Nesta’s annual policy experimentation conference asks — are good ideas getting harder to find?
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Those working at the bleeding edge of innovation policy and experimentation will gather at the Innovation Growth Lab’s (IGL) fourth annual conference in Berlin this week to discuss the latest trends in innovation policy, including how to reverse the slow-down in R&D productivity.

Taking place from the 21 to 23 May at the EUREF-Campus in Berlin, IGL2019 features world-leading experts including Roland Busch, COO and CTO at Siemens, and Christian Luft, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, who will meet to debate and discuss trends in innovation policy and how best to encourage radical innovations that power future growth.

The conference is part of an ongoing campaign by IGL to bring the idea of experimentation to the world of innovation policy as a way to test whether we are making the most of the billions invested by governments each year to fund science and business in the economy.

While it’s widely accepted that innovation holds the key to solving entrenched problems such as stagnating productivity growth and low business investment in R&D, at the moment policies to support innovation aren’t working hard enough — a failing that could, according to Nesta’s Chief Executive, be a major contributor to a slowdown in innovation.

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of Nesta said, “It’s common to assume that the pace of innovation is accelerating. Every week we hear about new advances in artificial intelligence (AI), materials, genetic treatments or new kinds of high-speed aircraft. But in many ways innovation is slowing down.”

New research suggests R&D productivity growth has stagnated. The time it takes to make significant new discoveries in science has grown, along with the number of people needed to collaborate on break-through science projects.

“We’re hoping that in bringing together this global community of innovation policymakers, we can at least begin to solve the issue of making innovation policy, more experimental and evidence-based, and, in doing so, improve the impact of innovation policies, boosting productivity in the economy.”

Albert Bravo-Biosca, director of the Innovation Growth Lab, Nesta said, “Over the past four years, IGL has been working with governments across the world to help them overcome barriers to policy experimentation in order to make their policies more impactful. In that time, we've supported over 55 trials across 26 countries pushing forward the evidence base in this space.

“An example of the type of key policy challenges we’re currently tackling is how to broaden opportunities to innovate, particularly among people who may not otherwise have the opportunity or inclination. One trial funded through IGL, run as part of a company-wide innovation competition, found it was possible to encourage more good ideas by having people opt-out of the competition, rather than relying on self-selection.

“This shows it’s not only people who volunteer or see themselves as “innovators” that have good ideas. The implications at a policy-level are profound, as it forces us to ask whether we are missing out on breakthrough ideas by not encouraging more people to innovate.”

The Innovation Growth Lab Global Conference 2019 is hosted by innovation foundation Nesta, in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the World Bank Group, the Max Planck Institute, the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard and the German Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation.


Notes to editors:

The Innovation Growth Lab fourth annual Global Conference is taking place at the EUREF Campus in Berlin, 21 to 23 May 2019. For the event programme, visit

Interview opportunities with speakers are available on request. For more information contact Elle Wolfhagen on +44 (0) 7765 770 867 or or by email on: [email protected]

Geoff Mulgan and Albert Bravo-Biosca’s blog, entitled “Is innovation slowing down? If so, what can be done about it?” can be read here.

IGL has also produced a conference magazine, Experimental: Stories from the Innovation Growth Lab which can be read here.

About Nesta: Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society. Nesta is based in the UK and supported by a financial endowment. We work with partners around the globe to bring bold ideas to life to change the world for good. To find out more visit

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

About Innovation Growth Lab: The Innovation Growth Lab (IGL) is a global hub based at Nesta for innovation and growth policy, bringing together governments, researchers and foundations to trial new approaches to increase innovation, accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship and support business growth. To find out more visit