Pro-poor, low carbon development

1 November 2012

International policy has so far failed to facilitate the transfer of climate technology to all but a few developing countries. A new research project aims to help improve low carbon energy access and development benefits in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which account for only around 0.2 per cent of certified emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). 

Studying-by-solar-light / EEP / Flickr Creative Common

Solar Home Systems in Kenya

Using the case study of Solar Home Systems (SHSs) in Kenya, the Pro-poor, low carbon development project aims to provide policy insights to inform the design of centre-based approaches for facilitating the transfer and uptake of low carbon energy and other climate technologies in LDCs. These approaches include the various emerging Climate Innovation Centres initiatives and the proposed Climate Technology Centre and Network under the UNFCCC. 

Recognising the relative success of the adoption of SHSs in Kenya, this project seeks to build a rich understanding of how this was achieved. It will develop a detailed picture of the full spectrum of actors (from technology importers, to retailers and end users), together with the institutional frameworks and events that assisted the successful uptake of this technology.

The aim is to identify the key actors, events and policies that contributed to building capacity around SHSs in Kenya and to use these insights to make suggestions as to how climate innovation centres and related policy initiatives might replicate these actions in relation to other technologies and other country contexts.

Innovation capacities

Decades of research at the University of Sussex (supported by analysis elsewhere) into technology transfer, and more recently climate technology transfer, suggest the failure of international policy to facilitate technology transfer is due to a lack of existing innovation capacities in LDCs. By 'innovation capacities' we mean the technological capacities to adopt, operate, adapt and innovate around new technologies within specific local contexts.

These capacities evolve through the accumulation of both tacit and codified knowledge which can be fostered by deliberate, strategic actions by both developing country firms and governments, carefully aligned with the needs and practices of local end users. If carefully designed and implemented, the emerging centre-based policy approach to facilitating climate technology transfer and uptake has greater potential to build new innovation capacities in LDCs than traditional 'hardware financing' based policy approaches like the CDM. This is part of the reason why the majority of CDM finance flows to large developing countries – these are the countries with existing innovation capacities.

As well as informing policy, the project also aims to contribute to academic thinking in the fields of innovation studies and socio-technical transitions and is based on broader critical analysis within the framework of the STEPS Centre’s Pathways Approach.

An exciting new partnership between the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) in Kenya and the University of Sussex in the UK (including the Institute of Development Studies-based STEPS Centre, Sussex Energy Group and Tyndall Centre) is running this project, with funding from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network .

Find out more

Project web page:

Project Briefing: Pro-poor, low carbon development

Contact: David Ockwell, via email:

Photo credit: Studying-by-solar-light / EEP / Flickr Creative Commons