Best-practice guidelines for innovating energy-efficient building technologies

WP4: Market Diffusion and Implementation of Technologies

Because of the long lifetime of buildings, innovation in the building industry, compared to IT or biotechnology, is challenging. Yet because buildings account for approximately 40% of global energy demand, they are central for reducing energy consumption. This attention on energy-efficiency in the building sector has had two important effects: a growing demand for energy-efficient building technologies and a growth in companies capable of developing new technologies. For Swiss technology providers, this situation promises major opportunities to develop and commercialize innovative energy-efficient building technologies.

To support Swiss providers of energy-efficient building technologies in their efforts to successfully develop and commercialize their products in the building sector, we conducted interviews with industry experts and managers. Based on our findings, we identify seven best-practice recommendations for innovating energy-efficient building technologies:

Mainly large companies (incumbents and newcomers) and small incumbents drive innovation in energy-efficient building technologies. Complex technologies which are more efficient at reducing energy consumption still face difficulty. Large companies, with the resources to quickly diffuse innovative products, have few incentives to develop complex technologies. Small newcomers, experienced in innovation and familiar with modern innovation practices, have few opportunities to succeed in the building industry. Policies targeted at changing the underlying structure of the building industry that reduce price competition, consolidate the industry, and nurture risk-taking and entrepreneurial behaviour from large incumbents will be necessary to accelerate the diffusion of complex energy-efficient building technologies. Only then will Switzerland be in a position to reduce its energy consumption and CO2 emissions to the levels targeted in the ‘Energy Strategy 2050’.

For more details, please contact Dr. Christof Knoeri, ETH Zurich.