Urenio Watch Watch: Innovation

HOW INNOVATION AGENCIES WORK: International lessons to inspire and inform national strategies

Nesta report how innovation agencies workIn this interesting and well documented report, authored by Alex Glennie and Kirsten Bound, published by NESTA on May 2016, a number of international lessons to inspire and inform national strategies on how innovation agencies work are being presented. According to Dan Breznitz, the report pursues three ambitions.

The first is to provide a broad typology of four different kinds of innovation agency. Building on this, the second is to start a vibrant debate around the development of an innovation agency ‘˜playbook’ , and finally aims to start a conversation about the development of proper qualitative, longitudinal, and quantitative metrics that will help to capture the full spectrum of what innovation agencies can and should be expected to achieve.

The authors investigated what best practice looks like in terms of designing and running an innovation agency and what mix of policies and programmes will be most effective in a given national context. This investigation included ten different innovation agencies, representing a cross section of geographies, approaches and levels of development. For each organisation, data and stories, have been gathered, about why they were set up and how they have changed over time, their organisational management structures, the methods and instruments that they have used to support innovation, and the impact their interventions have had.
The list of the examined innovation agencies is the following:

  1. Austria’ s Research Promotion Agency (FFG)
  2. Brazil’ s Funding Authority for Studies and Projects (FINEP)
  3. Chile’ s Economic Development Agency (CORFO)
  4. Finland’ s Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes)
  5. Israel’ s Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS)
  6. Sweden’ s Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA)
  7. Switzerland’ s Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI)
  8. Taiwan’ s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI)
  9. The United Kingdom’ s Innovate UK
  10. The United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)


This report divides the analysis into three parts:
In Part 1, how innovation agencies work is explored, drawing on the latest literature and evaluations, a series of in-depth interviews (a full list of interviewees and contributors can be found at the end of this report) and ten detailed case studies.
In Part 2, the various approaches are being synthesized to outline four different roles that an innovation agency might play, to help demonstrate the range of choices and implications at stake.
In Part 3, insights the can be applied, are identified, to inform practical decision-making by governments.
The report ends with a set of Conclusions drawn from the research, and full Case Studies of the ten organisations, providing a very comprehensive qualitative comparative review of innovation agency approaches.

Key insights for the research:

  • There is no single model for a ‘˜successful’ innovation agency
  • Instead, there are a variety of roles that innovation agencies can perform
  • Innovation agencies should not pursue too many roles simultaneously but should be capable of adapting to respond to new needs and opportunities
  • Assessment should involve both quantitative and qualitative judgements of an innovation agency’ s impact
  • Governments should be both ambitious and realistic about what they want an innovation agency to achieve

You can download the full report from here.