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Global Innovation Policy Accelerator: Ready, steady, go!

It is no secret the UK is increasingly looking towards Latin America. Events like the recent FT Innovate Latin America conference suggest strong interest in building good innovation relationships between the UK and trade blocs like the Pacific Alliance.

On the one side, countries like Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru are seeking more effective approaches to fostering innovation, an essential component in the further development of their economies. On the other side, the UK’s expertise in innovation policy issues and leadership capacity building is internationally recognised. While the UK has lots to share, increasing collaboration with Latin America also brings new refreshing opportunities for mutual learning. Nesta’s Global Innovation Policy Accelerator is an attempt to close that loop.

Last week Nesta officially kicked-off the pioneering policy accelerator, welcoming 20 policymakers from across the countries of the Pacific Alliance to London for a week-long training programme. And besides some rather complex logistics, we survived this first stage.

What the Global Innovation Policy Accelerator is all about

Partnering with the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK and a unique team of academic, public and private sector organisations, and funded through the Newton Fund, we are now leading the design and delivery of a brand new tailor-made development programme for Pacific Alliance innovation policymakers. Our aim is to deliver executive development to national cohorts of senior policymakers from the main innovation institutions, while strengthening the implementation capabilities of their teams.

What we got up to last week

The programme has deliberately been named an ‘accelerator’. It aims to accelerate the development and adoption of innovation policy. But the name is also appropriate because we believe it has many similarities with a startup accelerator programme: it provides structured support to a small highly-skilled team who must bring together their capabilities to undertake the launch of a new policy initiative. In this way each accelerator team is like a group of startup founders, in this case policy entrepreneurs. Last week was designed as the national cohorts’ first steps on the journey towards launching a new and successful initiative in innovation policy.

We planned a range of activities across the week, and each day afforded opportunities to learn from and question top UK experts, to develop as a national team, to learn from peers across the Pacific Alliance, and to progress and refine team projects step by step. Some of the main themes and questions were:

  • Getting things done in innovation policy: Innovation policy formulation and execution is increasingly complex and cross-system. How can a small entrepreneurial team understand its context, build buy-in and execute a new plan?
  • Assessing the future challenges for innovation policy, and using data to understand the present: New approaches to data, and futures and foresight techniques, are crucial for thinking about the future challenges for a national innovation system.
  • Evaluation capability for effective innovation policy decision-making: Innovation policymakers needs to understand the impact of their programmes and institutions, an area the UK has been leading in.
  • Building an effective ecosystem: The UK has several highly effective innovation clusters such as Oxford and Cambridge. How have they overcome challenges to reach their current success?

On the final day, drawing on learnings from the rest of the week, each cohort received support from coaches and policy experts for developing their team projects into compelling pitches and clear action plans to be used over the rest of the Leaders Programme.

Where we are heading next

At Nesta, we are already looking ahead at (and forward to) the programme’s second immersive week, scheduled for the end of 2016. Our four cohorts will come together in London again, and work together on cross-Pacific Alliance issues, as well as more in-depth on their own national project.

In the meantime, teams will enter an action phase, based around their chosen project, and will benefit from support from a dedicated UK expert and a local expert support team. The Leaders Programme will run until next February, when a final conference will be organised, during which each national team will be given the opportunity to present initial project results or outcomes.

For more information on the programme, do not hesitate to get in touch with us!


Florence Engasser

Florence Engasser

Florence Engasser

Senior Foresight Analyst

Florence was a senior foresight analyst within Nesta’s Discovery Hub, which aims to create a link between Nesta’s current portfolio and our pipeline of future work.

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