Research Seminar: Mechanisms of Hardware and Soft Technology Evolution and the Implications for Low-Carbon Energy Costs


Monday, April 25, 2022, 10:15pm to 11:30pm


Zoom (registration information below)

The Growth Lab Research Seminar series is a weekly seminar that brings together researchers from across the academic spectrum who share an interest in growth and development.

Speaker: Magdalena Klemun, Assistant Professor, Division of Public Policy, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Interdisciplinary Program Office; Research Affiliate, Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) at MIT.

Abstract: Technologies typically contain both physical (‘hardware’) and non-physical (‘soft technology’) features, such as the duration of installation tasks and other services needed to deploy hardware. Both types of features contribute significantly to technology costs and performance, yet soft technology has been researched less than hardware.

In this talk, she will discuss fundamental differences between hardware and soft technology features in how these features contribute to the evolution of hardware and non-hardware (‘soft’) costs, using examples from the cost evolution of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and nuclear fission plants. Despite divergent overall cost trajectories, the relative share of soft costs has risen in both technologies, suggesting a greater role for non-hardware innovation in future cost trends. However, past changes in soft costs were driven to a large degree by the evolution of hardware rather than soft technology features, and rising shares of soft costs do not necessarily correspond to a greater cost influence of soft technology features today. These results reveal new insight into how technology costs might be driven down in the future, through more deliberate, model-informed approaches to improving soft technology and a continued emphasis on innovation in hardware.

Please register in advance, and contact Chuck McKenney with any questions. 

Brief Bio: Magdalena M. Klemun is an Assistant Professor at the Division of Public Policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Interdisciplinary Program Office and a Research Affiliate at the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) at MIT. She is also affiliated with the HKUST Energy Institute. Her research examines the dynamics of low-carbon energy innovation, with a focus on how hardware and non-hardware factors interact and shape performance evolution at the technology- and systems-level. She holds a PhD in Engineering Systems from MIT, an MS in Earth Resources Engineering from Columbia University, and a BS in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology from Vienna University of Technology. Prior to joining HKUST, she was a postdoc at IDSS.