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Digital Technology: Carbon Emissions

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN 128970, tabled on 14 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what assessment he has made of the implications for (a) his policies, (b) research funding frameworks and (c) Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds of the findings of the report entitled Digital technology and the planet, Harnessing computing to achieve net zero, published by the Royal Society on 3 December 2020 on the net zero imperative.

Answered on

22 December 2020

The BEIS Energy Innovation Programme supports smart energy by driving innovation in digital and data-enabled technologies for energy management and flexibility, including managing energy demand and creating platforms for trading energy resources. The new £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, outlined in the Energy White Paper, will build on this with a theme focussed on disruptive technologies aimed at improving efficiency and optimisation across the energy sector

The R&D Roadmap set out the Government’s vision for research and development. Our goal is to further strengthen science, research and innovation across the UK, making them central to tackling the major challenges we face, including achieving net zero carbon emissions.

The Government has set out plans at Spending Review to cement the UK’s status as a global leader in science and innovation by investing £14.6 billion in R&D in 2021/22. As the custodian of the R&D system, BEIS has been allocated £11.1bn for R&D in 2021/22.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will drive the creation of a Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) with enhanced environmental sustainability that contributes to the UK government’s commitment to Net Zero. DRI comprises the ecosystem of data, computers, software and skills that are necessary for research and innovation. UKRI is developing a coherent national strategy for DRI that meets the requirements of UKRI’s research and innovation communities across disciplines and that will enable UKRI to take account of the environmental impact of its investments and make decisions that are environmentally sustainable in the long term.

Alongside this strategy, UKRI promotes the AREA framework for responsible innovation, prompting researchers and innovators to Anticipate, Reflect, Engage and Act and so consider aspects such as impact of their work on net zero. Other examples of research related responses include:

  • EPSRC has been working with DCMS on a combined telecoms strategy and input into digital standards and with DIT on the global market for UK digital technologies.
  • Continued work with the Royce Institute, Faraday Institute, Turing Institute and centre for research in energy demand solutions will ensure materials, batteries, AI and energy demand research is incorporated into solutions.
  • A priority research area that continues to feature in research investment plans such as the recently closed UKRI Digital Economy call ‘Sustainable Digital Society’.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has ten challenges that directly support the goal of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 – from reaching net zero in food production, to pioneering greener ways of flying, to developing the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040. These represent a total of £1.16 billion in government investment. Prior to Covid-19, industry committed to co-invest £1.32 billion across these challenges.

Answered by

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy