UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Governance and digital transformation

IIPP aims to offer a new way of understanding public sector innovations and dynamic public organisations in the context of public value and public purpose.

  • Do 21st century grand challenges require new, 21st century public organisations?
  • How can public sector institutions develop dynamic capacities?
  • Are existing public sector governance structures enough to solve ‘wicked’ societal issues?
  • How do we develop a new public sector innovation framework in the context of public value and public purpose?
  • How can we best harness digital technology to create affordable, inclusive public services?

IIPP research on innovative public organisations and services is premised on the idea that the public sector faces a dual challenge:

  • CREATING the conditions that enable businesses and society as a whole to exploit existing technological potential (eg via increased productivity, employment, wages), and deliver existing services (health care, schooling, transportation, etc), and at the same time
  • EXPLORING new directions of technological change, and planning for the transformation of services through digitalisation, ageing and other grand challenges such as climate change.

In detail, we focus on:

  • Innovation Bureaucracy. Why are some organisations successful and others not, how can bureaucracies develop and sustain dynamic capacities? This two-year project headed by IIPP's deputy director professor Rainer Kattel and funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking will culminate in the publication of a book, ‘Innovation Bureaucracy. Let's Make the State Entrepreneurial (with Wolfgang Drechsler and Erkki Karo, Yale University Press, 2018).
  • Digital Transformation. Most countries seek to transform their public organisations and services through better digital solutions. But what conditions need to be in place to ensure the transformation is inclusive and transparent? Mike Bracken, formerly of UK’s Government Digital Service, and IIPP’s Visiting Professor and Advisory Board member, will mentor IIPP’s efforts to understand the drivers and barriers of digital transformation. This work is partially funded by a 3-year Estonian Academy of Sciences funded project headed by Rainer Kattel.
  • Transforming public services. How do innovation and technology change public services? Today we mostly understand public services through the lenses of efficiency, costs and benefits, with the idea of universal, insurance-based public services under attack almost everywhere. What are the key building blocks of 21st century public services? IIPP Advisory Board Member and Innovator in Residence Dan Hill, Associate Director at Arup and Head of Arup Digital Studio will mentor this project, which will apply strategic design and mission-oriented innovation frameworks to public services. IIPP is also collaborating with RSA to explore the future of public services, particularly in the urban context.

Research publications

Technological Capacity in the Public Sector: The Case of Estonia
Working Paper
Ref: IIPP WP 2017-03

Further reading

Dan Hill (2012). "Dark Matter and Trojan Horses. A Strategic Design Vocabulary".

Erkki Karo and Rainer Kattel (2018). "Innovation and the State: Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Policy Capacity." In: Wu X., Howlett M., Ramesh M. (eds). Policy Capacity and Governance. Studies in the Political Economy of Public Policy. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Erkki Karo and Rainer Kattel (2015). “Innovation Bureaucracy: Does the organization of government matter when promoting innovation?” Papers in Innovation Studies, CIRCLE, Lund University, 38.

Rainer Kattel and Erkki Karo, (2016) “Start-Up Governments, or Can Bureaucracies Innovate?”, INET blog, January 4th, 2016.

Veiko Lember, Rainer Kattel and Piret Tõnurist (2017). "Technological Capacity in the Public Sector: The Case of Estonia", UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose Working Paper 2017-03.

"Powering European Public Sector Innovation: Towards a new architecture" (2013). Report by the European Commission's Expert Group on Innovation of which Professor Mazzucato and Professor Kattel were members.