Assessing the market potential for wave energy innovations
This thesis aims to develop and apply a structured innovation approach for wave energy concept generation, in order to identify novel areas with the potential to advance the commercial viability of the wave energy sector at a grid scale by 2050. In the context of the UK energy grid, wave energy has not yet become a commercially viable product, despite numerous working principles and technology options being investigated. The following conditions are prerequisites for a technology to become an innovative commercial product: market pull to encourage investment, fulfilment of end-user requirements, and superior performance relative to competing technologies. Recent trends in the wave energy sector to achieve these conditions have included funding radical subsystem designs and turning to structured innovation approaches. Although several structured assessment methods have been developed to direct technology towards end-user requirements, there has been limited application of these methods to the process of concept creation. This phase of innovation is usually imagined to occur as an epiphanic spark of genius or eureka moment, however, the weight of evidence indicates that innovations are almost always the result of novel combinations of existing technologies and/or solutions. Recognition of this fact provides the impetus for developing structured innovation approaches to concept creation. To achieve this aim, the market pull for wave energy is first assessed using a model of the UK energy system, to indicate what improvements are required from the current state. Next, a critical evaluation is undertaken of existing concepts using a classification method based on first principles, which then forms the basis for a structured gap analysis and framework for developing novel concepts. Alternative technologies for power generation are identified using tools drawn from The Theory of Inventive Thinking (TRIZ), including the Effects database and Contradiction Matrix to conduct a systematic review of potential options for converting wave energy to electrical energy. While the results of this research do not demonstrate, or prove, a particular concept that can deliver the step change required, it has provided a structured approach to identify potentially novel device archetypes and power conversion technology that are yet to be explored.