Innovation is still too exclusive. The concept of ‘trickle down economics’, which assumes that economic benefits concentrated in the most successful businesses, places and top universities will inevitably result in more wealth and prosperity for everyone else, hasn’t materialised.
Not enough people are taking part in innovation. At the moment, only eight per cent of patents in the UK are filed by women, and on current trends we have over a hundred years to go before any kind of gender parity. This has a serious economic cost as well as social one.
And with decision-making power about innovation still being drawn from a very narrow pool in society, views of what is a priority for public funding remains static. As a result, investments in innovation have not prioritised solving the most pressing social problems and the innovative potential of large swathes of society and business still goes untapped.
Nesta will make innovation more inclusive by demonstrating how innovation policies can better measure and deliver social outcomes, by showing how to most effectively widen opportunities to innovate, and by improving public engagement and participation in the innovation policy decisions that will shape our future economies, industries, jobs and wellbeing.
Finding ways to increase the numbers of people taking part in innovation
We want to see participation in innovation radically broadened to include people and places that have been underrepresented. We’ve started by exploring the way that inventive potential is squandered and what we can do about it. Our report Opportunity Lost mapped schemes in the UK that aim to give children ‘exposure to innovation’. We found that here is not much provision, it’s skewed towards richer schools, and we don’t know if it has much of an effect - so we’re now working to persuade government and other stakeholders to invest in finding out what works.
Shifting the balance on who benefits from innovation
We want to spark debate on how the benefits of innovation can be spread more widely. Our report The Biomedical Bubble sought to examine the power and influence of the biomedical community, arguing that the UK needs a greater diversity of priorities, politics, places and people in its innovation system. We worked with Roberto Mangabeira Unger on a radical set of proposals to ‘democratise’ the knowledge economy, so more people are able to benefit. We are exploring how to effectively measure inclusive innovation, and how to create metrics to hold policymakers to account for progress.
Testing better ways to involve the public in shaping innovation policy
Decisions about innovation and technology affect us all, but only a narrow group of people decide what’s prioritised and how resources get used. We want to see the public being much more actively involved in shaping future innovation policy decisions. In 2018 we set out seven principles for engaging the public in innovation policy and launched a small grants programme, Everyone Makes Innovation Policy, to test creative ways of involving the public in decisions about innovation.