ANET Lab Seminar Series: Kavita Surana

Kavita Surana (Complexity Science Hub Vienna): Technology complexity and long-term innovation in suppliers of clean energy technologies under global manufacturing shifts: case of wind energy

Abstract | Clean energy technologies can contribute to emissions reduction and support economies through jobs and growth in new manufacturing industries, however, innovation is still needed to meet long-term climate goals. Policymakers try to simultaneously advance innovation, manufacturing, and deployment of clean energy technologies but, much as in other modern industries, the manufacturing of many clean energy technologies has shifted from Europe, the US, and Japan to emerging economies, especially China. The consequences of this shift for the temporal dimension of innovation -- i.e. whether innovation is aligned with long-term climate goals -- are not well understood. This talk will discuss the wind energy global value chain, using a novel dataset of the component supplier firms that worked with the 13 largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from 2006-2016. First, we will discuss the global changes in the location of manufacturing in the context of technology complexity, a metric that quantifies the knowledge intensity and difficulty of manufacturing turbine components. Then, we will apply data science and natural language processing methods to introduce and analyze the temporal dimension of innovation, i.e. the expected payoffs from firms’ patenting activity in the long-term or short-term. Finally, we will quantitatively assess the relationship between the location of manufacturing in the global value chain and the temporal dimension of innovation.

Bio | Kavita Surana has been a member of the CSH Associate Faculty since Jan 2022. She is an Assistant Research Professor at the Center for Global Sustainability, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland College Park (USA). She is also a principal at IST cube (Austria), where she invests in early-stage science-based start-ups and spin-offs linked to the physical sciences or to climate, energy, and sustainability topics.

Kavita holds a PhD in materials science from the University of Grenoble Alpes (Grenoble INP) and the CEA, a master in materials for energy storage and conversion from Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse (France) as part of a joint European Erasmus Mundus program, and a bachelor in physics from St. Stephen’s College at Delhi University (India). She was a PostDoc at Harvard University (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs).

Her research focuses on innovation in climate and energy technologies and the interactions between public policy and private firms to address global and local green transition challenges. She worked at the French Alternative and Atomic Energies Commission (CEA) as a materials scientist developing innovative solar cells and at ICF International in their energy advisory team in modeling electricity systems and markets. She has led multiple policy reports on energy and innovation targeted towards regional and national policymakers and has worked on various consulting projects, including with the World Bank.

Kavita’s research has been published in journals including Nature Energy, Nature Climate Change, Research Policy, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Her research projects have been funded by the US National Science Foundation, Energy Futures Initiative, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.