Addressing the Gender and Diversity Paradoxes in Innovation — Towards a More Inclusive Policy Design

Implicit norms and structural disadvantages derive from previous innovation policies and therefore policies need to be redesigned.

While the Nordic countries are world class when it comes to both gender equality and innovation capacity, we still have a long way to go to achieve inclusive innovation, where barriers have been removed from the participation of under-represented individuals, social groups, firms, sectors and regions in innovation, research and entrepreneurship activities. The lack of inclusion and diversity is hindering us reaching our full potential in productivity and innovation, which is visible in particular in Finland lagging behind its neighbours. Our policies and programming processes are still insufficient to allow for all segments of society to have opportunities to successfully participate in and benefit from innovation.  

The AGDA project has allowed us to envisage a sea change, where a new sea chart s drafted, allowing us to sail the sea of diverse and multiple potentials, such as green transition or the multiple perspectives offered by the SDGs. Practical sea marks for such a sea chart already exists, with gender-specific data being gathered and shared, capacity-building and training sessions being implemented, information materials produced and shared, equality and diversity plans being drafted, DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion) experts being recruited at universities and research organisations, as well as various tools and instruments making visible and helping to question the underlying and dominant discourses of privilege shared (privilege walk / privilege tour being one such example), as well as projects, programmes and guidelines put into practice. By sharing information and knowledge about such good practices and inspiring examples we are paving the way to a diversity-aware, gender-specific and inclusion-capable policy for innovation and research. Such policies are in turn needed to make us more productive, competitive and innovative.   

Main conclusions of AGDA include: 

  1. Increasing diversity is good for business, and should be seen as an investment. There already is considerable data on this, which should be made better know and more visible.  
  1. Implicit norms and structural disadvantages derive from previous innovation policies and therefore policies need to be redesigned. Policies should better take into account the work of forerunners and market leaders, who have succeeded in making inclusive innovation good for business, research and society at large.   

“There is still a lot of untapped potential in the Nordic Innovation ecosystem. Through mutual learning and dissemination of existing knowledge by projects like AGDA, we are joining forces towards a more inclusive policy design.” Moa Persdotter, change agent, Vinnova, Sweden

“This conversation hasn’t really reached us yet. It is clear that diversity and equality are important in their own right, but their implementation could also increase the potential for innovation. Now, in theory, innovation funding is equally available to everyone, but in practice the realization of diversity would require completely new measures.”  Annu Kotiranta, Senior Advisor, Business Finland, Finland

“The Academy of Finland is committed to responsible science, where a key priority is the promotion of gender equality, nondiscrimination and diversity in research funding. Projects like AGDA in which we can exchange ideas with other Nordic and European research funding organizations are very important to us. When the problems are complex, cooperation and mutual learning are essential for finding solutions.” Milja Saari, Senior Science Adviser, Strategic Research, Finland


The AGDA project was implemented with the support of the Nordic Equality Fund, led by MDI Public Ltd, in cooperation with the Norwegian Västlandsforskning, the University of Vaasa and the University of Iceland. Work was done in close collaboration with research and innovation financing organisations suc as Academy of Finland, Business Finland and VINNOVA. Work consisted of reviewing practices and guidelines in the preparation, reporting and monitoring of research and innovation funding programmes and projects, as well as other measures implemented by research funding organizations in promoting and taking into account inclusion and diversity. In addition, a series of Timeout Dialogues were organised in the intersection of research and innovation activities and inclusion, in particular in connection with the theme of the green transition. The results were compiled in the form of a Working Paper, Policy Brief and blogs. To support the visualisation and design of a new, more transformative innovation policy, a seafaring metaphor was used and a “privilege tour”, visualising the results from an individual’s perspective was also prepared.  

All the materials are available at the AGDA-page 

A sustainable green transition is achieved by investing in the diversity of RDI activities – the AGDA project continues to work on this theme

AGDA is a Nordic development project funded by the Nordic Gender Equality Fund (NIKK). The project focuses on the opportunities that a greater focus on diversity and inclusion could create in the RDI-field, particularly in respect of green transition.

Read more A sustainable green transition is achieved by investing in the diversity of RDI activities – the AGDA project continues to work on this theme