About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Innovate to Save: Why we're launching a second version

For the last eight months, we’ve been working with a group of organisations in Wales that chose to explore how they might deliver their services better and, crucially, cheaper. You can read about their projects here.

Those eight formed the first cohort of research and development projects taking part in our first version of Innovate to Save and they’ve been our guinea pigs as we’ve worked out how best to support them as they investigate, test, iterate and refine their ideas.  

We’re very grateful to them for their enthusiasm, energy and tenacity as we’ve worked through the highs, lows, mess and ultimately excitement of any research and development process. They’ll soon be making the important decision about whether or not to implement their idea, based on the results of their R&D.

We know that not all of them will be ready to do this. Some have found that their idea is unlikely to generate the savings they need, while others will require finance that’s different from what we can offer. Those that have demonstrated the ability to generate savings and improve their service will be offered the chance to apply for a loan in order to implement and evaluate their idea on a larger scale.

We’re excited to see what happens over the next three or four weeks as this work comes to fruition. Not only because we’ll know whether we have a group of projects to take forward, but also because we’ll be able to make a judgement about which bits of our programme have been effective and which haven’t and how we can build a better, more effective programme as a result.

Innovate to Save: Version 2

Today, we’ve announced that we are making a new call for applications.

This new version will build on the clear lessons we have learned from our experience of running Innovate to Save and we hope it will allow us to deliver a more effective support structure for organisations wanting to do this sort of work in the future.

Much of what we’ve offered cohort one will remain the same; for example, the way we finance the projects. Other parts of the programme will develop in line with what we’ve already learnt; we’ll share those findings when we’ve had a chance to speak to the eight projects that we’re currently working with.

How you build it vs does it work?

As an example of our learning so far, this is perhaps our biggest lesson. Often during research and development, projects have got caught up in testing whether or not the idea they’re building is functional, rather than whether or not it is effective for the people who use it. We see this most often when technology is involved - the exploration of the technology and how it works takes precedence over whether or not its use is beneficial to the people we’re building it for.

We’re not suggesting that it’s not important to test the functional construction of new ideas - it’s fundamental. However, we mustn’t conflate this with trialling new ideas with the people who use our services to ensure that they’re effective at delivering what’s needed.

The next version of our R&D programme will make these two activities more distinct, to ensure we’re doing everything we need to build effective business cases for the ideas that our projects have tested.

How to learn more

Over the next few weeks we’ll be rolling out more details about how this developed version of Innovate to Save will work, the support available and how you can access it.

We are running briefing sessions across Wales in May and we invite any organisation with an idea they’d like to discuss to join us.

In the meantime, if you’d like more information or have an idea you’d like to talk through, please drop the project team a line.


Rob Ashelford

Rob Ashelford

Rob Ashelford

Pennaeth Nesta Cymru / Head of Nesta Cymru

Rob is Head of Nesta Cymru - responsible for the delivery of Nesta's strategy in Wales.

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