briefing outlines a set of research findings demonstrating how policy can enable demand-led innovation to accelerate the pace of climate action and help secure economic and competitive benefits by developing leadership in this area.

The research identified four key decarbonisation pathways to achieve net-zero aligned emissions reductions in UK foundation industry value chains:

  • Electrification
  • Circular economy solutions
  • Novel technologies
  • Innovative products, processes and practices