We have known from our empirical evidence that cultures of innovation improve performance and financial outcomes for private-sector companies. But what of public-sector research labs?

InnovationOne® and the US Department of Energy (DOE) have concluded a joint study. The results clearly show that higher culture of innovation scores improves performance at DOE R&D labs. Below, we highlight the essential factors to improve lab performance and commercial outcomes.

What Is a Culture of Innovation?

A culture of innovation is when innovation is the DNA of a company. Innovation flourishes in dynamic, collaborative cultures led by leaders who articulate a strategic vision for innovation. And invest in it. The investment includes product technology, digitization, and facility investment. And much more. It includes putting in place the training, systems, and processes for ideation and knowledge management, and organizational processes and measures to successfully commercialize the best ideas.

US Department of Energy Ethos Project

The Ethos Project of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) contracted with InnovationOne® to measure if lab culture and an emphasis on technology transfer to industry and entrepreneurialism improve lab performance. InnovationOne administered a modified version of the InnovationOne Culture Index© in six labs. The modifications added seven questions regarding employees being encouraged and recognized for generating innovation, working on technology transfer projects, and being entrepreneurial.

Research on Six DOE Labs

Six DOE national laboratories were selected, with population sizes ranging from 1,500 to more than 10,000 employees, producing 2,328 responses. The surveys were sent to more than 1,000 employees at each lab to achieve greater than 350 responses and a 95% confidence interval, with a margin of error of less than ±5% at each lab. The scores of the six labs varied greatly, from 60 to 71 on the 100-point scale of the InnovationOne Culture Index©.


The results show that performance correlates strongly with culture. Higher innovation culture scores improve lab performance. In fact, improving a culture score by just one point (on a 100-point scale) can increase performance in innovation, commercial deployments, partnerships with industry, and academic publications by up to 30 percent.

In addition, our analysis with the DOE revealed the three most important factors for increasing innovation.

They are the degree to which:

  1. Leadership encourages innovation.
  2. Researchers can recognize the value of their intellectual property to industry.
  3. Processes are effective at capturing and securing intellectual property.

Improving commercial outcomes for the labs also depended on three factors. The level to which researchers:

  1. Are trained in innovation skills.
  2. Understand and communicate value propositions and market needs.
  3. Recognize how innovation contributes to the mission of the lab.

Higher culture of innovation scores improves performance at DOE R&D labs.

Getting innovation culture right means more innovation and breakthrough technologies, perhaps up to three times as many. The next time you are thinking of launching a bold new initiative or looking for your organization to achieve more significant impact, think about your lab’s culture. Is it an innovation culture that will maximize results? If not, that is where you should start.

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About InnovationOne®, LLC.

InnovationOne®, LLC helps organizations worldwide build a culture of innovation and make it sustainable. InnovationOne® uses a scientifically developed assessment to measure, benchmark, and improve your organization’s culture and capability to innovate and enjoy better outcomes and financial results. Companies scoring in the top quartile of our InnovationOne Culture Index© reported higher financial performance by as much as 22 percent. Measure and ignite your culture of innovation. Contact us at Innovate@InnovationOne.io.