Nesta is an innovation foundation. The organisation acts through a combination of programmes, investment, policy and research, and the formation of partnerships to promote innovation across a broad range of sectors.
Based in the UK, Nesta was originally funded by a £250 million endowment from the UK National Lottery. The endowment is managed through a trust, and Nesta uses the interest from the trust to meet its charitable objects and to fund and support its projects.
Nesta is a renowned innovation organization based in London, United Kingdom. It has a rich history of promoting and supporting innovation across various sectors. Established in 1998, Nesta was originally known as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. Its primary aim was to foster innovation and creativity in the UK to drive economic growth and social progress.
Since its inception, Nesta has played a pivotal role in shaping the innovation landscape in the UK and beyond. It has supported numerous initiatives and projects, spanning areas such as technology, arts, healthcare, education, and more. Nesta has been instrumental in providing funding, expertise, and resources to individuals, organizations, and startups with innovative ideas and solutions.
Over the years, Nesta has evolved its focus and approach to meet the changing needs of the innovation ecosystem. It has championed a wide range of initiatives, including research and policy development, grants and investments, experimental programs, and collaborative projects. Nesta has been at the forefront of identifying emerging trends, supporting disruptive technologies, and driving social innovation.
In addition to its practical interventions, Nesta has become a prominent thought leader and knowledge hub in the field of innovation. It conducts extensive research, publishes reports, and hosts events to share insights and promote best practices. Nesta has also established strategic partnerships with governments, businesses, academia, and civil society organizations to foster collaboration and collective impact.
As a testament to its significant contributions, Nesta has received recognition and accolades for its work. It has been acknowledged for its innovative approaches, positive impact, and its role in shaping innovation policy and practice. Nesta continues to be a driving force in the UK and global innovation ecosystem, working towards a future where innovation thrives, and its benefits are accessible to all.
Today, Nesta remains committed to its mission of unlocking innovation and creativity to address societal challenges and drive sustainable growth. With its deep-rooted expertise, diverse portfolio of activities, and collaborative approach, Nesta continues to be a catalyst for positive change, supporting innovators and entrepreneurs in transforming ideas into impactful realities.
Since being set up in the late 90s Nesta has interpreted its brief in many different ways. In an early phase Nesta backed promising individuals – many of whom went onto great success, from inventing new materials to reimagining theatre. It also backed promising technologies – like one of earliest driverless cars which went on to be used in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and then in the UK’s first experiments.
But they quickly realized that they wanted to help new fields to emerge and backing them with a mix of research, events, advocacy, investments and grants over many years.
However, what they care about most are outcomes – more children thriving at school, more and better jobs or more older people living longer and healthier lives. But they also promote new tools and methods that can bring ideas to life more successfully.
They did this in promoting computer science and coding for children – because too many were leaving school and university unprepared for how jobs were changing. They then persuaded the government to add computer science into the curriculum, funded thousands of clubs for children to join, and worked with big companies and the BBC to make free tools and courses available online. There’s still a long way to go in ensuring compelling opportunities in schools, where teachers often lack the right digital skills. But huge progress has been made in preparing the next generation to be digital makers and not just passive users of social media.
They’re also contributing to a sea-change in how health services are run to address the needs of ageing populations with more long-term health conditions, promoting what they call ‘people powered health’ where patients are mobilised to support each other and use digital technology to manage their health and avoid unnecessary crises. Again they’ve done this through research, advocacy, funding dozens of organisations, and showing in practice how local health systems can be organised in radically different ways that improve outcomes and save money. Many of these ideas have now been absorbed into governments’ policy, and thousands of lives have been touched for the better.
They’ve also helped grow an alternative finance sector – backing ideas around peer to peer lending and crowdfunding that offer more agile alternatives to traditional bank lending for entrepreneurs with good ideas to get off the ground. Again they’ve acted partly as a funder and investor, partly as promoter, and partly analysing this new field through annual surveys which showed the sector doubling in size each year to well over £3bn by the mid 2010s. They did the same with impact investment – promoting new methods and showing how they can work in practice through their own funds; growing the field of social innovation that’s now gone mainstream all over the world; and showing how the sharing economy can be shaped to tackle social problems and create jobs.
Nesta’s FutureFest is one of Europe’s largest festivals of the future. Over four festivals, 11,000 people have engaged in conversations about what the future might look like and how people can become more active in shaping it.
For many, their relationship with the future is troubled. From hidden influences over the media and politics to growing threats of terrorism and environmental degradation, the forces shaping the world can appear threatening or remote. FutureFest brings together thousands of forward thinkers to discover how to put power back into the hands of citizens; tapping into new ways of thinking and solutions for some of this era’s biggest challenges.
They explore ways to make a better future through immersive installations, interactive debates and inspiring talks from the likes of Edward Snowden, Vivienne Westwood, Nicola Sturgeon, Annie Mac, Akala, Ruby Wax OBE, Brian Eno, Paul Mason and Imogen Heap.
Sir John Gieve (chair), Geoff Mulgan (CEO) (CEO)