Mission critical: using moonshots to drive innovation in government

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November 8, 2022

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The coronavirus pandemic and the development of solutions to the climate crisis have one thing in common – they need innovation from government at an unprecedented speed. To unlock innovations in this space and others, many governments have begun to use ‘missions’ – grand challenges that act a framework for innovation both across government and in how central government works with other public authorities, and the private and third sector.

This session looked at how governments around the world have developed their missions – how to frame them, how to use them to boost innovation, and how to make sure that innovation is then used across government. It considered:

  • Where missions have been used to unlock innovation.
  • The type of policy areas where missions can catalyse progress.
  • The changes that are needed to how government works to help mission-based innovation succeed.


Piret Tõnurist, Senior Project Manager, OECD

Dr. Piret Tõnurist is a senior project manager at the OECD and leads the work on anticipatory governance at the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI). She coordinates OPSI’s work on anticipatory innovation and is the co-founder of the cross-directorate Mission Action Lab. Piret holds a research fellowship at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, TalTech and she conducts research on a variety of topics such as co-production, digitalisation, machine-to-machine coordination and innovation policy management. She has previously advised the Parliament of Estonia and worked as a performance auditor for the State Audit Office in the field of innovation and entrepreneurial policy. Piret holds a PhD and MA from TalTech in technology governance and MSc from KU Leuven in policy evaluation. She can be found on Twitter at @PiretTonurist.

Amanda Wilson, Director General, Office of Energy Research and Development, Natural Resources Canada

Amanda is the Director of the Office of Energy Research and Development at Natural Resources Canada where she is responsible for a number of Government of Canada programs and initiatives in the are of energy innovation. In this capacity she serves as the Canadian representative on the Mission Innovation Steering Committee, and is the chair of the IEA Committee on Energy Research and Technology.

Prior to taking her current role in 2017, Amanda held the position of Director of Operations for the Smart Cities Challenge at Infrastructure Canada, where she played a key role in the design and launch of the Challenge. She previously served as Executive Director, then Acting Director General, of the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention at the Public Health Agency of Canada, and was responsible for Government of Canada programming in the area of healthy living.

Amanda has also held executive level positions at Health Canada, including the Deputy Minister’s Office and the First Nations and Inuit Health Canada.

She holds a law degree from the University of Ottawa and an undergraduate degree in political science from Dalhousie University.

Rowan Conway, Policy Fellow and Visiting Professor, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, UK

Rowan is a Policy Fellow and Visiting Professor of Strategic Design, leading the Transformation by Design module of the MPA in Innovation, Public Policy and Public Value at UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP). Between 2019-2022 she worked with Professor Mariana Mazzucato to lead the Mission Oriented Innovation Network (MOIN) at IIPP, convening global policy-making institutions such as the Scottish Government, the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, the New Zealand Department for the Environment, the OECD, UNDP and the BBC in a range of exploratory design projects focused on mission-oriented innovation and public value creation.

The strategic design methodology Rowan teaches is based on co-creation between policy actors (network partners) and academic researchers, and this “practice-based theorising” begins with defining and testing new ideas about economics and the broader political economy, then bringing them into real world contexts through live projects, experiments, and activities. Rowan is a practicing strategic designer, founder of the transdisciplinary non-profit Transformation by Design Ltd where she supports transformative innovation projects with industry, government and third sector collaboratives. She is also a Non-Executive Director at Live Work, a global service design agency with studios in London, Rotterdam and Sao Paulo, her focus in this role is particularly on Sustainable Futures.

Cristina Caballé Fuguet, Executive Director, IBM Global Public Sector

Cristina Caballé Fuguet is Executive Director of IBM Global Public Sector, one of the key strategic units offering all IBM’s technology and services tailored to clients in the Government industry. She provides deep industry expertise to help Government clients accelerate the transformation of their business and organizational activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies -such as Hybrid Cloud and AI- and their accelerating impact across society.

Cristina has more than 25 years experience in the public sector, contributing to large transformational projects with different central, regional and local government clients in EMEA, US, Australia, Singapore and Japan. She has led the development of the IBM Garage for Public Sector which is an end-to-end model for accelerating digital transformation and innovation for governments, focusing on how to generate innovative ideas and how to rapidly turn those ideas into business value.

Cristina received a degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the “Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya” in Barcelona (Spain). She earned her MBA from Henley Management College in London (UK). She is a member of several industry boards and committees, including European Commission Initiatives around Digital Transformation and Sustainability. She is a Member of IBM Industry Academy for Government Industry. She is the Ambassador in Europe for the WW Society of Women Engineers. She speaks Spanish, English, Catalan, German, French, Italian and Hungarian.

Webinar chair: Richard Johnstone, Executive Editor, Global Government Forum

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.