Energy is essential in almost every aspect of our lives and for the success of our economy. Recent policy and legislative developments, such as the UK Energy Bill, have brought into sharper focus the long-term energy challenges we face.
Ensuring a secure supply of affordable energy whilst tackling climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the main objective, but the two parts of that objective do not always sit comfortably together.
The use of innovative technologies will play an important part in meeting these challenges. New seismic mapping, pipeline and drilling solutions will increase success rates and reduce the associated risks and costs of recovery from our oil and gas reserves. Renewable energy technologies in the areas of biomass, waste derived fuel, wave and tidal, wind, and solar will help to create a cleaner and more sustainable energy mix.
This continued quest for fossil fuels might appear to sit uncomfortably with the need to protect our environment and tackle climate change, however the global economy can’t make a wholesale shift to non-carbon energy sources overnight. If all countries in the world are to benefit from sustained economic growth we will need energy from existing and next-generation sources.
As carbon is priced under emissions reduction regimes, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the Carbon Reduction Commitment, a market should develop for technologies which reduce emissions and which displace energy production and consumption which would otherwise generate emissions. This will drive a further increase in related research and development activity.
Effective collaboration is critical to the development of all of these much-needed technologies. Co-operation, discussion and shared learning will enable everyone to address energy issues in the modern world.
The research and development that drives the creation and leads to commercialisation of new technologies requires substantial investment. Investment, innovation and commercialisation can all be seriously jeopardised if the intellectual property position is flawed.
Ironically, the activities that lead to successful innovation are also the very activities that often lead to intellectual property problems. Collaboration and cross-fertilisation of ideas can result in bitter disputes if the ground rules are not clear from the outset. Make sure that discussion of ideas is done on a confidential basis and that rights to share in the results and outputs of a project are clearly and unambiguously allocated to the right project partners.
Investors will drill deep into the intellectual property position when doing their due diligence on a business. It is therefore important to ensure that you have obtained and are protecting all the rights you need to use the intellectual property and technology that is the cornerstone of your business, and that you also have freedom to operate in your chosen markets. Don't fall into the trap of assuming that because you have been granted some patent rights that means that your technology doesn't infringe someone else's, particularly if you're entering new territories.
It is also important to ensure that time and money is not wasted chasing the development of technologies that the world has left behind, and that the value of those new technologies that do break through is optimised by pursuing all appropriate commercialisation opportunities. That may include the transfer of technologies and expertise between sectors, for example from the oil and gas industry to renewables.
Early "health checks" on projects will help to maximise the benefits both for the businesses involved and, ultimately, the rest of the planet.
Graeme Moffett is a senior associate and accredited Intellectual Property specialist in Energy Technologies