Coming soon... the Vouchers Story

By James Phipps, Lou-Davina Stouffs on Thursday, 12 April 2018.

Over three years ago, IGL launched a database of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in innovation, entrepreneurship and growth. Today, we’re looking to refresh that database to make it more useful to anyone wanting to know what rigorous evidence exists (or will soon be coming into existence!) in this space.

In that database update process, we’ve come to realise that vouchers are particularly prevalent amongst existing policy experiments. This is echoed by our engagement with policymakers over the last 4 years, where we’ve noticed that even though vouchers are not always adopted in policymaking, they remain one of the most frequently considered policy interventions.

As it happens, Nesta’s first foray into policy experimentation was the Creative Credits programme, evaluating the impact of a business-to-business voucher for SMEs to engage with creative service providers. Innovation Vouchers are the subject of one of the earliest trials in our database and form the basis of an experiment we are currently helping an IGL partner to deliver. Vouchers are also at the heart of one of the largest trials in this policy space - the UK’s Growth Vouchers Programme, in which around 30,000 SMEs were supported across a number of experiments.

Like us you may be asking:

What is it that draws innovation and business support policymakers to vouchers?

What are the different ways in which they have been used?

Why have they featured in so many public policy trials?

And what has been learnt so far and what is still to be explored?

Over the next few months we hope to answer these questions through a series of blogs. We’re hoping you’ll join us on the way - and we’d welcome your input as we explore this topic.

Do you have any questions around vouchers? Let us know and we’ll then try to include these topics as the series progresses.

Where to start

Our starting point was a quick review of the published papers that we’ve recalled seeing at IGL. Below is our day 0 reading list, containing various innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth voucher programmes.

Hopefully the list, which we will update as this project progresses, is a useful resource for you. But we also need your help to make sure that we don’t miss anything vital to our story.

Do you know of:

  • Interesting examples of vouchers being used within business and innovation programmes?
  • Instances where trials have been used within voucher programmes to measure their impact or test ways to improve their delivery?

If so, drop us a line at [email protected].

You can also get involved by joining us at IGL2018 in Boston. Our workshop on running RCTs at the Policy and Practice Learning Lab will look at how and why experimentation can be used to inform the delivery of a voucher programme (as well as other innovation, entrepreneurship and business growth policies).

Reading List: Day 0

General reading

Voucher experiments

Other policy examples

(* We are also aware of voucher programmes in Switzerland and Singapore but are yet to place our hands on useful papers).