Learning from Innovation in Public Sector Environments


3 june 2015

News: New research report and policy recommendations available: 'Determinants and Barriers of Adoption, Diffusion and Upscaling of ICT-driven Social Innovation in the Public Sector: A Comparative Study Across 6 EU Countries'

The research report and policy recommendations on 'Determinants and Barriers of Adoption, Diffusion and Upscaling of ICT-­driven Social Innovation in the Public Sector: A Comparative Study Across 6 EU Countries' (Workpackage 5) are now available on the LIPSE Publications page.


Research aims

Public sector innovation and social innovation nowadays represent well-consolidated issues among both scholars and policymakers. However, scarce attention has been paid to the role of later adopters of social innovation, who have been influenced by different factors compared to innovators and forerunners. The role of followers, late adopters and laggards is indeed critical to ensuring the upscaling of innovation. This is because overcoming a 'shallow-patterned' diffusion requires a critical mass. The aim of our research is to assess the determinants and barriers of adoption, diffusion and upscaling of a specific typology of innovations in the public sector: ICT-driven social innovations. In particular, this research focuses on two innovative practices in the public sector. The first is eprocurement, which refers to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to carry out a number of stages of the procurement process, including search, sourcing, negotiation, ordering, receipt, and post-purchase review. This technology is relevant because it contributes to a more dynamic, transparent and competitive environment in which government has to operate. The second type refers to ICT and new media technologies that are focused on the creation of new ways of working (so-called telework), which provide civil servants with instruments to work at home, while making use of the ICT and data infrastructure of their organizations. This offers new possibilities to public employees to co-create a working environment that is compatible with their desired work/life balance. It is also an important attribute for enhancing the attractiveness of the public sector as an employer. This research therefore aims:

  • To theoretically and empirically identify the drivers and barriers that play a role in upscaling ICTdriven
  • innovations in two policy fields (e-procurement and telework), in relation to the specific
  • characteristics of followers, late adopters and laggards in six European countries;
  • To develop policy guidelines and instruments that public decision-makers can use to improveadoption, diffusion and upscaling of ICT-driven innovations;
  • To disseminate the research results and policy recommendations.


Some conclusions

The research shows how particular determinants and barriers affect the adoption and upscaling of both e-procurement and telework. However, such factors are not strictly technical in nature. As human-executed processes, these ICT-driven social innovations require organizational changes that not only deal with ICT skills and capabilities, but also represent basic enabling conditions.In the case of e-procurement, legislative obligations and mimetic pressures are the most powerful drivers from the outer context, especially for later adopters and non-adopters. Conversely, regional budget constraints represent possible barriers to the implementation of e-procurement. Innovators are instead more heavily influenced by political factors, such as the support of politicians and the presence of inter-organizational conflicts. With respect to the inner context, robust managerial support provided by committed and visionary leaders is a strong facilitator for adoption and upscaling. Such actors can foster the implementation, enacting training and consulting activities which take into account both technical aspects of e-procurement and, more importantly, the organizational reshapingthat this implies. Change management is therefore a tool to be employed for emphasising the benefits achievable through a fully-fledged upscaling of e-procurement and to overcome the obstacle of a riskaverse bureaucratic culture within organizations. 

The research on telework has highlighted the importance of need-based demands and geomorphological contexts as drivers from the outer context. These elements are intertwined. The typical challenges faced by contemporary Western societies, such as the necessity of pursuing a better work/life balance, are also connected to geographical setting (e.g. densely inhabited urban areas). Public sector organizations are thus required to be responsive to such aspects, taking into account their territorial specificities. We also noticed how positive imitation can emerge as a powerful determinantamong later adopters and non-adopters. With respect to the inner context, bottom-up spontaneous initiatives by employees can determine the success of telework adoption. These have to be supported by top management, in order to provide the necessary guidance and boundaries. A major obstacle is represented by a bureaucratic culture that focuses on processes rather than on results. In order to highlight the benefits achievable through telework (which are also economic in nature), training activities are fundamental, as they allow managers and employees to handle organizational and psychological spillovers of distance work. Finally, experimentation with telework on a narrow organizational basis is also positively influential, since pilot projects allow an organization to limit the risks of implementation and to convince more sceptical members of the organization.

Click here to download the research report and policy recommendations.


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