A round up of all the ideas, thinking and insights from IGL's Winter Research Meeting in December 2018.
What is the best way to support SMEs to adopt Artificial Intelligence technologies? Which nudges encourage employees to develop new ideas within their organisations? Can algorithms improve labour matching platforms? In the 21st century, policymakers face tough challenges but they also count with a new set of tools, from digital to behavioural, to tackle them. However, it’s important to test new ideas and gather enough evidence to support policymakers to make more informed decisions.
Questions like these were addressed at the Innovation Growth Lab (IGL) Winter Research Meeting that took place on Thursday, 13 December 2018 at Nesta, in London. The day was packed with six presentations and discussions of design-stage, ongoing and completed randomised controlled trials (RCTs), some funded by the IGL Grants Programme, which covered the innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth fields.
The six experiments presented covered a wide range of sectors and geographic areas, as well as the use of different experimental tools, from nudges to new management practices in decision making. The research meeting is a forum to discuss academic research that uses experimental methods to improve our understanding of the drivers of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth, and potential interventions to accelerate these.
The IGL Winter Research Meeting was supported by inspiring discussants from highly experienced and prestigious organisations in the field of policy experimentation, including the World Bank and the Behavioural Insights Team.
The main questions presented and discussed during the IGL Winter Research Meeting were:
All these trials and other projects discussed informally during the meeting provided an excellent overview of new pieces of evidence that are produced in nascent areas, such as organisational behaviour. Ongoing trials benefited enormously from the feedback received from discussants, such as suggestions for innovative ways to assess the adoption of technology by using web scraping.
Anna Valero from the London School of Economics commented, “presenting our proposed project at the IGL Winter Research Meeting gave me the opportunity to gain valuable feedback from experts in the field, which we will now build upon as we take our work forward.”
The meeting also provided clear examples of the challenges of designing successful trials. For instance, Nicolai Heinzelmann from the IST Institute revealed how their trial suffered some difficulties that affected assessment of their results. This provided a very useful opportunity to discuss how researchers could work better with delivery partners or reduce non-compliance or low response rates.
For those wanting to know more about the lessons learned, IGL Principal Researcher Triin Edovald’s blogpost outlines five key takeaways from the Winter Research Meeting.
“It was also incredibly useful to hear about other projects and meet a network of researchers working on RCTs in different contexts. I highly recommend participating in future IGL events”Anna Valero
On Wednesday, 12 December 2018, ahead of the IGL Winter Research Meeting, IGL organised a workshop for PhD students. Researchers received an overview by the IGL team on how field experiments are being used in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship and growth.
IGL’s Director Albert Bravo-Biosca presented a series of examples that framed the rest of the day and highlighted how RCTs can be an efficient tool, to not only assess the impact of a particular programme but also to explain individual behaviour. For instance, some trials have successfully improved the collaboration among researchers by using simple nudges, such as the Harvard Medical School’s work with biomedical researchers. The students were also provided with a few pressing challenges policymakers face, as well as basic insights on designing field experiments, which they later used to develop trial ideas based for their own research.
The PhD students had the exclusive opportunity to present their trial proposals to representatives from the UK government, the Norwegian government and the World Bank. The dialogue with policymakers provided very valuable insights on how to improve the quality and impact of their research.
To end the day, David McKenzie, Lead Economist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank and author of the world-renowned Development Impact Blog, provided a keynote about the practical issues of doing field experiments. The session covered how to persuade policymakers to experiment, how to implement programme logistics properly, the best ways to adequately measure firm outcomes, and how to choose the right time frame to measure impacts. Some of his ideas were also mentioned during the Research Meeting, for example the implications of the rule of inverse-square for programmes with low take-up.
The IGL Winter Research Meeting was an excellent opportunity for researchers and policymakers to be more experimental, learn from each other and strengthen ties in the innovation and growth sector.
Later this year, IGL will organise the IGL2019 Global Conference 21-23 May in Berlin, Germany. Don’t miss this opportunity to join the conference and discuss new trials that are shaping the way we think about innovation, entrepreneurship and growth.