Australian Innovation Research Centre

Social and Public Sector Innovation


Social and Public Sector Innovation is the development and implementation of new ways of improving the quality and efficiency of service provision and is of high policy interest because of its ability to provide large benefits for maximising social welfare. Its ideation and putting into practice involve cutting across sectoral and disciplinary boundaries. This research theme is constituted of two interlinked sub-themes: social innovation and public sector innovation. Social innovation is an umbrella term covering a wide range of activities that address social issues and that can be initiated not only by the public sector (i.e. public sector innovation) but also by the private and non-profit sectors. Social and public sector innovations are complex, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and context-specific, with most societal problems defying simple linear explanations and having more than a single 'end' or 'solution'. This makes the task of sense-making in theorising, measuring and analysing such innovations challenging and often involves 'phenomenon-driven' empirical discoveries.

The Social and Public Sector Innovation theme, led by Professor Anthony Arundel and Dr Ann Torugsa, embraces a broad range of research topics, including but not limited to:

  • The antecedents or antecedent configurations and the outcomes of innovation
  • The effects of multiple risk factors on innovation, including the organisational level of aversion to risk and management strategies to reduce the risk of innovation failure
  • The development of context-specific measures of social and public sector innovation
  • The development of better research design and methodology (both experimentation and non-experimentation) that bridge the theory and practice divide
  • Quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches for analysis of innovation
  • Alternative set-theoretic techniques that combine within one analysis a qualitative reasoning and quantitative testing and that capture multiple realities

Potential students interested in working in this area should email: or