UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


IIPP hosts second MOIN USA event focusing on co-creating a research policy agenda

21 July 2021

MOIN USA brings leading US policy-making institutions together again, this time to focus on co-creating a research policy agenda focusing on mission-oriented innovation policy and public value.

jorge alcala

Photo by Jorge Alcala on Unsplash

Building on its launch event in March and with the continuing support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) was delighted to host a second Mission Oriented Innovation Network USA (MOIN USA) event on 29 June. The event welcomed back familiar faces from NASA, DARPA, ARPA-E, SBA, NYSERDA, Roosevelt Institute and CalCEF and IIPP introduced its work to new participants from the NIH, NIST, OSTP and the Federal Innovation Council.

MOIN USA intends to build a research and policy agenda focusing on mission-oriented innovation policy and public value, alongside a network of public institutions and academic partners in the U.S. This will be done through academic partnerships and "practice-based theorising" with MOIN participants (public sector institutions) to produce research and policy insights to inform the vision for the twenty-first century American industrial and innovation strategy. 

This second gathering was an opportunity to understand more about the USA's institutional landscape and discuss how IIPP and U.S. based academics can support MOIN participants in their work on mission-oriented and public value-driven innovation.  The event was chaired by Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, in coordination with Professor Antonio Andreoni, Head of Research at IIPP and Rowan Conway, Head of IIPP's Mission-Oriented Innovation Network.

The event was opened by Professor Mazzucato, who spoke about IIPP’s global presence and strategy, giving weight to the need for a multi-faceted approach focusing on research, policy impact, teaching and public engagement. This was followed by a keynote speech by Dr Peter Highnam, Deputy Director at DARPA, on DARPA’s Innovation model. 

Participants welcomed the opportunity to learn more about DARPA’s singular and enduring mission - how to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. Dr Highnam took the opportunity to explain how special statutory hiring authorities and alternative contracting vehicles allow the agency to take quick advantage of opportunities to advance its mission.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcV4pgB5QY0

While DARPA is successful in setting wide-ranging priorities and balancing its investment portfolio, a tendency to transform revolutionary concepts and seeming impossibilities into practical capabilities is also dependent on organisational culture and operational practices, which were shared during the session:

1.    DARPA does not perform its engineering alchemy in isolation. Its success is based on a rich history of collaboration within an innovation ecosystem that includes academic, corporate and governmental partners. That interlocking ecosystem of diverse collaborators has proven to be a nurturing environment for intense creativity.

2.    The agency goes to great lengths to identify, recruit and support excellent programme managers from various sectors. Even though their tenure is time-limited (three to five years), they are at the very heart of the agency’s history of success because they are driven by the desire to make a difference.

3.    Each project has a clearly defined start and end date. That deadline fuels the signature DARPA urgency to achieve success in less time than might be considered reasonable in a conventional setting. 

The presentation was followed by an engaging Q&A session, as MOIN USA participants were interested to learn about different aspects of DARPA’s work, in particular when it comes to:
1.    Strategy - how the agency manages to reach for transformational change instead of incremental advances; 
2.    Organisational Structure – how its 100 programme managers across six technical offices oversee about 250 research programs through merit-based review; and 
3.    Foresight – how it decides which sectors and issues need to be (re)prioritised when designating funding and identifying partners.

Professor Antonio Andreoni, Head of Research at IIPP, said:

"This is a key moment for us because we see this as an opportunity to identify what challenges exist and understand what kind of new evidence and learning needs that this conversation points to, and how we can we accomplish this task through our academic network."  

Key learnings

In order to understand a little more about the institutional landscape in the U.S. and how IIPP’s research agenda can support the U.S. public sector, MOIN USA participants were invited to share their views and ideas in breakout sessions. These closed-group discussions allow us to hear from U.S. public sector leaders, policy practitioners and academics about their experiences in the innovation sector. We were interested to learn:

•    What opportunities, challenges, and risks is the emerging policy mandate posing to public agencies in delivering your missions?
•    What are the learning needs, evidence and knowledge gaps to address these?
•    How can academic research and engagement with your practice help address these gaps in evidence and policymaking?

This network event provided rich conversation and insight and thus contributed greatly to the co-creation of the MOIN USA research-policy agenda.

Over the next three years, the US Mission-Oriented Innovation Network (MOIN USA), aims to work with U.S. public agencies and academics to build a research and policy agenda for shaping and co-creating markets, focusing on public value. The long-term aim will be to build new dynamic capabilities inside public institutions and to form concrete tools to address societal challenges — especially through industrial and innovation policy. This network will be supported by a collaboration with U.S. academics focused on bringing the market co-creation and shaping agenda to the centre of political economy.

Further information:

Join the conversation about #MOIN_IIPP on Twitter.