Training innovation policymakers to adopt more experimentation

By Hugo Cuello on Thursday, 23 February 2023.

Photo by <a href="">Dylan Gillis</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

After the success of the Eurada training programme, we have launched the "Driving Policy Impact through Experimentation" programme. Read more about it and register your interest!

To support economic development agencies, IGL partnered with the European Association of Development Agencies (EURADA) to provide a training programme on experimentation in innovation and business support policies. 

Policymakers across Europe working in innovation, economic development, and productivity growth face a complex and continuously evolving system and will often need more evidence to influence it most effectively. This can be addressed by turning the current model of policymaking upside down through experimentation.

In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the value that randomised experiments can provide to public programmes. There are increasing opportunities to run experiments in the European innovation and growth ecosystems. However, to make the most of the approach, policymakers should acquire the necessary skills to know when and how it is best applied. 

The training consisted of nine sessions from March to December 2022, in which participants learned how to design more effective and evidence-informed interventions and use randomised controlled trials (RCTs) more effectively in the domain of entrepreneurship, innovation and business support policies. The programme looked at the direct benefits of running RCTs and how the ethos behind the approach has a much broader application.

A group of policymakers from different European countries working in innovation agencies and economic development units have participated in the programme.  They had an opportunity to develop plans for a project of their choosing during the course, providing them with the experience of applying the material to their own context.

Experimentation can only be successful with effective programme design. However, designing successful trials includes a set of conditions that will affect the quality of the evidence. The first block of sessions focused on designing interventions more effectively, diagnosing a problem to identify the causal chain, selecting outcome measures, and early piloting. The second block was a detailed explanation of how to prepare and run randomised experiments. 

Thanks to the programme, the participants have strengthened their ability to identify essential but not-so-obvious conditions for successful evaluations and developed a more scientific approach to addressing policy challenges. They can now also monitor impact evaluations and recognise strengths and weaknesses in all commissioned work in this area. As a result, their agencies will now be in a better position to apply for new funds that demand a quantitative impact evaluation or a randomised trial (e.g. INNOSUP-06).

According to their feedback, participants have found the training programme highly valuable as they’ve learned “what policy experimentation is and how to conduct it in practice”. Thanks to the programme, they gained a “basic understanding of how to set up evaluations and improve the impact of the programs”. However, they also recognise that “external help can be very helpful because designing and running experiments is time costly and difficult”. 

Most importantly, this is the first step in supporting a change in the culture of their agencies to make them more scientific and evidence-based in the way they spend public funds. 

Innovation and economic development agencies need to develop new projects, test new ideas rigorously and learn how to use evidence to increase the impact of their programmes. To do so, tailored training programmes on policy experimentation, like the IGL-EURADA training programme, can make a significant difference.

If your agency or organisation is interested in participating in a similar programme in the future, please contact us. It’s worth the investment: As one participant pointed out, “if you're not sure about something, try it at a small scale and pilot at low cost before investing a lot of time or money”.