Q5 Anne Marie Morris: Is there a global grid—“This is what we in the UK are doing and this is what is going on elsewhere”—so that you get a picture globally, given that we are all going to need to have the technology to fix climate change?
Jeremy Pocklington: We play a big role in this. Mission Innovation is the global programme that brings together scientists and expertise across the world as a process to help the world to stay within 1.5. That is the co‑ordination mechanism globally. It is the same experts in the Department, including Dr Adikaari, who are helping support that work as are supporting our domestic efforts.
Q6 Anne Marie Morris: How important is our seat at the table? Do we have a senior seat at the table?
Jeremy Pocklington: We have an important role. I do not know whether Dr Adikaari would like to say anything about Mission Innovation.
Q7 Chair: Dr Adikaari, do you want to paint a bit more of a human picture of what goes on?
Dr Adikaari: Mission Innovation is an initiative with 23 countries and the European Union.
Chair: It is 23 countries and the European Union on top.
Dr Adikaari: The European Commission is a contributor. That was launched after the 2015 Paris agreement. This is now in the second phase of mission innovation, driving innovation necessary for net zero. The seven areas that we have focused on through an extensive process are also quite relevant to what Mission Innovation has taken forward in a global sense.
The investment by the 23 countries and the European Commission covers about 90% of global public sector investment when it comes to research, development and innovation related to net zero. Its main approach tool is using seven missions to drive progress. Those seven missions are power, hydrogen, low carbon shipping, industry, carbon dioxide removal, biomaterials and energy, and cities. You can see the seven sectors we have where we have focused on UK capability, UK advantage and the potential contribution to UK carbon budgets. The work internationally sits quite well within the overall strategic approach when it comes to public sector investment necessary to achieve net zero.
Q8 Anne Marie Morris: That was very helpful, thank you. All these seven categories and 31 research areas do not carry the same level of risk in terms of how achievable they are. I am almost surprised—maybe you will tell me that it exists and we just have not seen it—that there is not, alongside the lovely diagram in figure 1 setting out the seven and the lovely diagram in figure 3 setting out the timeline, another column that sets out the risk attached to each of these. I would be interested to know whether there is; if there is not, why not? What will you do if one of these, in the next five years, proves to be something that cannot be followed up because it is not viable?
Jeremy Pocklington: Each programme will have a business case, which will have a risk statement attached to it that will need to be consistent with the Department’s overall risk appetite. It is not in the Report and it is not necessarily exactly on the 31 categories here, but each programme that is being funded will need a risk statement attached to it as part of the usual business case process in my Department, where it is my Department, or in DBT—the Department for Business and Trade—or the Department for Transport if it is those Departments.
In my Department, we have set a range of our risk appetite for these sorts of activities. We have said that the range will be from medium to very high. That reflects that this is a portfolio approach. As you were alluding to, we know that some of these projects will fail. That is the nature of research and innovation. If the projects were guaranteed to be successful, the private sector might well fund them. Our assessment is that, in aggregate, the returns outweigh the risk.
That means that we will fund some high and even very high-risk projects, especially at lower-to-mid technology readiness levels—TRLs—as the engineers and scientists refer to them. We announced this week an example of that, with a small amount of additional funding for investment in space-based solar technology. That is looking at the feasibility of, essentially, the wireless transmission of energy from satellites to earth. We are deliberately taking a range of risks in order to maximise the returns, but looking at this across the portfolio.
Q9 Anne Marie Morris: There will be some that fail. At what point will you pull the plug and say, “It comes off this list”?
Jeremy Pocklington: We continuously monitor and oversee this. I might bring in Dr Adikaari to give you some more specific examples. It is a portfolio approach. This is not the first portfolio we have done. The first portfolio was in the previous spending review in the previous Parliament. We are learning from the investments that we are making in research and innovation, working out which has more potential and which has less potential, and then adjusting in due course.
Q10 Anne Marie Morris: You have not answered the question. Who has oversight and when is the plug going to be pulled? Who makes that decision?
Dr Adikaari: It is a portfolio approach underpinned by evidence and modelling to understand the impact of the technology. One of the three criteria we have used is optionality for different pathways to achieve carbon budgets. In the framework and the methodology we used to develop the framework, that additional risk that we are taking on a number of different technologies is built in.
That is the reason why some of the work we are funding is on hydrogen for building heat and, at the same time, we have programmes such as Heat Pump Ready to understand, street by street, whether the density of heat pumps can cope and what innovation can do. There are similar examples. If you take, for example, nuclear power research, we are funding near‑term objectives—clear options such as small modular reactors—as well as more research-based earlier technology readiness, such as advanced modular reactors.
In the portfolio itself, we have built in sufficient optionality to tolerate that failure. How we go about when to pull the plug is through a review process. Our expectation is that the Net Zero Innovation Board, as the strategic driver for this, is going to take on that role. This is the first framework that we have put together and put in place. In support of monitoring to make those decisions, we have the Innovation Delivery Board, which tracks the investment and at the same time reports to the Net Zero Innovation Board.
There is an expectation once the investment period nears its end. At the moment we are in the middle of this spending review period. If you look at the £4.2 billion we are talking about, at the moment we are standing those projects up. If you take the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero portfolio, it is almost fully committed; some other partners are less so.
We will get to a point where we have sufficient outcomes coming through and, in parallel, progress in the analytical aspects to understand how technologies are moving. This sector has very fast-moving technological advances, so the question you are asking is very pertinent. Therefore we have to be continuously monitoring and gathering evidence. The Net Zero Innovation Board is the vehicle to analyse that.