It has been four years to the Paris Agreement and yet humanity is no closer to reversing climate change. The landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that the world has until 2030 to keep earth’s temperature between 1.5° and 2° Celsius. Increase above that threshold would result in devastating consequences around the world.
Extraordinary innovation of climate resilient technologies need to be developed at scale, scope, and velocity that can radically decarbonize the planet. Considering the perilous time constraint, governments, multilateral institutions, corporations, and innovators must embrace the open innovation paradigm.
How can open innovation address climate change?
It is rather simple. Open innovation is based on the idea that distributed knowledge can be a powerful force in enabling research & development around innovation. If agents across the energy value chain distributed and shared their knowledge on a massive scale, as opposed to rolling out non-disclosure policies around silo innovation model, staggering amount of data can be exchanged that will generate powerful insights. Additionally, such kind of large-scale knowledge exchange will stimulate a new wave of innovation at a faster pace. Open innovation offers opportunities to reduce research costs, spread risks and rewards, and increase the prospect of bringing innovative products and services to the market.
Tesla Motors exemplifies the power of open innovation model to advance low carbon technologies. Tesla formed open collaborations and strategic alliances with other suppliers, R&D networks, and even with rival automobile manufacturers in order to leverage on a broad accumulation of knowledge, resources, skills, and ideas. Tesla has gone as far as releasing all its electric vehicle patents to the public. Soon after, Toyota and Ford decided to follow suite and the companies opened their patent vaults to the world.
These companies are not embracing open innovation for an altruistic purpose, but because it also makes business sense. Electric cars only account for less than 1 percent of the total number of vehicles in circulation. In order to accelerate a wider adoption rate of electric vehicles, companies like Tesla use an open innovation strategy so as to empower others to develop complementary knowledge and infrastructure. Open innovation enables low carbon technologies to be adopted by millions of customers, thereby, growing the market as well as decarbonizing the planet.
Are low emission cars enough to help combat climate change?
Transportation contributes merely 14% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. The other offenders when it comes to CO2 emissions are: electricity (25%), agriculture (24%), manufacturing (21%), building (6%), and other various sectors (10%).
Lessons around open innovation from the automobile sector must be adopted and applied across the other five areas. Strong open innovation standards are necessary in addressing climate change through proliferation of low carbon technology development as well as adoption.
As the world reaches closer to climate catastrophe, governments and multilateral institutions must enact policies and regulations that incentivize corporations, innovators, universities, and industries at a local, regional, and global level to share their information more readily.
The open innovation paradigm will radically speed up the necessary innovation needed to reach our goals of the Paris Agreement thereby safeguarding the survival of humanity.