The entrepreneurial (welfare) state? Tackling social issues through challenge prizes

Ville Takala*, Emma Nordbäck, Tuukka Toivonen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Much of the debate surrounding mission-oriented innovation and associated policy instruments has hitherto remained more conceptual rather than empirical. Thus, in this paper we examine one relevant policy instrument – the challenge prize – through an empirical lens. Based on a longitudinal qualitative study of the challenge prize “Solution 100”, organised by the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra, in 2016-2017, we examine whether challenge prizes can effectively foster the dynamic capabilities needed, both within the private and the public sector, for states to become entrepreneurial. Specifically, we focus on the question of how participants with different professional backgrounds – holding contrasting cognitive models in relation to social problems and innovation – engage with the particular logic of a challenge prize. Our findings indicate that although prizes can indeed provide the aforementioned function, future prize organisers must reflect deeply on the types of cultures and mentalities they wish to promote through the design of their prizes. Far from being simple tools to spur innovations, prizes in fact involve complex issues of prize governance, greatly influencing their outcomes. The broader aim of our paper is to situate mission-oriented innovation and challenge prizes within ongoing debates about welfare state reform.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherUniversity College London
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

NameUCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Working Paper Series
PublisherUniversity College London


  • 512 Business and Management

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Leading for growth and well-being


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