Open Innovation Team

The Open Innovation Team was created by an official inside government to deepen collaboration between policymakers and academics. Policymakers from across government approach the team looking for evidence, analysis, new ideas, or challenge from outside voices. The team connects them with experts and organises workshops, writes reports and provides reviews of evidence. The purpose of the team is to open up the policy process to outside experts, and help ensure policy is anchored in evidence.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Officials in central government often want to work with outside experts but lack the time and networks to do so. Outside experts, especially academics with relevant knowledge, often want to collaborate with government but lack a clear entry point, or a good understanding of when and how officials are looking for outside evidence on a particular topic. Policy which is made without outside evidence, expertise and challenge is not as well-informed and effective as it could be. To solve these problems, the UK government set up a new team in 2016, pioneered by an official who wanted to change the way policymakers work with outside experts and improve collaboration between government and academics.

The team represents a new way of doing things. It is funded by partner universities, and partially by charging other government departments for project work. It also provides placements to PhD researchers, who spend three months at a time working with the team inside government. In this way, it sits inside government, but also provides a service to policymaker colleagues, and an entry point for outside experts and academics. This means it has been created at no extra cost to the central government. It is sponsored by four leading universities - Lancaster, Essex, Brunel and York. Partner universities add value in a number of ways, but the relationship with them is not exclusive. The team is free to collaborate with other academics as needed.

The purpose of the team is to better inform policy with evidence and expertise, and to help policymakers access outside expertise and academics.

The team has worked on over 50 policy projects so far, benefiting policymakers across government with easy-to-access analysis, engagement, and new collaborations - for example, it has placed PhDs in the Department for Culture Media and Sport with expertise on online disinformation, has brought psychological expertise into the Ministry of Justice to inform their work on how and when people trust the criminal justice system, and has helped colleagues who work on export finance connect with experts on AI to understand how they can use new technologies to underpin their work.

The team is growing - after a 2-year pilot phase, it set up new partnerships with universities, has recruited more lead policy advisers and PhDs, and has worked on over 50 policy projects. As the team grows, it is working on embedding networks of academic experts with the teams it works on projects for, leaving a legacy of new connections and evidence-informed policy across government as each project is completed.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on

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