Innovation policies aren’t smart. At the moment we know little about what works and the long-term value of different approaches. Government efforts to encourage innovation – from subsidies to science parks – have often been selected based on outdated evidence of what works best, and are poorly tested and adapted to new contexts.
Frequently, the data that policymakers use to make decisions doesn’t represent the true nature of innovation in the economy. For example, investment in research and development (R&D) is the dominant measure of innovation across the world, yet as a decade of Nesta’s work has shown, it only represents a small proportion of the innovation that drives growth. Policymakers have had little reliable, granular, timely information about the performance of sectors, different technologies, or the economies of local areas. Part of the burden must also fall to policymakers to become more responsive to new evidence and data, without which they risk poor policy choices, inefficient spending and badly targeted interventions.
Nesta will make innovation policy smarter by creating and spreading new evidence in important areas, seeding a culture of rigorous policy experimentation, and using novel data science to pioneer new ways of measuring and visualising innovation activity. This will enable better policy choices, more efficient spending and better targeting of innovation policy interventions.
Pioneering new ways of mapping and visualising innovation
Following the success of projects like Creative Nation, the most comprehensive analysis of the UK’s creative industries to date, and our map of the UK games industry, we’ve embarked on an ambitious effort to exploit the potential of big data, new data science and interactive visualisations to transform innovation policy. After developing Wales’ first Innovation policy data dashboard, we are now partnering with governments and foundations around the world to develop better ways of seeing and measuring innovation. For example, we worked with the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to create the first map of the UK’s immersive economy. And we’re working with the European Commission to reshape how big data is used in innovation policy.
Building evidence for what works in innovation policy
Working with Manchester University, we created the Compendium of Evidence on Innovation Policy, a foundational resource on the use of evidence in innovation policy making, now referenced by governments, academics and international institutions alike. We also build new evidence in key policy areas, like in understanding the most effective ways to support innovative startups to scale, or how to drive new technology adoption in firms.
Seeding a culture of experimentation in innovation and growth policies
Through our Innovation Growth Lab we are building the capacity of governments and innovation agencies throughout the world to experiment with innovation policies and rigorously evaluate them. For example 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.