Creating opportunities to realise the innovative potential

By Nyangala Zolho on Wednesday, 9 August 2023.

The Innovation Growth Lab (IGL) is looking for experimentation partners to pilot and test interventions that look to address one of the biggest innovation challenges across developed economies: expanding and diversifying the R&D sector’s workforce and talent. We want to help grow a much needed evidence base on how to best inspire innovators of diverse backgrounds to enter and remain in innovative and high-growth sectors. We are interested in learning with and from organisations who have already spearheaded programmes that encourage more inclusive innovation within existing businesses, as well as those working directly to increase the pipeline of diverse people.


Innovation offers huge potential to cure diseases, connect people, and to improve the way we live and work. However, many communities struggle to participate equally in innovative processes, causing socio-economic inequalities that are damaging to most OECD countries despite economic and technological advances. In the United States alone, if women, minorisited groups or children from low-income families were to innovate at the same rate as men from high-income families, the rate of innovation could quadruple! Therefore, there is an urgent need to ensure that people from all backgrounds are able to include themselves in the process of developing innovative products and services. In the United Kingdom, there is also the need to close a growing skills gap within R&D sectors. 


IGL has developed a framework for its partners that focuses on how to embed experimentation within missions to generate evidence of what works to meet the ambition of set targets. The framework is based on recent work produced to support the development of a major innovation mission related to diversity and inclusion. What we produced for the government innovation agency we worked with can be used by others designing and delivering programmes that increase the diversity of innovation systems.

In a nutshell, instead of viewing progress towards achieving the mission of expanding and diversifying the R&D sector as a messy unstructured learning process, embedding experimentation through pilots and robust testing can enable dynamic, structured learning to take place. Mission actors with the same shared goal can collaborate together to probe successful paths and share evidence of what works to steer the direction others take towards similar goals. Imagine you run a successful programme that encourages girls to take up a STEM subject in university. By robustly testing what elements of your programme work, you can scale your intervention and help others replicate what you have achieved in your context elsewhere. This is how experimentation becomes an important tool in enabling the practical success of mission work.


What next? 

If you are a delivery organisation who is already working to increase the diversity of the R&D workforce, and you are keen to robustly test parts of your programme to learn what works, tweak your delivery or scale up, we want to hear from you! If your organisation runs programmes that, for example, support young people of diverse backgrounds to become interested in innovation, or if you support businesses to improve the diversity of their teams, the work you deliver might be a perfect learning opportunity for others to achieve the same results. 

Our aim is to help develop promising and effective interventions, be they existing programmes that have strong indicators of success or new ideas that have yet to be tested. IGL would like to partner with you to learn more about this challenge area, affecting not just the UK but other OECD countries equally. Through our network of researchers and policymakers,  we will connect promising projects with researchers who may conduct robust pilot and tests. If this potential project is of interest to you, please get in touch with Nyangala ([email protected])