• Meeting with Invest India for Start-up Asia Berlin Session
  • Stakeholder Consultation for Mission Innovation Zone
  • Meeting with Stakeholders in Goa to map the ecosystem
  • Mapping urban ecosystem with students from NTNU and locals in Goa
  • Site visit to a private recycling plant in Goa

By 2030, Indian cities are expected to house 40% of the total population and contribute 75% of the nation’s GDP. Accommodating this urban population will require comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. Existing approaches to solving urban challenges have largely focused on supply-driven engineering solutions, with little data and evidence around actually addressing the root cause of the problems. Today, in our cities, innovation is seen as a one-off activity with events like hackathons and challenges being run leading to a pilot or demonstration of technology, but these pilots are further not scalable. With innovation efforts being undertaken in isolation, there is a lack of cross-learning between stakeholders. Innovative ideas and solutions, that originate at the bottom, do not stream out to other users depriving other cities of the benefits that they can reap. The existing systems are disaggregated leading to inefficiencies, information asymmetries, and poor discoverability of existing resources and solutions. Comparative research, globally, reveals that when cities get creative in their solutions, it identifies a recurring pattern and tends to gravitate towards that landscape which helps open new vistas for innovation. These vistas, termed as the ‘adjacent possible’, is better realised and sustained by connecting ideas among a diverse population of stakeholders to create and perpetuate ‘know-how’ of solutions to complex problems. An open ecosystem that enables this adjacent possible is then crucial for our cities to design collaborative platforms for innovating solutions at speed and scale. The scope of achieving this goal in our cities is being envisioned through the institutional and functional apparatus designed inside the Mission Innovation Zones (MIZ).

Problem Statement

The process of evolution and the ability of an entity to innovate have largely similar undertones: openness to testing new things, risking failure, learning to adapt from failures and repeat the process. Research on innovation on why some cities are in a better position to innovate in a sustained manner is in large part due to the urban ecosystem as a whole adopting the process of variation and selection on problems. Similarly, these cities have through such processes comprehended that complex urban challenges requires a diversity of expertise and support, and in essence building networks of collaboration to de-risk discovery of new solutions and act as channels of diffusion. Ergo, our cities need to be able to develop an ecosystem that enables the testing of new things, one that provides a space for positive deviance and ensure that there is diverse set of stakeholders to collaborate on such processes in a sustained manner. Our research on the matter of innovation in our cities identified the lack of the clear framework for innovation, stemming from a lack of leadership, in-house capacity and a command-control hierarchy that is not fit-for-purposes of solving complex urban problems. A need for an institution that creates new processes, reorients its resources and adapts a culture for innovation, that allows for failure and has eclectic flows of communication was critical for our cities. With the above aspects in mind, the mission identified two problem statements that needs tackling:

  1. The near absence of a dedicated ecosystem for growing and sustaining innovation and ineffective collaborative governance regime in cities.
  2. There is no existing framework to test formalization of open innovation as a means to solve urban challenges

Facilitating a dynamic landscape that enables its population to reinvent or create breakthrough solutions in a sustained manner requires identifying the characteristic strengths unique to that ecosystem. The objective of this mission is to identify these traits in the city that can foster innovation and aid cities to move away from legacy and expensive solutions. The mission intends to institutionalise the process of innovation uptake in cities in entirety of the innovation lifecycle (discovery-design-develop-deploy-diffuse) and bridge the gap between know-how among various stakeholders in the ecosystem for urban solutioning. Towards this path the mission will deploy City Offices of Innovation (CIOs) in the selected cities to investigate and co-develop strategies with the quadruple helix on the discovery and delivery of innovative solutions. With necessary operational support from the National Urban Innovation Unit (NUIU), the mission through a hub and spoke model will be in a position to kickstart & sustain innovation in our cities. From realising an innovation strategy to curating partnerships and provisioning living labs for prototyping ideas, the mission through its apparatus will be engaged in capacity building through partnerships, advising the administration on responsive regulation and building the city’s brand of innovation. In essence, the mission will act as an enabler for cities to achieve greater economic complexity, improve ease of living for its residents and enhance sustainability , catapulting  our cities as global destinations for innovation and act as growth engines in the journey towards India’s $10trillion economy by 2034.

Project Developement

Pilot City Identification: Post the development of the mission in the ministry, in September of 2019 the team was eager to comprehend the complexity of the mission at the city scale and was assigned to undertake an ecosystem study of smartcity Panaji, Goa. As part of the study, the team would be dwelling deeper into role of the innovation office, the nature of engagement with its hub, NUIU, processes for partnership building and rolling out the services of the office. Ahead of the team’s deployment, a SWOT of the city’s capabilities was mapped and a generic network of agencies and stakeholders identified to be engaged. The team interacted and engaged with national stakeholders viz Atal Innovation Mission, Startup India and Invest India, to develop an understanding of Goa’s innovation startup climate and nature of investments drawn into the state. Considering the geography of Panaji and the homogeneity of Goa’s rural-urban region in terms of its socio-economic profile, the team considered the whole of state as the ecosystem to be studied. The state of Goa had a head start in developing a startup policy in 2014, reduced barriers to entry for new firms, a good mix of leading academic institutions, an educated population and institutional openness. Similarly, the state looking to diversify its economic base was keen on developing itself as a knowledge economy. The above factors provided an optimal score for Goa, among the cities investigated, to be taken up as the pilot city for further informing the design of the mission.Project Development and ImplementationThe City Offices of Innovation (COIs) once set in their respective cities will undertake the operationalisation of their innovation goals based on the below maturity framework. The framework aids the city and its stakeholders to manage its resources as per the innovation projects undertaken. Also, as per the strategy drawn for the city, the framework allows to build an innovation portfolio and track its performance.

Expected Outcomes

Benefits from innovation spurred through the mission is expected to impact a broad range of stakeholders of the quadruple helix. The impact is twofold on the urban ecosystem: the mission would help set and prioritise cities growth agenda to other scales of governance & enhancing the city’s outlook through transition towards a knowledge economy. The platforms built under the National Urban Innovation Stack (NUIS) and the institutional support through the NUIU will expand the scope of the outcomes as cities across the country start engaging on innovation and solution building. As information symmetry increases across communities, policy-making is made more accountable and user-centric, to usher in sustained and qualitative growth. Finally, a key intangible outcome to our cities would be the cultural shift towards testing new ideas and the low premium on risk attached to failure, the critical ability to variate and select for the better.


The mission through its institutional mechanisms and creation of human capacity through partnerships will help in envisioning solutions to complex urban challenges through innovation. As our cities will in future need to find optimal pathways that can balance growth, quality of life to its citizens and sustaining their ecosystems, more and more solutions will need to be reimagined using existing resources, this in essence is the adjacent possible of innovation. Ergo, the mission in future will enable cities to take up different facets of innovation through a portfolio of investments as per the requirements and aspirations of the citizens, providing for balanced and prudent investment into both breakthrough and incremental innovation. Finally, the mission through its differentiated processes and values of functioning, be able to deliver power to the edge and competence in the urban ecosystem, making our cities resilient to the demands of the future. The mission has been designed on the principles below for scaling and replicability