Essays on innovation policy, knowledge networks, and cost reductions in deployment-related technologies in the solar PV industry




Gao, Xue

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Deployment policies have stimulated a large number of renewable energy investment and deployment on a global scale, but they still need to be scaled up at least six times faster to keep global warming below hazardous levels. Therefore, particular emphasis should be placed on understanding the impact of deployment policy on technological innovations and cost reductions, because being more cost-effective and efficient can further facilitate scaling-up. The overarching aim of the dissertation is to understand whether and how deployment policy can lead to technological changes and cost reductions. To be specific, the first essay focuses on whether and how demand-pull policy can impact technological innovation. The second essay explores why deployment policy is essential to promote technological innovations through studying firms’ knowledge acquisition behaviors when conducting innovations. The third essay investigates three primary learning mechanisms through which deployment policy can facilitate cost reductions and contributes to separating these three mechanisms, namely, learning by doing, learning by searching, and learning by interacting. The particular focus of this dissertation is the role of geography. The importance of geography as an element of technological learning and innovation continues to be debated by researchers. The salience of this topic is ever greater today, when governments across the world are struggling to balance the opposing pulls of inward-looking, protective approaches to economic growth (e.g., “local jobs” and “preferential procurement”) and outward-looking, collaborative, and open approaches to economic growth (e.g., “open innovation” and “imported talent”). Additionally, this dissertation is related to a broader question, which also sums up my main research topic: what combination of innovation ecosystem features – including, local deployment policies, technology characteristics, social and human capital, demand factors, and supply conditions -- translate into persistent localized innovation and economic benefits.



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