After little government focus and spend 30 years ago, innovation policy is now a primary mechanism used by countries to tackle challenges as specific as university-industry collaborations, and as large as inequality and climate change.
Innovation policymakers now control huge budgets and are tasked with spending efficiently and strategically in order to make the lives of citizens better. Overall government spend averages 40% of GDP in OECD countries, and Nesta estimates Europe alone spends more than €152 billion on the ‘business support’ element of innovation policy alone. This is a huge responsibility and raises a crucial question: are governments equipping policymakers with the right skills and tools to have the desired impact?
Innovation policymakers design, implement and evaluate complex programmes. They have to build political support, collaborate, engage with stakeholders, navigate budget restrictions, consider public opinion, manage competing interests, and much more. This isn’t easy.
Innovation policymakers are diverse - in the sense that they come from many different disciplinary backgrounds - and are influenced by a range of different factors that are rarely acknowledged. Having a deep understanding of this world is essential if governments are to support policymakers effectively in executing their important role in economic and social development.
Through the Global Innovation Policy Accelerator programme, we seek to have a deep understanding of the world of innovation policymakers; their context, needs, challenges, and activities. We take a broad view of who constitutes as an innovation policymaker to include public officials tasked with the design of policy, as well as those leading the implementation of programmes to better support innovation. By developing a deep understanding of innovation policymakers’ needs and the systems they operate in, we are able to help them develop innovation policies that are smarter, more inclusive, and fit for the future.
We’ve been working with policymakers across Latin America, India, South East Asia, and Brazil, with Egypt, Kenya, Jordan, Turkey, and South Africa soon to join our network. Through our work, we’ve learned a lot about the innovation policy systems in these countries and we’ll be publishing country reports about all of them, beginning with India.
In these reports, we will highlight what we’ve learned about the challenges and needs of innovation policymakers working in these systems, most of which we’ve learnt through direct conversations with innovation policymakers working in these same systems.
Here, we provide a synthesis of a more detailed report on India that you can download in full. It is the culmination of many conversations and interviews with different actors in the Indian innovation system, conducted over a year. These discussions involved innovation policymakers across national and regional government departments. This article has quotes from those conversations that we have kept anonymous. We'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the insights that follow.