We examine how mission-oriented grand challenges—formed to address the public sector’s unmet needs through development of new technologies and products for high potential impact—originate and catalyze industry incubation. Our analysis of six prominent cases identifies the incubation process, consisting of: identification of unmet needs as a grand challenge, championing and articulation of a mission, leverage of private enterprise, and success or failure of the mission for subsequent industry emergence. The resulting conceptual model highlights key similarities and differences of industry incubation stemming from the public sector’s mission-oriented grand challenges relative to industries triggered by scientific discoveries or unmet user needs where the public sector is not as salient. The analysis reveals successful outcomes are associated with the public sector’s goal setting and carrying out “market functions” pertaining to selection, coordination, and knowledge sharing. We also provide cautions and caveats regarding fault lines that may arise in public-private partnerships.
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