Mapping the UK Research & Innovation Landscape: Energy & Development

LCEDN resource

Author(s): Bagley, Chris; Brown, Ed; Campbell, Ben; Cloke, Jon; Cameron, Scott; Collings, Simon; Gunning, Rebecca; Kabell, Henriette; McDonnell, Jennie; To, Long Seng; Turner, Britta

Final publication: April 2018

A review undertaken by the UK Low Carbon Energy for Development Network, Energy 4 Impact and the Knowledge Transfer Network, with the assistance of IOD-PARC.


The UK is already a major player in terms of research and innovation into low carbon transitions within the countries of the developing world. However, there are significant opportunities for the UK to enhance its presence within these markets whilst also making a major contribution to meeting international development targets and climate commitments. At the core of the research analysed in the report is that it reflects disparate, research initiatives funded with different research/innovation targets in mind; much latent strength in UK research for low carbon energy for development therefore is implicit in linkage possibilities enhancing systemic effectiveness, particularly by cross-fertilizing innovations taking place in the private sector. 

The Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN) is currently taking the initiative in one aspect of this through the provision of a programme of capacity building and partnership activities to support the development of DfID’s Transforming Energy Access research initiative. What is required of UK energy for development research for the purposes of building a functional system, however, is that the discrete areas of research outlined in this report be re-assembled as coherent, overall research narratives addressing the apparent contradiction of increasing energy access whilst transitioning to the low-carbon economy. Part of this work involves identifying the state and dynamics of UK research capacity in this sector, facilitating greater integration between research funders active in this area, evaluating gaps and key research needs and mapping potential future directions for research interventions and collaborations that build on, and develop, existing UK research capacity.

This report presents the first part of this work with an overview of current UK research and innovation capacity in a widely defined ‘Energy and International Development’ research area. It identifies key institutions and research centres, thematic areas of excellence, research funding trends over the last decade, emerging research themes plus an overview of grant funding for innovation on the ground. A number of key areas/questions for potential further development of UK research and innovation capacity have been identified and are up for discussion and consultation. 

A detailed picture of UK capacity has been built up by drawing on consultations with and contributions from a wide range of UK academic experts, as well as the collation and analysis of a database of research projects, institutions and individuals focused around energy and international development issues and the relationships between them. The capacity review takes a relatively wide definition of energy research covering a range of themes relating to the provision of energy services within international development contexts. The main focus is on off-grid electricity supply, although it also covers questions of energy efficiency, biofuels and clean cooking.