Due to the recent COVID-19 health crisis, a new scenario never seen before arose, which to this day has generated endless challenges at every level of society. However, it has been an enhancer of opportunities for innovation. For those innovation agencies, it was decisive for the emergence of new processes, programs and systems that ensured a significant change in the future of operations.
In 2020, the Latin American Network of Innovation Agencies (RELAI) conducted two surveys (March/April and August/September). Through these surveys it was possible to observe the behavior of the agencies in the face of the health and economic impact of the pandemic, how they decided to operate, what measures they implemented and what were the new work dynamics that were promoted during the emergency. Even the impact caused by the measures taken and what was learned from them was evidenced.
In the first survey: Most of the agencies surveyed by RELAI proposed innovative solutions to counteract the health crisis, mainly health-related activities. In the second survey: It was observed how innovation agencies focused their efforts on addressing longer-term economic recovery measures, for example: stimulus packages to promote sustained growth over time and support for the digitization of MSMEs.
In addition to the measures taken by the agencies, half of them have played a supporting role in the realization of strategies created by the government or by other institutions to support COVID-19 mitigation, they were mainly engaged in collecting and communicating information about useful solutions and technologies, using their expertise to link companies with ministries, and in this way, provide support.
Agility and digitization in new agencies
COVID-19 caused agencies that support business innovation to mutate the way they operate in the direction of becoming more agile in their management. The pandemic accelerated the digitization of the operation of many of them.
For example, proposal submission procedures that before the pandemic required the use of paper documents and signatures were transformed into online systems incorporating digital signatures. Operational restructuring was vital to the success of many agencies that were able to identify new needs.
Looking Ahead: Lessons for Innovation Agencies
The pandemic has reinforced the need for greater real-time data collection and analysis. At the intergovernmental level, new data and evaluation mechanisms are being developed to quickly understand the impact of new measures that have been implemented to support business growth and innovation during the pandemic.
The data obtained from the surveys provide a snapshot of a moment in time and demonstrate the ability of innovation agencies to be as innovative as those entities they support. The crisis has prompted experimentation with new ways of working and supporting innovative companies, entrepreneurs and researchers. It also reveals some common challenges experienced by innovation agencies, including having to manage larger-than-normal budgets and execute projects and calls for proposals at a very fast pace.
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