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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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Mission-Oriented Innovation

Setting clear outcomes for ambitious missions

mission-oriented innovation


Short-term, isolated, single stakeholder approaches are no longer sufficient to tackle systemic societal challenges. Mission-oriented innovation policies, governance, and practices support directed action toward achieving ambitious goals.

What is mission-oriented innovation?

Missions are measurable, ambitious, and time-bound objectives that have the potential to help enable transformative change. They are declarations of intent to tackle complex societal challenges, such as climate change and health inequities, by taking a purpose-oriented, solution-driven, and market-shaping approach. The mission of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 is an example of a mission-oriented approach to addressing climate change.

With mission-oriented innovation, the public sector takes an active role in convening and coordinating actors around complex, cross-sectoral issues that cannot be solved with existing methods or by individual actors alone. Mission-oriented innovation refers to any new or improved technological, social, or organisational solution (product, process, or service) that aims to respond to one or several objectives tackling grand societal challenges (missions) and create public value to society (e.g., climate mitigation, clean oceans, sustainable economic growth, and well-being). 

Supporting the development and diffusion of such innovations often requires specific policy interventions. Mission-oriented innovation policy is a coordinated package of policy and regulatory measures specifically tailored to mobilise innovation to address well-defined societal objectives in a defined timeframe. These measures can span across different stages of the innovation cycle, from research to demonstration and market deployment, mix supply-push and demand-pull instruments and cut across various policy fields, sectors, and disciplines.

Read more about mission-oriented innovation in our brief.

Mission-oriented innovation at OPSI

While there are various examples of mission being undertaken (e.g. the mission areas launched at the European Commission level), there is no established practice on what drives mission to success. Objectives, governance, and funding mechanisms related to mission vary depending on the context. As a result, many teams and public sector organisations are struggling to make missions work in practice. They are looking for guidance on the practical implementation of a mission-oriented approach, especially concerning the long-term governance of missions, evaluation of missions, stakeholder coordination, and portfolio management. 

OPSI is working to support national and local actors in building an actionable mission-oriented innovation approach as part of a portfolio of innovation activity and support. Learn about how mission-oriented innovation relates to other innovation approaches on our Innovation Portfolios page.

OECD Mission Action Lab

Turning ambitious missions into sustained action through action research

What we do
The OECD Mission Action Lab is a joint initiative from the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI), and the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD).

The OECD Mission Action Lab advises public sector organisations in formulating, establishing, governing, and monitoring and evaluating large-scale missions. As the field of mission-oriented innovation is still emerging, we take an action-oriented research approach: together with partner countries, we develop new tools and methods to operationalise missions. 
We work closely with policy teams that are facing a wide spectrum of challenges related to transitioning to mission-oriented innovation – whether this relates to economic and societal development, systemic shifts towards more sustainable, greener or healthier societies, or fairer democracies. Countries are at different stages of implementing mission-oriented approaches: some governments are still assessing the approach for suitability within their own context, others have already adopted it but require support to implement and scale mission-oriented innovation policies. The Lab works with policymakers at all stages with a focus on those actively implementing missions. 

You can read more on the Mission Action Lab website here

Research focus areas

The Mission Action Lab focuses on three major gaps in the field of missions and, together with partners, uses an action-oriented research approach to generate evidence and lessons and answer the following research questions: 

Governance of missions
– What are the implications of governance level ownership (e.g., centre of government, ministry, agency, platform) on missions?  
– What governance mechanisms are needed for successful mission-oriented policy implementation and ensure both horizontal and vertical coordination within mission stakeholders?  
– What can missions keep momentum and sustain legitimacy in changing political and economic environments? 

Managing a mission portfolio
– What essential criteria enable systemic, effective, and proactive project portfolio management for missions?  
– How can missions effectively leverage broad policy mixes to reach their ambitious objectives? How does mission-oriented innovation policies link up with other types of policies (including horizontal policies, tax or price-based, competition policies)?  
– What capabilities are needed to adopt a mission portfolio approach? How does mission-oriented policy interact and/or integrate with traditional strategic planning and foresight mechanisms in government? 

Monitoring and evaluation of missions
– What do policymakers need to consider to plan effective mission monitoring and evaluation, from minimum viable requirements to more ambitious approaches?  
– How does mission-oriented policy evaluation differ from traditional evaluation? What tools and methods are most suitable and valuable in this context, and what type of effects should they seek to capture?  
– What role can mission evaluation play at different stages of the mission cycle? 

Resources and supporting materials

The latest on Mission-Oriented Innovation