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Let’s Fund: Clean Energy Innovation Policy

Let’s Fund: Clean Energy Innovation Policy


By 2030, climate change will push 100 million people back into poverty according to the World Bank and cause 250,000 deaths per year according to the WHO. And there’s a 10% chance that temperatures will rise by over 6ºC (10.8 Fahrenheit) according to the IPCC.

We are crowdfunding for the Clean Energy Innovation program at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)—a top-ranked US think tank. Their policy research focuses on the effectiveness of higher and smarter clean energy R&D spending and communicating this to policy-makers. We have done hundreds of hours of research and believe that this is the most effective way to donate to combat climate change. Why?

Bill Gates explains it well in this very short video (less than 2 mins): 




You can read our in-depth analysis below, but briefly:

Advanced economies like the US and EU are prioritizing reducing their own emissions. But by 2040, 75% of all emissions will come from emerging economies such as China and India. Only if advanced economies’ climate policies reduce emissions in all countries will we prevent dangerous climate change. The best policies to do this are those that stimulate innovation and make clean energy technology cheaper in all countries. We compared 10 climate policies that stimulate innovation (e.g. carbon taxes, deployment subsidies, cutting fossil fuel subsidies) and found that increasing government budgets for public clean energy research and development (R&D) is the most effective—even more effective than carbon taxes.

Public clean energy R&D is neglected: only $22 billion is spent per year globally. This might sound like a lot but consider that this is only 0.02% of World GDP. For comparison, world energy expenditure was 6% of the World’s GDP. This means we spend about 300 times as much on energy than on making energy better.  We also spend $140 billion on clean energy deployment subsidies, when analysts say that the ratio of research to subsidies should be more like one-to-one. Many advanced economies (e.g. U.S., EU) could unilaterally increase this substantially without international coordination—which makes this much more politically tractable than carbon taxes. 

Better yet, advanced economies can coordinate spending parts of their GDP on clean energy R&D. Many countries have already done so by signing an international ‘Mission Innovation’ agreement, but are not on track to fulfill their pledges. Donating to this campaign might lead countries to get back on track and increase clean energy R&D budgets. This would make low-carbon energy cheaper, carbon taxes more politically acceptable, and prevent dangerous climate change.

raised of $1,000,000. Stretch goal: $2 million

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The Grantee: The Clean Energy Innovation Program at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)


ITIF is a think tank based in Washington, DC. The Global Go To Think Tank Index has ranked ITIF 1st in their “Science and Technology think tanks category in 2017 and 2018.

We have a mutual agreement of understanding with ITIF that any donations through Let’s Fund will be restricted to the Clean Energy Innovation Programled by Professor David Hart and Dr Colin Cunliff.

We think the main mechanism of their impact will be high-quality, unbiased policy research on the effectiveness of higher and smarter spending on clean energy R&D.

Your donation will help them to e.g. hire more staff and create more typical think tank outputs such as books, reports, policy briefs, blogs, conferences, workshops, commentaries, formal briefings and informal discussions with policy-makers, government officials, and key stakeholders.

Professor David Hart

Professor David Hart

Senior Fellow at ITIF

David Hart is a professor of public policy and director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy at George Mason University‘s Schar School of Policy and Government.

  • Author of Unlocking Energy Innovation and numerous articles on energy innovation policy in academic and policy publications
  • Formerly Assistant Director for Innovation Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Ph.D. in Political Science from MIT


Dr Colin Cunliff

Dr Colin Cunliff

Senior Policy Analyst at ITIF

Colin Cunliff is a senior policy analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation focusing on clean energy innovation.

  • Former AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, with a portfolio focused on energy sector resilience and emissions mitigation.
  • Formerly an American Institute of Physics / American Association for the Advancement of Science (AIP/AAAS) Congressional Fellow in the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, where he served as a staff science adviser on energy, climate 
  • Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Davis

“The clean energy transition needs more R&D but energy R&D expenditures are stable; there is a lot of scope for increased spending on energy innovation by governments and, in particular, the private sector. Investment decisions today will leave their mark on energy on energy infrastructure for decades to come; the IEA will continue to focus on investment as a cornerstone of a secure and sustainable energy system.”

Dr Fatih Birol

Executive Director, International Energy Agency

“David Hart […] is a leading researcher on energy innovation topics. Colin Cunliff […] has written some excellent reports recently.”

Dr Varun Sivaram

CTO, ReNew Power Limited—India’s largest renewable energy firm, and senior research scholar at the Columbia University Center for Global Energy Policy

“I think the Let’s Fund paper on climate change is excellent. I did a Cambridge PhD in physics, then spent five years on climate change work (with the UK government and then as an outside campaigner). I thoroughly agree with the proposition that support for technological innovation is under-prioritised.”

Dr Matthew Brown

Director, Think Ahead


“Theoretically, carbon taxes and research subsidies encourage production and innovation in clean technologies. A natural intuition would be that only carbon taxes should be used because the key externalities in this model are created by carbon in the absence of these carbon externalities, the social planner would have no reason to interfere with or subsidize research. In contrast to this intuition, we find that optimal policy heavily relies on research subsidies, and this result is very robust across a range of variations and for different damages and social discount rates. Just relying on carbon taxes and delaying intervention have significant welfare costs.”

Professor Daron Acemoğlu

Most cited economic scholar in the recent decade, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently, and saving lives by reducing pollution.

To create this future we need to take several steps:

One step is to lay the foundation for innovation by drastically increasing government funding for research on clean energy solutions. Right now, the world spends only a few billion dollars a year on researching early-stage ideas for zero-carbon energy. It should be investing two or three times that much.

Why should governments fund basic research? For the same reason that companies tend not to: because it is a public good. The benefits to society are far greater than the amount that the inventor can capture.”

Bill Gates

Philanthropist, Gates Foundation