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.

Innovation in the Public Sector

How can public sector organisations better create, improve and adapt?

This is the first version of a paper that looks to bring together the results of many years of research and experience at Nesta on how public sectors can become more effective innovators. Any comments, additions and amendments will be fed into a second edition.

The world’s public sectors face acute pressures to adapt: fiscal pressures, pressures from public expectations and pressures to tackle challenges such as ageing, climate change and migration. According to conventional wisdom, they’re bound to fail, but this is at odds with the history of innovation.

In this paper, we set out key transformations in process and culture that can enable a brighter outlook for new ideas in the public sector.

Key findings

  • An overall lack of seriousness about innovation across the sector is striking, and contrasts starkly with wider business.
  • The most important task for any public agency or government is to tackle each stage of the innovation process - the biggest impact comes from linking these all together into a coherent system of innovation.
  • Our research shows that there is a value to having separate specialised innovation teams - but it is also vital that these teams work alongside existing structures, otherwise new ideas are seen as being created by outsiders and are too easily rejected. Connectivity is the key.
  • A mature, systemic approach to innovation; led from the front, aware of the risks, funded intelligently and with support from all aspects of the organisation.

Geoff Mulgan


Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive Officer

Geoff Mulgan was Chief Executive of Nesta from 2011-2019.

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