Blog post

Enabling the Public Sector to drive Innovation

Innovation is everywhere. While we may be more used to reading think pieces analyzing the latest trendy innovative projects in the corporate or startup world, innovation is far from limited to this space. Today, public sector-led innovation is emerging at the forefront of the innovation marketplace. Whether it’s addressing some of the most pressing issues the world is facing, advancing the global economy, or helping to shape our futures, public sector innovation strives to make a huge impact on society.

But, how do public sector organizations make this happen?

Well, one thing is certain,  innovation in the public sector rarely occurs in a vacuum.

In this blog post we will take a look at how public sector organizations work on building innovation ecosystems that bring together key stakeholders and resources that help advance a collaborative and cooperative approach to innovation.

A glance at innovation in the public sector

Innovation in the public sector is important

Today in particular, with the current health emergencies the world is facing, we are seeing the myriad of ways public sector innovation is helping address key societal issues. Take for example the global Hackathon that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has hosted to call on all global innovators to come together and work on software prototypes to tackle challenges related to the coronavirus. Or, the initiative of the German government to source ideas to find innovative solutions to acute challenges of the pandemic.

Public sector organizations also play an imperative role in modern economics. Insights show that, on average, the public sector alone accounts for about one-third of a country’s economic activity. Today, the emergence of new technologies and the accessibility of open data have created a space where public sector organizations can delve into new strategic innovation avenues to encourage internal innovation and help drive economic development.

In the private sector, we know it’s innovate or you’re out. Competitive market forces that drive the continuous flow of idea generation, product development, and market output help foster organizational ambition and propel innovation. But, for the public sector, innovation is a completely different ball game. Relying less on competitive forces and more on collaborative forces to foster innovation, public sector innovation is nurtured through various actors in an ecosystem that help to create environments of exchange, interaction, and creative problem-solving.

The innovation ecosystem defined

The ecosystem is made of various moving parts which all play a role in scaling a great idea with impact. Each part of the ecosystem is dependent on each other. The capacity to achieve and sustain innovation relies on the ability of multiple interconnected actors to work together effectively.

The innovation ecosystem allows public sector organizations to advance innovation, provide tools and resources to implement innovative solutions, offer incentives to facilitate innovation, and bring together stakeholders to collaborate.

Creating a well-maintained ecosystem is particularly important for various innovation initiatives, including:

Open Innovation

The concept of open innovation is a model of innovation that organizations employ to facilitate idea generation by looking to external communities with varied knowledge and expertise.

Innovation Clusters

Innovation clusters are defined as regionally proximate groups of interconnected entities that encourage the development of new technologies and work to build knowledge together.

Business Networks

A business network is a structure that enables business managers to connect and build mutually beneficial relationships, where they can explore new business opportunities.

Innovation Districts

An innovation district is a contemporary model of urban development that aims to build a community of entities that advance innovation in a local area.

Funding Ecosystem

Funding opportunities, accelerators, incubators, and corporate-backed ventures provide real opportunities for startups and innovators to get their projects off the ground. An ecosystem provides a space where investors and backers can seek out innovative projects.

Ecosystem actors

Each stakeholder in the ecosystem fulfills a specific strategic role that helps advance innovation objectives.

When launching an innovative initiative, public sector organizations need to understand how their initiative will fit with all the roles of all the actors in their ecosystem. Deloitte’s report on innovation in the public sector perfectly defines the roles the various actors in an ecosystem take on:

Problem Solvers

Problem solvers are defined as the ‘innovators’ of the ecosystem. Problem solvers enable innovation by utilizing novel strategies and techniques to address different public sector challenges. Organizations foster problem solving by establishing innovation groups within different departments or by bringing in external innovators.


As the name would suggest, enablers help to enable innovation. They provide the ecosystem stakeholders with all the necessary tools needed to facilitate their roles. Organizations can help facilitate enablers through technology infrastructures, open data initiatives, online tools, grants, and training programs.


Motivators incentivize problem-solving. Through strategies such as challenges, awards, and gamification tools, motivators help to spur on problem solvers' activities.


Conveners bring together all the actors in the ecosystem to help facilitate an environment of knowledge-sharing. Through tools such as conferences, Hackathons, or crowdsourcing initiatives, conveners help create structures that allow problem-solvers to share and exchange ideas.


Integrators serve to align all actors in their respective roles, helping to enhance the ecosystem's productivity. They define the ecosystem's strategy and enable the processes and platforms that allow the other four actors to work together efficiently.

Why build an Innovation Ecosystem

Today, it is widely accepted that for an organization to truly innovate they must connect, collaborate, and look beyond internal structures to identify opportunities that help them advance their goals.

Innovation is challenging for any type of organization; with the inherent bureaucratic structure of the public sector, implementing innovation policies and strategies can be more of an uphill battle for these types of organizations.

However, that is not to say that serious innovation opportunities do not lie within these types of organizations, in fact they do. Given the role public sector organizations take on as gatekeepers of different sectors, entities, and communities, they are uniquely positioned to advance innovation through an ecosystem that enables collaboration, interaction, and exchange.

An ecosystem helps to foster interconnectedness by allowing entities to come together and work efficiently to produce outcomes that advance strategic goals. It creates transparency around industry opportunities and allows ecosystem members to take advantage of them. And, it helps make an impact on the industry it operates in, allowing public sector organizations to extract real  value from the activities of the ecosystem.

Remember, public sector innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. To advance development and progress, it is necessary to understand the ways in which collaboration can spur innovation.

To create an innovation ecosystem you need a solid strategy in place. What to learn how to build an innovation ecosystem for public sector organizations. Download our latest ebook and learn how to advance your innovation initiatives.  

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