June 30, 2016

The challenge of scaling innovations; barriers, models and success factors


In our experience accompanying the implementation of innovations, we have seen that strategies to scale them up are preferable to simply waiting for others to take the idea and copy the good practice. Having a deliberate and disciplined approach is key to convert successful small projects into innovations with a large-scale impact.

– Guest post By Miquel de Paladella from UpSocial

But it is also essential to work from the demand side of innovation. Often the demand is latent, but it has not been made explicit. Inertia drags many institutions and organisations to try to do more of the same, but with less. Social innovation should also focus on generating a demand to achieve more with the same, or with even less.

How to know if an innovation is ready to be scaled up?

  • Solid and credible evidence. Without evidence of impact, there is no reason for scaling up an innovation.
  • It is worth scaling only if the innovation is not context-specific. The challenge should exist elsewhere, and the social, economic and cultural conditions necessary for its success are also present in other place.
  • If there is an explicit demand for new solutions to the social challenge, the implementation of this innovation is far more likely to succeed.
  • The innovation can be documented and packaged well to make it transferable. In other words, the innovation can be successful without its founder.
  • The innovation can work if designed to be cost-effective.
  • Sustainability model. The possibilities of success increase significantly when the revenue model is consolidated locally, and the organisation can invest in exploring revenue models to its expansion.

Main barriers to implementation

  • Prejudices that can occur because they are innovations of unexpected countries: because they are small, because it’s hard to give credence to everything they do, because it is already being done and offers nothing new…
  • Lack of interest of the original innovators to scale up.
  • Failure to adapt innovations: copying and pasting does not work.
  • Thinking that good intentions are enough: it is important to involve the innovator in the adaptation.
  • Forgetting that the revenue model is also part of the adaptation process: even if it is the best reference, the same business model does not necessarily have to be replicated.

What models exist to bring innovations to scale?

There are many ways to bring social innovations to scale. Knowing how to choose the right one is one of the critical factors for the success of our work.

During these years, we have seen that most replicas depend on three factors:

  • The degree of control of the project that is wanted.
  • The desired growth rate to be achieved (which is inversely proportional to the control).
  • The model for monetising value that is created with the expansion.

Hence the models we have identified are:

  • Expansion of the organisation and subsidiaries. Grow an organisation in order to scale up an innovation in a fully controlled manner.
  • Franchise. Create a network of organisations to promote the adoption of innovative practices or to expand the provision of a service or innovative programme.
  • Partnerships with networks and organisations. Join value chains that, combined, enable an innovation to be scaled up.
  • Licensing, certifying or training. Transfer part of the rights or knowledge of an innovation to other organisations so that they can bring it to scale.
  • Movement. Encourage other organisations to adopt the innovation in order to bring it to scale and improve it.
  • Open Source. Share the innovation openly, without exercising control over its replicas.

Kindly supported by

European Commission

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