Nesta’s Geoff Mulgan and Albert Bravo-Biosca previewed this month’s Making Innovation and Growth Policy Work global conference in a new blog post on “Bringing Experimentation and Evidence to Innovation Policy: A Radical Idea Whose Time has Come.” The event – which will be held on May 24-26th in London with speakers including Network member Karim Lakhani – will “showcase some of the latest ideas in innovation and entrepreneurship policy, and explore how governments can become more experimental in putting them into practice.”
In their post, Mulgan and Bravo-Biosca describe the current state of play in innovation and entrepreneurship policy:
“One of the embarrassing truths of modern innovation and entrepreneurship policy is that surprisingly little policy is backed by hard evidence. Ideas and options tend to be deduced from theory and anecdotes rather than tested empirically.
A few years ago Nesta supported the Compendium of Evidence on the Effectiveness of Innovation Policy, led by researchers at Manchester University. With some exceptions, it showed that the evidence was scarce, often of poor quality, and typically inconclusive. Should governments back all startups? Should they subsidise access to coaching for SMEs or help them to export? Are R&D tax credits more effective than R&D grants? The honest answer to many of these questions is that we just don’t know.
Many have concluded that that’s just not good enough, and a movement is now gathering momentum across the world that is applying experimental methods to innovation and entrepreneurship policy. It argues for the maximum openness to new ideas, and then for rigorous experimentation to test promising ideas out, ideally with a control group. That way you can find out if the beneficiaries of a particular intervention really do grow more than a control group. If they don’t, you can probably save money.”