Frontier Technology Series
Innovation and technological development, key elements of North America’s competitive advantage, are closely intertwined with economic growth. There is perhaps no sector where this is more evident than energy. The ability to improve upon existing technologies, apply technologies in new ways in different places, find ways to produce new resources and types of energy, and change the way we use energy is a central part of what shapes global markets, with potentially large impacts on the economy. Energy innovation is also intimately intertwined with environmental concerns and security interests, with technological developments creating the potential to affect anything from the trajectory of emissions globally to reliance on foreign fuels.
Technological breakthroughs—the high-profile aspects of innovation—don’t necessarily involve brand new technologies. In fact, some ‘breakthroughs’ involve technologies that have long been on the margin of the mainstream and become breakthroughs because they achieve cost competitiveness relative to established technologies. The timeline for such technologies to achieve commercial viability is very difficult to predict, but once competitive, they can be adopted in a matter of years or even months—although widespread deployment often takes longer. Conversely, other technological innovations can come from novel ideas that introduce original characteristics valued by the market. Such concepts generally take the market by storm and their adoption is expedited.
The CSIS Energy Program's Frontier Energy Series explores innovations on the edge of mainstream adoption, with a focus on technological breakthroughs and new opportunities that could revolutionize the energy landscape. The series highlights technology experts from both the private and public sectors, inviting them to present on frontier technologies and to discuss their potential for mainstream adoption. These sessions feature a wide array of developments ranging from novel drilling technologies to hydrokinetic technologies, thus providing an overview of the technologies themselves, but also illuminating the processes of technological adoption in the mainstream and the balanced involvement of both the public and private sectors.