The Innovation Barometer

The Innovation Barometer is the world’s first official statistics on Public Sector Innovation (PSI), now implemented in 5 countries, providing innovators and decision makers with systematic knowledge of what thousands of innovators 'actually do’. The barometer advances PSI as a tool for solving societal problems and is used in practice for: inspiring innovation work, policymaking, strategising, executive leadership development, teaching, research and consultancy services.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Private companies have been the subject of internationally comparable statistics on innovation for nearly three decades, giving private companies, scholars and public sector decision-makers essential guidance for business development, research and policymaking. For the public sector, however, anecdotes and opinions have been substitutes for statistical data on innovation. It has left public innovators and decision makers without a solid knowledge base. It has also left public sector innovation as such without data-based legitimacy.

Paradoxically, the need to implement, systematise, prioritise and scale public sector innovation has never been greater, as complex problems facing the public sector seem to continually grow in number and scale. Demographic changes, climate crisis, cybercrime, budget deficits, diminishing political legitimacy just to name a few. The widespread understanding that large pools of data, used in other contexts such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, has increased tremendously in value exacerbates the paradoxical lack of systematic data on PSI.

Objectives and solution
Determined to end the data deficit, in 2015 the Danish National Centre for Public Sector Innovation (COI), in association with Statistics Denmark, began separating myth from reality. One objective was to create a new ‘public good’, a pool of data provided to a diverse set of actors to use for their own purpose without reducing its availability to others. This would scale and diversify the impact on the public sector capacity for innovation much more effectively than simply adding the work hours of the (then) 4 COI employees to the existing 800.000 public sector employees.

The result was the Innovation Barometer, the world’s first official statistics on PSI. By 2018 Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland had all conducted one or more national surveys, utilising similar methodologies and definitions, though adapted somewhat to better serve national agendas. Their ongoing efforts have also contributed to methodological adjustments, improving the original survey design.

When development of the Innovation Barometer for the public sector began, in line with the desire to benefit from private sector experience, the team looked for guidance in the OECD’s Oslo Manual: Guidelines for Collecting and Interpreting Innovation Data, 3rd Edition, 2005. This focuses on innovation in the private sector, and recommends measuring innovation at the level of the smallest legal units with some authority. In the context of the public sector this means individual workplaces like kindergartens, nursing homes and schools.

Public sector workplaces were asked whether they had introduced an innovation over a two-year period. The team applied an adapted version of the definition of innovation used in the Oslo Manual, replacing, for instance private sector marketing innovation with public sector innovation in communication. Innovation Barometers define public sector innovation as new or significantly changed:
• processes or methods of organisation
• services
• products or
• communication
The innovation must be new to the workplace, but the workplace does not have to be the original inventor. The innovation can also be copied from others or inspired by others’ solutions.

The innovation must have created one or more types of value, such as:
• increased quality
• increased efficiency
• citizen involvement or
• employee satisfaction

The Innovation Barometers cover a range of innovation topics, such as type of innovation, reusing innovation, collaborators, financing, spreading innovation, value created, evaluation, drivers and barriers, and workplace culture.

The Nordic Innovation Barometers show that large majorities of public workplaces are innovative, i.e. they have introduced one or more innovations over a two-year period. In Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden approx. four out of five public sector workplaces are innovative, while 95% of Finnish municipal workplaces are. The findings also demonstrate a high capacity for collaboration, employee driven innovation, adapting and copying and points to solutions when it comes to challenges of evaluation.

Who benefits?
The barometer is a public good, shown in practice to benefit innovators, decision makers, private consultants, HR people, cluster operators and interest groups. The barometer is used for inspiration for innovation work, policymaking, strategising, executive leadership development, teaching, studying, research, consultancy services and public affairs. The barometer gives insight into sector-specific differences between public and private sector, helping innovators in both sectors to learn more from each other.

Due to international interest, work on a “Copenhagen Manual” on how to make your own Innovation Barometer has begun. Delegates from 19 interested countries, most of the OECD members, participates in the work:

Innovation Description

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