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Side Event “Climate Relevant Innovation Systems Builders (CRIBs): How to Strengthen the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism”

Friday, December 4th, 2015 at COP21 in Paris, France

On Friday, December 4th, 2015 the African Centre for Technology Studies and the STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex co-hosted a side event entitled, “Climate Relevant Innovation Systems Builders (CRIBs): How to Strengthen the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism.” The event was held in the Climate Generations Area of COP 21, enabling a wide range of accredited parties, organizations, and researchers along with interested of the public to attend the side event.

Dr. Cosmas Ochieng, the Executive Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies, served as the moderator for the side event, which analysed the ways in which innovation systems are constructed in developing countries.  The side event consisted of two presentations, a panel discussion, and a session for questions and answers.

Dr. Rob Byrne of the University of Sussex gave the first presentation on the construction of innovation systems in developing countries. Dr. Byrne began by defining innovations as not only technological advances, but also as low-tech advancements, policy choices, and institutional changes. Dr. Byrne went on to explain that the development of innovations is not a linear process, but rather relies upon linkages and relationships fostered within an enabling environment.  

In his case study of Kenya, Dr. Byrne discussed the system of innovation that was created around solar PV. This system was initially started through donor funded projects, but was further developed through piloting iterations by local NGOs and private sector companies. This led to the development of a range of innovate solar PV products and innovations that harnessed other emerging technologies such as the utilization of mobile money to finance solar systems for poor households.  In reference to using mobile money technology to make solar pro-poor, Dr. Byrne explained that, “it is important to understand technology needs when designing energy innovations.”

The second presentation was delivered by Mr. Jonah Osore, the Director of Policy and Research in the Office of the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya.  Mr. Osore presented on the El Nino Situation Room, which is an innovative response centre that has been established in the Office of the Deputy President. With the risk of increased flooding, mud slides, and other extreme weather events caused by El Nino, the Situation Room was created to, “foster integration and coordination” in issuing early warnings and responding to weather events.

 The Situation Room initially gathered data and weather projections to determine high risk areas and determine data gaps they sought to fill. By pulling together this data from a variety of sources, they have established a dashboard through which they can deliver 4- day weather projections, issue early warning via SMS to local communities, and work to coordinate response teams. With the 4-day projections, the Situation Room is able to coordinate with government agencies to pre-place necessary response aid and supplies to affected communities to increase resilience. Additionally, local communities are able to send in real time reports of weather conditions, damage, and other effects through photos or SMS to the dashboard.

Dr. Ochieng remarked that the development of the El Nino Situation Room is an example of how innovation can be organizational. He went on to congratulate the Kenyan Government on the development of this initiative. Dr. Ochieng then stated that “technological innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” but instead is developed alongside policy and institutional innovations, as has been achieved in Kenya

During the panel discussion, Dr. Heleen de Coninck of Radboud University discussed the role of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism in providing assistance and guidance to countries. Dr. de Coninck stated that the development of an innovation system is unique to each country, who has their own set of unique challenges and specific types of innovations that are needed. Dr. de Coninck said that UNFCCC Technology Mechanism can serve an important role in helping countries to develop their national innovation systems, but for that to happen, the Technology Mechanism needs to be strengthened and have increased financing available to provide direct support.  

Dr. Adrian Ely of the University of Sussex built upon Dr. de Coninck’s discussion on the development of national innovations system, saying that each country has their own trajectory which is determined by who is driving the enabling environment. While in Kenya, it was donors and NGOs leading the way, in China it was the state that drove forward the development of an innovation system, through partnering with the private sector and researchers.

Dr. Ochieng concluded the panel by highlighting the key points that innovations are not solely technological, but instead can be changes in policy choices, development of new institutions, and organizational structural changes within governments or institutions. Furthermore, each country has their own path to creating their national innovation system which is dependent upon a number of factors, but for it to be successful there must be innovation champions either from the government, NGOs, or the private sector. The final key theme to emerge is the need for the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism to increase its ability to provide direct capacity and technology transfer support to countries.

ACTS has held several side events during the duration of COP 21, highlights of each will be sent out. For more information on the ACTS, our side events, or to interview one of our researchers at COP 21 please contact Natasha Frosina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit our webpage