A new era of transformative and mission-oriented innovation policy has arisen due to the urgency of grand societal challenges, such as climate change. This new era requires a massive restructuring of societies, industries and consumption and will depend on, in part, new technologies and a high degree of coordination between the industry, civil society and government. These new forms of innovation policy may seriously alter classic innovation dynamics. This is indeed the case in offshore wind, in which a specific institutional architecture has led to a rapidly formed dominant design that emerged early in the technology’s development. Radical experimentation, normally expected at the beginning of technological development, only began to emerge after 20 years of diffusion. This trend reverses classic innovation pathways. This paper empirically demonstrates this reversed innovation trend and then proposes a new innovation dynamic founded in a new era of grand societal challenges. It then proceeds to illustrate how The Netherlands has promoted and embedded a rapidly formed dominant design through an analysis of its offshore wind innovation system based on 31 interviews. It concludes that well-positioned incumbents and a specific innovation system architecture have created this trend, a notion applicable to a broader socio-technical system context. A rapidly formed dominant design and quick diffusion are critical to ensuring countries meet their climate pledges, but may risk early lock-in if there is no room for experimentation. We propose that governments ensure sufficient attention to variety and experimentation in innovation systems while maintaining a focus on rapid diffusion.