The role and impact of innovation agencies – an international review

This report reviews the scholarly literature and case study data regarding the role of public sector agencies in accelerating technological innovation. The aim is to inform heat decarbonisation policy discussions in Scotland, and the developing plans for a Scottish ‘low-carbon heat hub’.

The report is split into three main sections: design principles for innovation agencies; types of innovation agencies; and specific activities of innovation agencies.

Themes and conclusions

Persistent issues relevant to the Scottish policy discussion surrounding innovation agencies and energy sector transition heat decarbonisation are:

  • The limits of general classification: the importance of tailoring an innovation agency to meet the particular policy goals, and the strengths and weaknesses of a given region.
  • The need for a system-wide approach: while the design and function of a specific agency is important, it is vital to consider their complementary role within a wider innovation system
  • The tension between autonomy and embeddedness: the need to consider the effect that close linkages between innovation agencies and public and private sectors can have on institutional autonomy, and the impact this can have on the balance between urgent policy implementation goals and more emergent and perhaps radical long-term innovations.