Lost Innovative Potential

Within our stream of work on inclusive innovation, IGL is developing an ambitious initiative to recover the lost innovation potential of groups traditionally left out of innovation processes and careers. Our aim is to find out where and why people and places get ‘lost’, and to ideate, test and scale solutions to this challenge. Our vision is to help create a world where innovators from all backgrounds are able to contribute to driving inclusive, productive and sustainable economies. 

This initiative will:

  • Generate and spread new ideas for experiments, policies and programmes that support the recovery of the lost innovative potential;
  • Conduct experiments in collaboration with policymakers, practitioners and researchers helping to grow evidence of what works;
  • Help decision makers analyse and use data and evidence to improve the design and implementation of solutions to unlock untapped potential, and scale effective interventions.

The challenge

Innovation offers huge potential to increase productivity and economic growth, and to improve life for people and the planet. However, innovative sectors are often 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. While there are pockets of evidence about the challenge, there is a lack of robust evidence about ways to reduce barriers holding back the innovative and productive potential of people and businesses. 

Existing evidence we wish to build from includes:

  • The landmark study (Bell et. al, 2018) that showed us how in the United States alone, children from high-income families (the top 1%) are 10 times more likely to become investors than children from below-median families (the bottom 50%). Innovation in the U.S. could therefore quadruple if women, minorities, and children from low-income families became inventors at the same rate as high-income families. 
  • Research from Denmark that uncovered how significant parental role models are, as intermediaries, impacting the mindset about who gets to invent and subsequently who goes on to (Hoisl et al., 2022). 
  • A review by Nesta that found interventions focused on getting children interested in inventing reached less than 1.5 per cent of school age children, with children from more privileged schools more likely to take part. The same review found that there was also very little evidence and experimentation on the impact of these interventions (Gabriel et al. 2018).
  • IGL research into ways combined design and data methods can help uncover targeted insights on who is left behind in existing pathways to innovative careers, and ways to recover missing innovators.

Our approach

To achieve our ambitious goals, we are looking at the entire pipeline supporting would-be inventors to reach their full potential, from early childhood through to education, training and routes to excel within professional careers. We know that there is no one-size-fits all approach to addressing such a complex problem, and that context plays a huge role in who gets marginalised and left behind. Therefore, our work is informed by ideas and evidence about what works across different contexts, but individual projects are locally grounded in how this issue presents itself from place to place. 

We do this through diving into existing data sets to uncover insights about how the challenge presents itself in particular contexts; conducting policy design sprints to ideate on intervention ideas that can be robustly tested to generate evidence; convening experts and policymakers to review existing evidence and gaps, and champion recommended solutions.

Work with us to drive change

If you would like to be a part of this initiative, there are many ways to support our evolving programme of work:

  • For funders - there is an opportunity to invest in our programme and take a leading role in pushing the needle forward on this challenge;
  • For policymakers and practitioners - partner with us to identify specific policies and programmes that enable the recovery of the lost innovative potential, and then conduct tests and use experimental learning to improve their impact;
  • For researchers - bring your  expertise and ideas to work that will effect change and impact at the policy level