Unlocking Innovative Potential

By Wanda Maria Mollica on Thursday, 27 June 2024.

The Innovation Growth Lab (IGL) is delighted to announce the launch of the Unlocking Innovative Potential: Experimentation Programme. This one-year project, funded by UK Research and Innovation, supports the efforts to expand and diversify the UK R&D workforce by enabling a step change in how interventions are evaluated and optimised. 

Our approach is based on the belief that addressing the challenge of unlocking innovative potential requires more robust evidence on the outcomes and best ways to deliver interventions. One of the persistent policy challenges is identifying the most innovative and effective ideas and evolving them into impactful and scalable interventions. The programme brings together researchers, policymakers and practitioners delivering programmes aligned with UK policy objectives, to test the feasibility of utilising experimental research methods to generate new insights and to close evidence gaps.    

Why we launched this programme 

Innovation offers huge potential to increase productivity and economic growth, and to improve life for people and the planet.  The UK has an incredible and diverse pool of talent across the country but opportunities are not equally spread. This key challenge has been the focus of IGL partner Innovate UK’s No Limits platform and wider mission which prompted IGL to consider how experimental evidence might support both Innovate UK and others. 

As is well documented, innovative sectors are characterised by a stark lack of diversity, meaning that women, minoritised groups and individuals from low-income families do not participate in them to the same degree as men from high-income families. Despite many promising initiatives and pockets of evidence about this issue, there is a lack of robust evidence about ways to reduce barriers holding back the innovative and productive potential of people and businesses. This programme aims to change this.

What will we do 

During this one-year programme, IGL will: 

  • Pilot a funnelled approach to identify experimental opportunities within our delivery partner organisations to build evidence related to closing the innovation exposure gap in the UK. The aim is to uncover experimental ideas and deliver two feasibility studies within existing policy programmes. This will make the case for how policymakers might uncover further actionable insights about the viability of growing the number of future innovators. 
  • Build a coalition of expert academics who, beyond the isolated feasibility studies, can continue to research how the UK might foster inclusive growth and innovation and address long-standing regional economic disparities. This coalition will also help ensure the policy relevancy and research novelty of the experiment ideas undercovered and developed in this programme; 
  • Help policymakers to better understand how they might widen entry and reduce barriers to participation in innovation processes. In this policy area, there is a lack of evidence of “what works” to increase access and scale the innovative potential of communities that have traditionally been kept out of innovation processes. The two feasibility studies can help transform the current approach to policymaking through experimentation, and the pipeline of experiment ideas provides viable areas for further investment and resourcing. 

What next?

We are excited to embark on a journey and launch a programme such as this one which aligns with the impact that IGL seeks in the world.

We are leaning on our strength as bridgebuilders between policy and research to help convene learning communities and share the insights resulting from the programme. We are using our expertise in experimental design to contribute to the ideation of feasibility studies within existing policy programmes which will produce further evidence on how to reduce the barriers to innovative practices. Although this programme is focused on the UK, the challenge of the Lost Innovative Potential is faced by other OECD countries who also struggle to enable women, minority groups and people with socio-economic disadvantages to participate in innovation. Research has shown that these same groups tend to be least likely to design innovation policies and drive innovation sectors forward and, as a result, the benefits of innovation are not equally distributed amongst people and places. These socio-economic inequalities are severely damaging to most OECD countries, hindering further progress and growth. Through this programme,  IGL’s ambition is to gain insights and scale this initiative further across our partnership in order to further design and provide evidence-based effective interventions.