SKYrooms is a network of spaces that enable effective collaboration across sectors to inspire breakthrough innovation. The prototype, which overlooks Big Ben, was developed with IDEO and the Royal College of Art. It celebrates both historic architecture and cutting edge technology, using design to signal new ways of working, new permissions and embed an innovation culture.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Why the innovation was developed in his blog, the Cabinet Secretary highlighted the importance of “not only working in a more unified way on delivering services and creating policy, but also sharing ideas more, getting better at replicating our best technology across government, and making sure we forge strong links at a regional - and devolved - level.”

Harvard Business Review also emphasises the importance of collaboration and cross-pollination to drive step change in innovation: “between experts in different disciplines, researchers and technologists, entrepreneurs and financiers, private and public sectors. The challenge for the public sector, like many large organisations, is that its strong silo organisational structure often makes collaboration difficult in practice. Since collaboration, by definition, requires willing, the challenge is to create an approach such that people are not mandated to work together but want to. When running the Cabinet Office Policy School offsite at Wayra’s creative London headquarters rather than in Whitehall, SKYrooms’ founder observed how diverse teams formed more quickly and delivered more innovative proposals having worked in a more creative environment. In micro, this was an example of diverse teams collaborating better and getting a better result. SKYrooms brings these ideas together. The aim is to:

1. Create an exceptional space for innovation at the heart of government, that is so compelling, people would not need to be mandated to come, they would want to.

2. Scale the idea so different organisations can create their own SKYrooms to build an innovation culture and share each others’ SKYrooms as an offsite facility at no cost.

3. Enable a network of spaces across sector boundaries, to build trust and understanding and extend the reach of open innovation in HM Government.

Specifically for each SKYroom, the aim is to be:

1. Easily rearranged to be used in different ways, to get maximum value from one location (i.e. to host international delegations, workshops or innovation networking seminars)

2. Equipped with the materials needed to work in new ways

3. A signal of the organisation’s commitment to innovation, changing the permissions and encouraging different behaviours

SKYrooms has been developed in partnership with IDEO, the innovation consultancy, workspace innovation expert Kursty Groves and the Royal College of Art. The beneficiaries of SKYrooms SKYrooms can be used by anyone in the organisation for any policy issue. The rooms are designed as a blank canvas, with resources provided for the occupants to use as they see best. Based on Stanford’s model, this makes the space very versatile and this year, the room has been used for:

• Workshops with other organisations

• Executive Board meetings

• Awaydays

• Co-working days with innovators across government

• Hosting international visitors

• Staff networks - Diversity network, Disability and Inclusion network

• Partnership with public: private sector leadership programme Current programme status

The first SKYroom is in the HM Treasury building overlooking Big Ben and was launched by the Chief Executive of the Civil Service to mark the Centenary of the Cabinet Office. Learning from this prototype, Ministry of Justice, the leading early adopters, launch their SKYroom this autumn. SKYrooms are presently in discussion with 18 other organisations interested in becoming part of a wider SKYroom innovation network.

Looking forwards, the programme’s priorities are:

1. Establish SKYrooms in 5 sectors by December 2017 to prototype the network

2. Develop an online presence to connect programmes across sites

3. Write summary products to support the scaling

4. Formalise light-touch governance.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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Year: 2016
Level of government: National/Federal government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

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