Skip to content

How inclusive is innovation policy?

This Nesta working paper develops a framework for how innovation policies can be more inclusive, drawing on insights from an international comparison

Governments around the world are starting to think more systematically about the range of impacts that innovation may have on society, but do not yet have a clear idea about how to implement an inclusive innovation policy agenda effectively.

This working paper aims to make a practical contribution to the debate about how we can create more inclusive innovation policies. It is for policymakers who are interested in thinking about how innovation policy can:

  • More effectively direct innovation towards social challenges.
  • Encourage the benefits and the risks of innovation to be shared more equally.
  • Broaden participation in innovative jobs and sectors, with a focus on particularly excluded groups.
  • Involve more people in processes of priority-setting and regulation that govern the impacts of innovation.

It sets out a framework to analyse the ways in which innovation policies can be ‘inclusive’, and then uses this to compare the high level innovation policy strategies of ten countries to find out how far and in what ways they address different dimensions of inclusion. It concludes by identifying implications for policymakers and areas for further exploration.

Key findings

  • There is a growing emphasis on social impact as a direct goal of innovation policy. All of the strategies we reviewed explicitly acknowledge the need for innovation policy to deliver social as well as economic benefits.
  • The most commonly observed themes for societal challenges are connected to the environment, health and urban sustainability.
  • Initiatives to encourage wider participation in innovation are common, but focus on some groups more than others. For example, efforts to promote better gender representation are more common than efforts to promote the inclusion of those on low incomes.
  • A number of countries at least report having involved a wide range of stakeholders in preparing their innovation policy strategies, but inclusive governance of innovation is generally less-well developed.

Policy recommendations

Based on our analysis, we have identified four areas where new ideas, practices and institutions can help governments to develop and improve the effectiveness of inclusive innovation policies:

  • Improving understanding of how innovation - and innovation policies - impact different groups
  • More effectively addressing the trade-offs that may be required in efforts to broaden participation in innovation
  • Opening up priority-setting processes around innovation policy
  • Developing institutional mandates and capacity to deliver inclusive innovation policies


Isaac Stanley

Isaac Stanley

Isaac Stanley

Researcher, Inclusive Innovation

Isaac is a Researcher in the Inclusive Innovation team at Nesta

View profile
Alex Glennie

Alex Glennie

Alex Glennie

Principal Researcher, Inclusive Innovation

Alex is a Principal Researcher in the International Innovation team.

View profile
Madeleine Gabriel

Madeleine Gabriel

Madeleine Gabriel

Head of Inclusive Innovation

Madeleine Gabriel leads international projects that explore how new models of innovation can tackle big social challenges. Her current work includes a study on whether and how the conc…

View profile