Directing technological change for sustainable growth:
Unlocking green innovation

We call "locked in" technologies and systems of production that are in a stable configuration because many elements reinforce each other. Such systems are hard to reform. For example, the combustion engine is locked in most obviously by the extensive infrastructure of fueling stations, but also a myriad of economic investments and behaviors that were fine-tuned to complement the combustion engine.
When attempting to direct technological change to meet ecological constraints, radical change is needed. Whole sectors and industrial networks must undertake a concerted change in the same direction. This is difficult. Coordination failures are likely. Hence we must understand how economic systems get unlocked. What does it take for the network of interdependencies between technological components, firms, institutions and consumer behaviors to loosen and allow change? How can environmental and industrial policies coordinate change amongst interdependent economic actors?

Several projects are underway exploring this theme:

  • Complementary innovations in global supply-chain networks (with Eugenie Dugoua):
    When and why do buyers and suppliers invest in complementary innovations for green transitions? Do some patterns of relationship hinder innovation and do others help? To answer these questions, we bring together supply-chain network data with patent data.
    Funded by AXA Future Research Leader Fellowship
  • From EVs to green construction:
    This project undertakes comparative case studies in the automotive and construction industries in several countries. The goal is to understand how the incentives of firms to innovate in a particular direction change as a function of what other firms do. How did the EV take off despite the lock-in of combustion engines? What was the role of institutions, large incumbent firms and small innovative players in the process? Can we apply the lessons from the automotive sector to the construction sector?
    Funded by AXA Future Research Leader Fellowship
  • Inequality and the Green Product Cycle (with Xavier Jaravel):
    How does inequality influence companies to innovate and market green products? Does excessive inequality prevent green products from becoming mainstream?
    Funded by the Rebuilding Macro Sustainability Hub
  • AI and the low-carbon transition: assessing the synergies (with Pia Andres and Eugenie Dugoua):
    In this project, we measure the spillovers of AI innovation to clean technologies relative to dirty ones. This allows us to ask whether the rapid pace of innovation in AI has relatively strong spillovers to low-carbon technologies, thereby helping these technologies catch-up with dirtier ones.