Shaping the future of innovation policy: what's next for Nesta?

Faced with a fourth industrial revolution, plagued by low productivity and beset by inequities, innovation policies are critical in shaping our future economies, and making sure that everyone benefits from advances in science, technology and creativity as quickly and as fairly as possible. Our work aims to make support for innovation smarter, more inclusive and fit for the next century. Here's a taster of what's coming up in Spring and how to get involved.

Smarter innovation policies

Pioneering new ways of measuring and mapping innovation

A lack of timely, detailed and trustworthy data on innovation is crippling our ability to make better policy decisions. Building on partnerships with the Welsh and Scottish governments and the European Commission, and experimental approaches to mapping emerging industries like the Immersive Economy, in March we’ll be sharing what our cutting edge innovation mapping team have learned so far in a new publication. We’ll also be working with the OECD and European Commission to bring together the world’s leading authorities on innovations in innovation data in London on 21st March. If you’re a data scientist who likes tricky problems - apply to join our hack day of problem solving and tutorials based on the questions raised at the event.

Experimenting for hard evidence on how to solve the productivity puzzle

Our Innovation Growth Lab is working with governments all over the world to grow their appetite and capacity for experimentation. In the UK, we’re working with BEIS and Innovate UK to create hard evidence on how to most effectively encourage small and medium sized companies to take up the kinds of working practices and technologies that could transform their productivity. Join us for the Annual IGL Global Conference on 21st-23rd May in Berlin to find out more, meet leading experts on innovation policy and experimentation from around the world, and take away practical ways to improve your own ability to experiment.

Finding better ways to encourage firms to invest in innovation and scale

While most of the science and innovation policy community in the UK is focused on finding ways to achieve the ambitious 2.4% GDP research and development investment target set in last year’s budget (hint- growing public investment is critical alongside new private sector spending), we’ll be unveiling new research that finds that corporate pay packages are actively disincentivising investment in innovation. We’ll be launching the findings at Nesta in March. When it comes to understanding the most effective ways to support innovative startups to scale, in Spring we’ll be releasing new evidence on the effectiveness of accelerator programmes from a major quantitative study with BEIS and Beauhurst among others. And watch this space for new publications in coming months exploring what motivates startups to scale as part of our Startup Europe Partnership.

More inclusive innovation policies

Making the knowledge economy work for everyone

Despite its universal promise, the benefits of the knowledge economy are being captured by an ever narrower sliver of firms, places and people. With an imminent fourth industrial revolution, our industrial, education and skills policies and institutions are not just under-performing, but entirely inadequate. Over the last year, Nesta has been working with Roberto Unger and leading thinkers and activists from across the OECD to debate and design a new policy agenda. Join us on Monday 18th March for the launch of our provocation at Nesta with Professor Unger in conversation with Professor Mariana Mazzucato, or drop us a line to find out how you can join one of the other events in Paris, Brussels or Berlin.

Pursuing excellence without compromising equity

The need to address this conundrum of innovation funding has never been so acute. How can governments support the leading edge of globally competitive industries without leaving places and people behind? Following our publication the Biomedical Bubble, Why UK research and innovation needs a greater diversity of priorities, politics, places and people last year, we’ll be exploring what an effective ‘balance’ of public support for R&D looks like, and how cities and regions can prosper through inclusive innovation.

Innovation policies fit for the next century (not the last)

The menu of policies and programmes used to support and promote innovation is surprisingly un-innovative, given the speed and scale of change in the economy. Where interesting new approaches emerge, they often remain sub-scale and superficial, without the data and evidence on impact to sustain and scale them. Nesta seeks to uncover and analyse new opportunities to more effectively support innovation in a way that creates maximum public value.

Regulating for disruption

How can we design a regulatory system that can meet the speed and scale of the disruption presented by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence? We’ve been setting out new principles for anticipatory regulation, and learning in real time how firms, cities and government need to work together to capture the benefits of new technologies like drones in our Flying High programme and through our projects supported by the Regulatory Pioneers Fund. Join us on 6th March when we’ll be launching a new report and debating the critical opportunities and challenges of regulating innovation and technology in the UK after Brexit and beyond.

Searching for the cutting edge of innovation policy

We'd love to hear from you about new initiatives at the forefront of innovation policy, or areas which you think are in dire need of more analysis and evidence. We're in exploration mode - in the next few months look out for:

  • A compendium of Nesta’s work over the last 10 years uncovering, studying, developing and promoting new methods of innovation support - from accelerator programmes to challenge prizes and policy experiments
  • A horizon scan of new methods of innovation management and support across the public, private and third sectors (with Brink)
  • An analysis of innovation testbeds, capturing case studies from around the world and seeking to uncover what is the state of the art in designing and running an innovation testbed (With LSE and Arup)
  • A scoping study into the promise and potential of the next wave of digital technologies to transform innovation brokerage activities (with 100% Open and Science Practice)
  • A new workstream exploring how to design policies for Artificial Intelligence. Take a look at this blog on the complex economics of AI and this growing map of AI governance to get a hint of what’s to come.

Preparing the next generation of innovation policymakers

We work with innovation agencies around the world to compare approaches, shape strategies and improve results. Our Global Innovation Policy Accelerator Programme has worked with teams from Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, South East Asia and India and over the next six months will be working with leading policymakers from Brazil. The programme combines a leading edge curriculum with a collaborative approach to problem-solving and developing policy entrepreneurs.

Come and work with us!

We are hiring a new Director of Innovation Policy (role live from next week) to help us make the most of our amazing networks and achievements to date, to power our public agenda and to shape the future direction of our work. This is a rare senior leadership position and a unique opportunity to shape the future of innovation in the UK and around the world.

To register your interest in this position, or to find our more about any of the work above, contact us at [email protected]


Kirsten Bound

Kirsten Bound

Kirsten Bound

Executive Director of Research, Analysis and Policy

Kirsten was an Executive Director at Nesta and led Nesta’s Research, Analysis and Policy team.

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