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Accelerating innovation policy: Six things we've learned

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, all eyes have turned to Latin America. In a post-Brexit United Kingdom, increasing trade and connections with this booming continent is becoming more relevant than ever. Beyond that, the sheer excitement triggered by another set of Games never disappoints.

On 4 July 2016, just a month before Rio, Nesta officially kicked-off its pioneering Global Innovation Policy Accelerator, a collaborative development programme for innovation policy leaders and managers. And when you bring together twenty policymakers from across the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) to take part in an intensive week-long capacity building programme in London, there is bound to be excitement as well.

Six things we’ve learned running the first leg of the programme

This week was certainly an intense one, bringing together our participants with UK experts to discuss cutting edge innovation policy issues, from futures and foresight techniques, to evaluation methods and cluster development. It has now been just over a month since our participants travelled back to their countries, enough time for us to take a step back and think about the things we have learned in the process. Drawing on their feedback, here are six things we think were particularly meaningful:

  • Getting to know people face-to-face is crucial: our approach has always been to convene several key stakeholders from different agencies or ministries within each of the national systems. Creating those professional yet friendly connections to the other government bodies working on the design and implementation of innovation policy in their country has been one of the most valuable elements of the programme for our participants so far.    
  • There is appetite for further cross-Pacific Alliance work: by the end of the week, a lot of the feedback we received emphasised how great it had been to get to know their national colleagues but that they wished for more opportunities to share experiences with their counterparts from across the Pacific Alliance. This is definitely something we will work on for our week in November.
  • Trusting helps sharing: atmosphere is absolutely key in a programme like ours. We understood that our participants needed to be comfortable and trustful to share their experience and learning journey. Spending the week with their Pacific Alliance peers, working together in a non-competitive context with help from neutral UK experts appeared to be a winning combination.
  • It’s never too late to start innovating: the UK and our participant countries are at very different stages in the development of their innovation systems, but there are numerous opportunities for mutual learning. We were delighted to hear how our participants were inspired by the UK’s innovation journey, and the idea that it is never too late to start.
  • Evaluation, evaluation, evaluation: the majority of our participants underlined the value of learning from the UK about evaluation techniques for innovation policy. Robust evaluation methods can help them increase the efficiency of their programmes or instruments, therefore improving the use of public money and ultimately informing the design of new programmes.
  • Selling is winning: our Friday coaching and pitching sessions turned out to be incredibly successful with our cohorts. Several have highlighted how useful it was to put themselves in an entrepreneur’s shoes and remember the importance of and how to ‘sell’ a project to their bosses and managers.

This pilot is as much a learning process for us and our funder Innovate UK as it is for our participants. One important final lesson for anyone organising events with Latin American partners: our participants were very disappointed with... the UK’s sandwich-heavy lunches. You’ve been warned!

Author

Florence Engasser

Florence Engasser

Florence Engasser

Senior Researcher, International Innovation

Florence is a senior researcher within Nesta’s International Innovation team, which examines global trends and practices in innovation, with an emphasis on emerging economies.

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Benjamin Reid

Benjamin Reid

Benjamin Reid

Head of International Innovation - Development Programmes

Benjamin is head of the International Innovation team within Nesta's Policy and Research division, examining new global trends and practices in innovation, with an emphasis on emergi...

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Paulina Gonzalez-Ortega

Paulina Gonzalez-Ortega

Paulina Gonzalez-Ortega

Learning Experience Designer, International Innovation

Paulina is Learning Experience Designer for the Global Innovation Policy Accelerator, a 14 country collaborative development programme for senior innovation policymakers. She oversee...

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