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Results on Photovoltaics

R&D investments in photovoltaics

An interpretation of the R&D investments broken down per technology as shown in the following needs to take into account the associated uncertainties described in section 'Analysis of uncertainties'. In specific cases these may be higher than the actual differences in the R&D investments between individual technologies, therefore impeding a direct comparison between different sectors.

The aggregated research investments in photovoltaic technologies (PV) are estimated to have been €384 million in 2007. The data indicate that public funds account for a substantial share (42%), and even so may not yet fully reflect all PV-related spending in large national institutes which partially is not included in the data collected in the IEA RD&D statistics (see chapter "Methodology"). Compared to the year 2006 public national funds increased by almost 15%.

The funds spent through the EC FP6 are in the order of 17% of the aggregated Member States national public funds (see Figure 13). On an annual average over the duration of FP6, they were €27 million, or €108 million over the entire FP6 period. This result of the present project-based assessment of EU funds is fully in line with figures provided by EPIA (2007), Menna et al. (2007) and Jäger-Waldau (2009).

Results PV

Figure 13: Approximate R&D investment in photovoltaics from industry and public sectors

Source: Own analysis based on IEA RD&D statistics and official information from some Member States; FP6; EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard

Note: Some EU Member States are not IEA member and do thus not figure in the database; for others no data are available. No annual average estimated for Belgium due to a limited number of data; Irish data refer to the year 2006.

Most of the public funds originated from countries with a comparably high deployment of PV, such as Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. Despite a limited deployment of PV in the UK, British public R&D investments are relatively high while the opposite is the case for Spain. Most of the EU corporate R&D investments in PV stem from companies with headquarters in Germany, France, Spain and the UK.

The Spanish data presents a contrast in that on the one hand, the country has an excellent solar resource, and combines a favourable deployment scheme with high growth rates in installed PV capacities1 , while on the other the public and corporate research budgets are relatively low. This may partly be explained by the use of imported technology. Also PV has become a priority in the Spanish national energy strategy only recently, and would thus impact on future R&D budgets but would not yet be reflected in R&D budgets that are the results of decisions taken some years before.

Only 4 (Q-cells, Solarworld, BP Solar, Isofoton) of the top 15 manufacturers of PV modules are located in the EU and the EU correspondingly produced 28.5% of global PV cells (EUROBSERVER, 2008b). At the same time, given the high growth rates of the global PV market in recent years and its potentials for further expansion, the sector has become attractive for a number of non-specialised multi-business companies (such as Siemens, Shell, BASF, Schott and Total) and saw a corporate R&D investment of €221 million in 2007 in the EU, well above comparable figures for the year 2006 (an increase of more than 20%). This is the result of the assessment of 30 key companies in this sector, for which data could be obtained. Unfortunately, for some important companies, no data could be acquired. However, a comparison with other studies endorses the findings obtained with the present approach:

  • In particular, according to an estimate published by the German Association of solar industry (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft BSW) the German PV industry invested €176 million in R&D in 2007, out of which €150 million came from the dedicated PV industry and business units and another €26 million from suppliers (Ruhl et al., 2008The study was also used for verifying that all major companies were included in the present work. ). This R&D investment from 'industry' (€150 million) can be compared to the R&D investment of companies considered in the present report with headquarters in Germany, which amounted to €118 million in 2007. This reveals reasonable accordance between the two studies, in particular when one considers that the German approach assesses the R&D investment of both German and foreign enterprises in Germany (this latter part is not covered by the approach applied in the present report) and that the company assessment approach used here was not fully complete as noted above.
  • Compared to the turnover of the EU PV sector, which was around €9-10 billion in 2007 (EPIA personal communication; EUROBSERV'ER, 2008b), the estimated R&D intensity is 2.2-2.5%. Given that the assessment includes a mix of companies with one part coming from less R&D intensive sectors with R&D intensities below 1% (e.g. construction and materials, oil and gas producers and electric utilities) and another part from sectors with R&D intensities of the order of 2% to 4% (chemicals, electrical components and alternative energy), the R&D intensity found for PV would support the finding of the analysis.

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1 In 2007, it ranked second among EU Member States in terms of installed PV capacity.