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.

Nesta hosted Breaking the Mould: Fostering Diversity in Innovation to discuss ways to support young people from diverse backgrounds to become innovators.

Inventors and innovators create the new products and services that improve lives. But they come from a narrow section of society: typically, wealthy and white. In the UK, just 7% of patents filed between 1986 and 2016 name a woman as an inventor, while founders of innovative startups are overwhelmingly male. We’re missing out on a lot of talent, and change isn’t happening quickly enough.

So what can be done? Research by the US-based Equality of Opportunity Project has suggested that exposure to innovation in childhood has a significant effect on the likelihood of becoming an inventor later in life. There are already many organisations working on different parts of this agenda, from those aiming to improve diversity and inclusion in STEM careers to those promoting invention and entrepreneurship among disadvantaged young people.

We discussed:

  • Can we better coordinate efforts and ideas across sectors?
  • What new evidence do we need?
  • And what roles could education and innovation policy play in supporting change?

This event convened policymakers, academics, practitioners and school leaders to hear about Nesta’s research on this topic and discuss the way forward towards a UK innovation landscape that truly reflects the diversity and skills of our society.


Prof John Van Reenen

Professor of Applied Economics, MIT

Louise Archer

Professor of Sociology of Education, UCL Institute of Education

Oli Barrett

Co-Founder, StartUp Britain and Tenner Challenge

Danielle Thibodeau

Co-Founder, in2ScienceUK

Ndidi Okezie

Digital and Customer Voice Strategy, Pearson