Agents of Change

This paper considers how government innovation agencies can become more inclusive, collaborative and future-facing in the way they support innovation.

National innovation agencies – defined broadly as government-funded or managed bodies that work to stimulate innovation-based entrepreneurship and growth – are often described as catalysts. It is a useful metaphor, but fails to acknowledge the profound changes that these agencies go through themselves in response to political, societal and economic shifts, as well as the changing needs of those they support.

This briefing sets out some of the key trends affecting innovation agencies in the years ahead, including the need for more innovator-centric models of support, the drive towards more ‘mission-oriented’ innovation policies and the opportunities to create more inclusive forms of innovation. It offers ideas about the impact of these trends, and questions for agencies to reflect on.

It also considers how innovation agencies can become more innovative in their own practices and methods. There is an undeniable tension between the experimental, messy and serendipitous processes of innovation, and the requirements and standards of a bureaucratic agency. Yet we should expect a strong commitment to renewal and innovation from organisations that seek to support those on the cutting edge.

The paper concludes by suggesting some key principles to guide innovation agencies that aspire to be active ‘agents of change’. They should be:

  • Inclusive: representative of the populations they aim to serve, and actively engaged in understanding the needs of all kinds of innovators – not just those who are already best placed to succeed.
  • Collaborative: focused on learning from and sharing with others, and engaged in cross-national as well as international partnerships to design more joined-up policies and programmes
  • Future-facing: prepared for a range of possible futures, and equipped to proactively help innovators spot opportunities to solve the biggest problems we will face in the years ahead.


Alex Glennie

Alex Glennie

Alex Glennie

Senior Policy Manager

Alex is a Senior Policy Manager in the Innovation Growth Lab (IGL).

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