There is a glaring disconnect in our networked era. We create brilliant machines but our productivity growth is stagnant. Amazing scientific advances and technological innovations are shadowed by increasing inequality, the threat of climate change and societal discontent.
Economic and innovation policymakers seek to fix this disconnect with ambitious missions, challenges and national strategies that align technology development with societal needs and make innovation more inclusive. Traditional data sources, with their static taxonomies, aggregate statistics and simple summaries of a complex economy fall short of these policymakers’ evidence needs.
New, more detailed and timely data, powerful analytics and ways of presenting information could help them. Business websites, science and technology databases and social media platforms can be used to monitor the emergence of new technologies and the structure of innovation systems, while interactive visualisations and open datasets empower more users to answer questions about their own industries, locations and communities. But these novel data sources, methods and tools come with their own risks - their quality is unknown, they are hard to interpret, and they raise ethical questions. As a consequence they are not trusted and their adoption in policy has been sluggish.
Nesta’s innovation mapping team seeks to overcome these barriers with an approach that is user-driven, pragmatic, eclectic and open: we deliver innovation maps that can inform today’s policies and perhaps inspire tomorrow’s. We make our tools open so others can build on them, and to build trust around them. We seek to strengthen the innovation mapping skills of our policy partners and collaborate with researchers so that our work doesn’t just create more data, but also advances our understanding of innovation.
Ultimately, we want to help bring innovation mapping to the mainstream of innovation and growth policy because we believe that will make it smarter, more inclusive and fit for the future. This is an ambitious mission, but one worth pursuing.