Electricity sector liberalisation and innovation: An analysis of the UK's patenting activities


Liberalisation has had a marked effect on innovative activities in the electricity industry. In particular, electricity reforms have resulted in a reduction in R&D spending in the sector. R&D and patenting activities are respectively regarded as innovative inputs to and outputs from technological progress. The present paper examines the effect of the reforms on patenting activity in the UK electricity sector. The results indicate that electricity related patents in non-nuclear and renewable technologies have increased in the post-liberalisation period. We attribute this trend to the increased commercialisation of the sector. While this development is positive, we argue that a lasting decline in R&D will in the longer run reduce technological progress and innovation in the sector. In order to maintain the pace of innovation, we discuss the need to design a new framework for innovation systems that is commensurate with the functioning and incentive mechanisms of a liberalised sector.

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