UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Prof Rainer Kattel

Prof Rainer Kattel

Professor of Innovation and Public Governance

Inst for Innovation and Public Purpose

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
15th May 2017

Research summary

Prof Kattel's research focusses on organisational and institutional aspects of innovations and innovation policies. Much of the technology in your reading device was funded either directly by the public sector or is a spillover from this funding. It may have been commercialised and packaged into new desirable and useful products, but the fundamental technologies that makes our modern devices “smart” were publicly funded. But what makes states entrepreneurial? What is it that makes government machinery dynamic and bold enough to shape the future of innovation? Rainer's research shows that successful governments—entrepreneurial states — manage to deliver a delicate balancing act: they are able to create space for agility (taking risks and experimenting, responding to new challenges) and providing stability (minimising long-term risks and uncertainty). Originally, the word “capacity”, which seems to be medieval neo-Latin, strictly meant “space for something”, a sense in which it is also still used today. Capacity for innovation in bureaucracy is about having the space — skills, networks, organisations — for both agility and stability. His book How to Make an Entrepreneurial State. Why Innovation Needs Bureaucracy with Yale University Press  explores the complex and often contradictory positions of innovating public bodies—and shows how they can overcome financial and political resistance to change for the good of us all.

Rainer's research on digital transformation in the public sector focusses on emerging international paradigms in how governments digitalise their activities. The main research goal is to understand how public digital infrastructure and government platforms are shaping public services and their delivery, socio-political and market dynamics. His research is mapping how countries such as Estonia, the UK, Italy, and others implement in highly diverse ways the digital government.

Teaching summary

Prof Kattel leads a module on Creative Bureaucracies in IIPP's MPA programme, having co-developed the pioneering programme in 2017/18. He act as primary supervisor for a number of PhD students at IIPP; he has successfully supervised more than ten PhD thesis. In 2014, Rainer was awarded Alena Brunovska Award for Teaching Excellence in Public Administration by NISPAcee.


Rainer Kattel is Deputy Director and Professor of Innovation and Public Governance at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP). He has studied at the University of Tartu, Estonia, and the University of Marburg, Germany, in philosophy, political philosophy, classics and public administration.

He led Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance for 10 years, building it into one of the leading innovation and governance schools in the region. 

Professor Kattel has also served on various public policy commissions, including the Estonian Research Council and European Science Foundation. He has worked as an expert for the OECD, UNDP and the European Commission, and served as a member of E-Estonia Council advising the Prime Minister of Estonia. Currently, he leads the Estonian Government’s Gender Equality Council.

He has published extensively on innovation policy, its governance and specific management issues. In 2013, he received Estonia's National Science Award for his work on innovation policy.