Innovation agencies are often thought of as funding bodies, supporting innovation, entrepreneurship and growth primarily through the provision of grants or other types of financial support. Yet in recent years, many have taken on a much wider set of responsibilities, offering a range of advisory and support services and frequently playing a role in driving forward ambitious societal missions or international collaborations.
As well as providing ‘hard’ support in the form of funding, innovation agencies can also deploy significant ‘soft power’ – including knowledge about how to develop innovative ideas and businesses that can be shared with innovators, wide networks that enable them to broker useful connections and partnerships, and training and skills development. Yet much less is known about the role and impact of this kind of power, and the non-financial forms of support that innovation agencies offer.
During 2018-19, collaborative research carried out by Nesta and Portugal’s national innovation agency (ANI) for the TAFTIE network of European innovation agencies explored this issue through a survey of 24 innovation agencies across Europe. Alongside case studies and analysis of the advisory and support services provided by these agencies, it offers an up-to-date picture of their organisational profiles, and an initial assessment of the skills and capabilities they currently hold and would like to develop in the future.
Some of the key findings of this research include: