Innovation is an inexact science that attempts to navigate the many risks of trying something new. For innovations to flourish, innovators need to be able to live with the constant risk of failure. If the risk or consequence of failure is seen as too great, many innovators may give up after their first attempt, or not try at all. The innovation ecosystem can do a number of things to help mitigate the risks of innovators. These include services provided through universities, such as introducing entrepreneurship and innovation in university curricula, and support programs for pre-commercial incubation activities within the university. Another key element is the creation of a culture of innovation, which is a culture of risk acceptance, where failure is seen as creating the learning and experiences that lead to success. Such a culture emerges largely from the tone set by the institutional actors in the innovation ecosystem—universities and governments. If these support institutions themselves are too risk averse, or are too punitive of failure, a true culture of innovation cannot flourish.
Federal innovation investment and programming should seek to balance diligence and risk management with acceptance of risk-taking and occasional failure.