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This website was created by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), part of the OECD Public Governance Directorate (GOV).

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The Public Sector Innovation Lifecycle: A device to assist teams and organisations in developing a more sophisticated approach to public sector innovation


Innovation is at the heart of any successful enterprise; without an ability to introduce, implement and integrate new ideas, any organisation or endeavour will soon find itself overtaken by changed circumstances and external events. Through innovation, public sector organisations can engage with a changing world and the associated changing societal expectations. Innovation can help government organisations deliver or contribute to better outcomes, implement new agendas and priorities, and prepare for the unknowns of tomorrow.

Yet, the underlying ingredients for successfully integrating innovation into the core operations of a public sector organisation or team are still being identified and learnt about. The practice of innovation continually evolves, and thus so, too, do forms of the support needed to best enable and facilitate innovation.

This working paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of the public sector innovation process at an organisational or team level, and suggests areas for consideration for public sector organisations developing their innovation capabilities. It explores why a more sophisticated approach to public sector innovation is required and explains how an explicit innovation process (the innovation lifecycle) can support such an approach. The paper argues that organisations need to take a multifaceted portfolio approach, combined with a more deliberate recognition of other actors in their ecosystem. It finishes by examining how the innovation lifecycle plays out in practice, and suggests criteria to guide organisations and teams in selecting tools and methods to support them along the different stages of the innovation lifecycle.

This work brings together various strands of research conducted over the past three years by the OECD Public Governance Directorate’s Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, through its Network of National Contact Points, including a synthesis of the work carried out in the framework of the H2020 Research Funding Programme.

The Public Sector Innovation Lifecycle

Published on 1 May 2020.