NESTA launches £20m initiative for innovation on social issues

NESTA launches £20m initiative for innovation on social issues





The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Art, has launched a new £20 million initiative designed to encourage innovative solutions to some of the UK’s most pressing social issues including chronic disease, mental health and climate change.


Unveiled last Thursday, NESTA’s ‘Innovation Challenges’ will focus on several key themes, starting with Health Innovation and followed by the Environment. Each theme will last for three years during which NESTA will conduct a series of high-impact projects with key partners, designed both to unearth existing ideas, and stimulate new approaches in response to recognised problems.


NESTA lays down first challenge for innovation in health


Focusing on health, the first Challenge aims to identify and develop solutions to issues around chronic disease management, mental health, and ageing. The Challenge programme’s initial partnership projects will see NESTA calling for both social entrepreneurs and front-line workers to come forward with ideas. The first two projects are:


The NESTA – Young Foundation Health Innovation Accelerator, a project to speed up the creation of social enterprises and start-ups in the health sector. The project will seek to stimulate innovative ideas, wherever they may come from, and turn those ideas into new ventures developed in partnership with individual social entrepreneurs and health sector partners. NESTA will provide the anchor investment of £1.24million for this three year programme.


In the first instance, patients, front-line workers and aspiring entrepreneurs with strong ideas for health-related social ventures can register their interest directly with the Young Foundation online at


A partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, with involvement from Mental Health Media, Mind, ReThink, and Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, to call for project proposals. NESTA will provide a total of £500,000 for innovative projects from front-line workers, users and carers to tackle some of the key issues in the mental health arena. This might include new or improved services, breaking down the stigma of mental illness or encouraging the involvement of users in re-designing their own care.


Those with potential ideas can apply online on the NESTA website and through partner websites.


Each of the Challenges will create a range of opportunities to tackle key issues. These will include seeking and funding ideas from front-line workers or users, providing capital and support to start-up social enterprises, or engaging the general public in a search for a solution to a specific problem.


NESTA is looking for potential partners with sector-specific expertise or a track record in social innovation to help devise, deliver or co-fund projects. These projects will be aimed at stimulating innovation in services as well as in new products and technologies, and will also aim to facilitate practitioner-led, community-led and third sector innovation.


NESTA Chief Executive Jonathan Kestenbaum explains:


“The UK faces significant social challenges that are resistant to conventional solutions. Mostly the impetus for addressing these issues is placed on the shoulders of government alone but this isn’t enough – there’s an increasing gap between the scale of the problems and the solutions available. It’s time we empowered people at the grass roots to develop ideas which, with the right support, could have a lasting impact on key social issues”.


Science and Innovation Minister, Malcolm Wicks, said:


“I welcome NESTA’s efforts to help boost social innovation. It’s vital that we look to as many different areas as possible in our bid for new ideas, so it’s great to see this challenge involving front-line workers and the broader community, who might have creative solutions which have previously gone unheard. We all need to work together to ensure the UK remains a world leader in terms of innovation, science and technology, because it’s these areas which will help secure our economic future.”


For further information about NESTA’s Innovation Challenges, the Health Innovation Accelerator or the Mental Health Call for Proposals, interested parties should go to


or contact the Innovation Challenges team on 0207 438 2500


or at  


Source: NESTA