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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.

We can bend the future in new, hopeful directions

Every year Nesta publishes predictions on what might happen over the next year – partly to inform, partly to inspire and partly to provoke. A high proportion of our past predictions turned out to be accurate.

We try to avoid the obvious. Some things are highly likely. In the UK 2020 is likely to bring a shift from a decade of squeezed public spending to something more like a flood, which probably means a lot of waste along with the good. Brexit – in its many stages – is likely to take much longer than promised. The main parties (perhaps all of them) may get new leaders. Half of US citizens will end the year very unhappy with the result of their presidential election. Carbon levels will continue creeping up faster than convincing action to get them down. The tide will continue turning against tech tycoons. And there will be few signs of economic peace breaking out between US and China (regardless of who wins the White House).

We may end up surprised. But all of these look like fairly safe bets.

The details on the other hand are much harder to predict, though it’s not impossible. Throughout 2019 Nesta, with the help of the BBC, mobilised over 7,000 people in making detailed predictions about Brexit – and they got a lot right, including on the various extensions, proving that some crowds can be smart even in the face of complex and uncertain events.

Here in this collection of predictions we’ve tried to tease out some less familiar shifts that could lie ahead. Few of us will have given any thought to the idea of digital assassination, but some form of it could well become more common, and deeply uncomfortable even if not quite as fatal as the more traditional kind. The gravity of climate change has become even more obvious recently, but there has been less attention to one of its side-effects: epidemics of ecoanxiety. Democracy is another field that sometimes seems to be going backwards but could go forwards. We’ve been living with the results of a referendum for the last three and a half years – but could ‘quadratic’ voting be used to better reflect both what the public thinks and how strongly it cares about different issues?

Ten predictions for 2020

Read our predictions for the year ahead

Predictions 2020

Some of the predictions are very much about technology – such as the likelihood that drones will start to take over from fireworks, providing ever more spectacular displays, or the appearance of Monty Python-style silly walks as gait analysis becomes widespread, and people try to learn how to fool it.

Some are about daily life – such as researchers using the mass of data being inputted into period tracking apps to better support women’s health or what the consequences of living in a cashless society will be (already on its way to being a reality in Sweden and parts of China).

Some of the predictions are hopeful as well as plausible. While many countries – such as China and Japan – have moved sharply away from rote learning, ministers in the UK have become amongst the last ardent advocates of memorisation. Here we predict that 2020 could be the year when rote learning reaches its peak in the UK as a parental revolt against rote learning gets underway.

This is a time when many, perhaps the majority, see the future as a threat more than a promise. Our hope is that these will stimulate you to look at things in a fresh way – and perhaps work harder to bend the future in directions we would all prefer.


Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive Officer

Geoff Mulgan was Chief Executive of Nesta from 2011-2019.

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