Geoff Mulgan on Mission-Oriented Innovation

Andrew Young — May 04, 2018

In a new Nesta blog post, Geoff Mulgan offers “seven questions in search of better answers” for mission-oriented innovation. Mulgan considers these questions as innovation efforts – like open innovation challenges – are increasingly aimed at achieving large missions. The post also notes that Nesta is releasing a guide to mission-oriented innovation soon.

Question one probes the meaning of the word “mission” itself:

“The first is an old question, but one that’s unavoidable: what counts as a mission or challenge, and how precise should it be? The often mixed-up use of the words mission, challenge and moonshots doesn’t help. Some missions are focused on problems (like carbon reduction) and others are opportunities (like how to make the most of AI).

It’s best to think of a hierarchy from very broad missions at the top (like addressing ageing), through intermediate ones (like helping people with dementia live better lives), to much more specific ones (such as new house designs, apps or local support networks).”

He also questions whether a top-down or bottom-up approach is more effective:

“Past missions often ended up very dominated by big business and universities (and that was certainly the dominant model in Japan). The 21st century missions - whether on topics like reducing energy use or eliminating plastics from the oceans - need to be much more open; tapping into the ideas of entrepreneurs and social innovators, and also engaging the public.

There is lots of experience in how to do this well - with mission-oriented accelerators, corporate-start-up partnerships or ambitious programmes to galvanise social innovation. But these too have little visibility in the recent policy documents.”

Read more here.