We assess the literature on innovation and upscaling for negative emissions technologies (NETs) using a systematic and reproducible literature coding procedure. To structure our review, we employ the framework of sequential stages in the innovation process, with which we code each NETs article in innovation space. We find that while there is a growing body of innovation literature on NETs, 59% of the articles are focused on the earliest stages of the innovation process, ‘research and development’ (R&D). The subsequent stages of innovation are also represented in the literature, but at much lower levels of activity than R&D. Distinguishing between innovation stages that are related to the supply of the technology (R&D, demonstrations, scale up) and demand for the technology (demand pull, niche markets, public acceptance), we find an overwhelming emphasis (83%) on the supply side. BECCS articles have an above average share of demand-side articles while direct air carbon capture and storage has a very low share. Innovation in NETs has much to learn from successfully diffused technologies; appealing to heterogeneous users, managing policy risk, as well as understanding and addressing public concerns are all crucial yet not well represented in the extant literature. Results from integrated assessment models show that while NETs play a key role in the second half of the 21st century for 1.5 °C and 2 °C scenarios, the major period of new NETs deployment is between 2030 and 2050. Given that the broader innovation literature consistently finds long time periods involved in scaling up and deploying novel technologies, there is an urgency to developing NETs that is largely unappreciated. This challenge is exacerbated by the thousands to millions of actors that potentially need to adopt these technologies for them to achieve planetary scale. This urgency is reflected neither in the Paris Agreement nor in most of the literature we review here. If NETs are to be deployed at the levels required to meet 1.5 °C and 2 °C targets, then important post-R&D issues will need to be addressed in the literature, including incentives for early deployment, niche markets, scale-up, demand, and—particularly if deployment is to be hastened—public acceptance.