How to speak to the Innovation Population
Today we launch the second part of Nesta’s research into public attitudes to innovation, undertaken for us by ComRes. It has an important message for those of us who want to understand how what inspires and concerns the public about innovation.
Our first report found that roughly one in five people are fans of innovation as a concept or process. But that’s not to say that the rest of the population are ambivalent. They are more focused on the tangible benefits for themselves and society. They are also concerned about how we predict and manage negative consequences, in a world where the pace of change can mean some people feel left behind.
For science and innovation policymakers, the distinction between the attitudes of our population groups is important. If we aim our communications about innovation to a ready-made audience of fans, we’re failing to convince a wider audience that innovation matters. We’re missing the point. We relegate what should be a lively, inspiring debate on what our future could look like to a generally inaccessible conversation.
And for the Government, who are currently running a consultation on £5.8 billion in science and research over the next five years, our research should make interesting reading. The technocratic language of the consultation document belies its importance beyond a niche science and innovation policy audience. This is not just a decision on Government spending; it’s a reflection on our future. Investment in science and research is our ticket to prosperity, jobs and wellbeing. Our research shows that this is a debate that the public want to and can engage in, as long as we make it relevant to their lives. We need to get better at opening up the conversation on innovation.