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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 targets that have the potential to become one of the most significant vehicles for change. They work to tackle complex challenges such as climate change and global health challenges, by taking a purpose-oriented, market-shaping approach. The public sector takes an active role in convening and coordinating actors around complex, cross-sectoral issues that cannot be solved by individual actors alone.  Achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 is an example of a mission-oriented innovation approach to formulating climate goals.

A mission-oriented innovation includes any new or improved technological, social and organisational solution (product, process or service) that aims to respond to one or several of the grand societal challenges (missions) and create public value to society (e.g., climate mitigation, clean oceans, sustainable economic growth and well-being etc.).

Supporting the development and diffusion of such innovations often requires specific policy interventions. Mission-oriented innovation policy is a co-ordinated 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 to build 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, and the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate.

The OECD Mission Action Lab advises public sector organisations in defining, establishing and governing 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 those who 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 ‘mission-orientation’: while some governments are still assessing the approach for suitability to their own context, others have already adopted it but require support to implement and scale mission-oriented innovation policies.

Research focus areas

The Mission Action Lab focuses on three major gaps in the field of mission-oriented innovation and, together with partners, uses an action-oriented research approachto answer the following research questions. We support countries to generate evidence and lessons on operationalising missions with a focus on:

Governance of missions
– What instruments can be used to govern mission-oriented innovation and how does this vary at different levels of government, across ministries, organisations and sectors?
– What capabilities are needed to govern mission-oriented innovation? What are the different governance roles needed for successful mission-oriented policy implementation?
– What are the factors that build and sustain legitimacy for sustainable action toward the mission-oriented innovation in changing political and economic environments?

Managing a portfolio of innovations related to the mission
– How can missions-oriented policy be set and implemented horizontally across agencies, organisations, ministries and across sectoral policy areas and vertically, across different levels of government?
– Which mechanisms work to advance equity and inclusion when designing and implementing mission-oriented innovation policies?
– How are mission-oriented innovation policies connected with other policies (including horizontal policies, tax or price-based, competition policies)?
– How does mission-oriented policy interact and/or integrate with traditional strategic planning and foresight mechanisms in government?
– How does mission-oriented innovation interact with ecosystems approaches or existing ecosystems?
– How does mission-oriented innovation complement other innovation approaches (e.g., portfolio management, systems thinking and -engineering, anticipatory innovation)?

Evaluation of missions
– What are the tools and framework to guide the monitoring and evaluation of mission-oriented innovation? 
– What does early-stage evaluation of a long-term mission entail?

Resources and supporting materials

The latest on Mission-Oriented Innovation