Innovation in clean-energy technologies is central toward a net-zero energy system. One key determinant of technological innovation is the integration of external knowledge, i.e., knowledge spillovers. However, extant work does not explain how individual spillovers come about: the mechanisms and enablers of these spillovers. We ask how knowledge from other technologies, sectors, or scientific disciplines is integrated into the innovation process in an important technology for a net-zero future: lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), based on a qualitative case study using extant literature and an elite interview campaign with key inventors in the LIB field and R&D/industry experts. We identify the breakthrough innovations in LIBs, discuss the extent to which breakthrough innovations—plus a few others—have resulted from spillovers, and identify different mechanisms and enablers underlying these spillovers, which can be leveraged by policymakers and R&D managers who are interested in facilitating spillovers in LIBs and other clean-energy technologies.
Written by Annegret Stephan, Laura Díaz Anadón and Volker H. Hoffmann