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How can impact investing support innovation in education?

Nesta's flagship education and skills event, 'Acting Now for Future Skills', will explore how educators and policymakers can ensure that our education system provides the types of skills that will be needed in the future. Find out more about the day and how to join us on 30 November.

One of the ways that Nesta is supporting innovation in education is through our impact investment fund. The fund invests for commercial returns and measurable social impact. Specifically, we look for opportunities to invest where achieving social impact, such as improved learning, is core to the business’s commercial strategy (read more about our approach to impact investing).

Why is impact investment such an important tool for us in education? Primarily because it allows us to support one of the most innovative areas of the education system: educational technology, or ed tech. This vibrant sector is full of startups applying the latest innovations in artificial intelligence and data science to the problem of learning. We see great potential for ed tech to improve learning but we also see a lot of hype with many innovations developed without the reality of schools, teachers and pupils. We also see a lot of innovations that because of their business model will not benefit those children that need help the most.

By providing finance to businesses with great ideas that can demonstrate impact for children, we hope to help focus the market on reducing the attainment gap and on improving learning for all children and young people. We are proud to be invested in a portfolio that is at the cutting edge of ed tech. Here are a couple of examples from that portfolio, which we will be showcasing at our flagship education and skills event on 30 November:

  • Cogbooks seamlessly integrates educational content creation and delivery, AI-based learning support and a complete set of class management tools into a single package that is accessed via the cloud.

  • GetMyFirstJob works with training providers and employers to help provide students with easy access to skills learning, a choice of roles and that all-important break into their first job.

The GetMyFirstJob interface enables people to search using a range of criteria

Other star performers include Arbor Education, a company that helps schools to learn from their data; Third Space Learning, a company that helps some of the poorest students in the UK access one-to-one tuition; and Sumdog, a company that develops online games to engage maths and English students used by over 20 per cent of primary schools in the UK and US.

Beyond our portfolio we are also active partners in the EDUCATE initiative aiming to create a ‘golden triangle’ between teachers and learners, edtech companies and edtech researchers to ensure that the UK produces products and services that have a genuine impact on learning. We have delivered workshops on gaining investment and embedding impact to the first EDUCATE cohort and will continue to deliver these and provide ongoing support to subsequent cohorts.

We are always looking for new ideas to invest in so please get in touch if you’ve a business or even better, enter to take part in our pitching challenge.

Author

Lucy Heady

Lucy Heady

Lucy Heady

Impact Director

In her role as Impact Director for the investments team Lucy works with portfolio companies to measure their impact and assesses the likely impact of potential investments. She also ...

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