This year marks half a decade of Nesta predictions for the year ahead. Over the past five years we’ve successfully predicted the growth of 3D printing, the rise of crowdfunding, the popularity of Raspberry Pi and the emergence of mobile phone payments, even if some of them did take longer than 12 months to fully hit mainstream culture. We’re confident that some of last year’s forecasts will continue to gain traction in the years to come, but while we’re waiting, here’s a summary of where our 2015 predictions are to date.

Gleaning and food waste

2015 saw food waste high on the agenda. Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched his #WasteNot campaign following the airing of his BBC show on the issue; while in autumn, the issue featured in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – specifically to ‘halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels’ by 2030. We also saw the launch of Olio, a food sharing app to help people and local businesses share their surplus food.

Last year we predicted gleaning would feed a million people. We’re pleased to report that Gleaning Network UK mobilised 350 volunteers to divert nearly 80 tonnes of fresh fruit and veg from landfill in 2015. This resulted in 950,000 portions of healthy food served via distribution to partner charities and food poverty organisations in the UK. Combine this with a further 370,000 portions across Belgium, France, Greece and Spain and we’re well over the million mark.

Internet of Everything

Last year we predicted that the internet of everything was coming to a neighbourhood near you. The announcements came in thick and fast throughout the year to back up our claim. February saw telecoms giant Vodafone announce that it would become the first operator to introduce Huawei’s Cellular IoT (CIoT) Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) tech, and intend their solution to be published as the industry standard. There are other contenders however, that don’t use mobile bandwidth, such as Sigfox, Telensa and Weighless, that are also fighting to become the industry standard.

And in August, a new ‘Mobile IoT Initiative’ was announced, backed by 26 of the world’s leading mobile operators and telecoms infrastructure companies. It’s specifically designed to address the use of LPWA solutions that we predicted would start to take off in 2015.

So while there’s been, and continues to be, lots of headline-worthy activity, there’s still huge uncertainty about what the future sector will look like.

Lifesaving apps

This prediction from our 2015 list is probably one of the easiest to claim as accurate. However, we did have some fairly reliable inside knowledge fuelling our claim! As part of our Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, we supported the London Ambulance Service to develop and test the Good Sam app.

The app alerts those with medical training to nearby emergencies so that potentially life-saving interventions can be given while the emergency services are en route. In November, the LAS formally started using the app.

Crowd-aware billboards

Crowd-aware billboards certainly made some progress in 2015, albeit with slightly different technology than we predicted.

Astra Bierre erected digital adverts which identify commuters by gender to target them, while on London’s Oxford Street, an experimental M&C Saatchi billboard made an appearance. The billboard can sense if passersby are looking at it and whether or not they’re smiling.

We might not yet have reached the stage of integration with Google profiles, but we’re certainly heading towards greater crowd awareness and responsiveness in our street advertising.


Scented selfies haven’t taken off yet (thankfully) but Adrian David Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London spent much of the year demonstrating his ‘Scentee’ device, including at our FutureFest weekend. Researchers from the University of Sussex also unveiled their plans for a ‘9D TV’ device, using the Ultrahaptics system to combine vision, sound, touch, smell and the five tastes.

The jury’s still out on whether we’ll see this tech reach consumers anytime soon, or even whether there’s an appetite for it. However, perhaps olfactory tech has a brighter future in the arts and culture sector.

Online democracy

Last year we predicted the emergence of the first internet-era political party in the UK. While we haven’t seen as much movement as we’d like here in the UK, there’s certainly been plenty to point to in Spain.

Our recent D-Cent report looked at the success of citizen-led coalition, Barcelona en Comù, which triumphed in the May 2015 council elections, while the continued success of Podemos regularly made the headlines.

Crowdfunding bust

Despite recent rumours of peer-to-peer companies running into trouble, we didn’t see a bust or scandal on the scale of our 2015 prediction. But this is one forecast we’re happy to be proved wrong on. The sector is still evolving and growing rapidly and as with any type of investment, crowdfunding deals aren’t without risk. Here’s more from us on trends in alternative finance.

21st century craft

Our dataset, published in April, mapped the diversity of our makerspaces. We saw libraries across the UK install 3D printing services, including in Cardiff, Staffordshire, Stirling and Suffolk. Our own research also found that nearly a third of school age children had made something with a 3D printer, and another 23 per cent wanted to do more.

But for the new breed of digital artisan manufacturers we predicted to truly impact the industry we’ll need a wider variety of startups to innovate in the field. As detailed in this recent Telegraph piece, we’re still a way off from the ‘march of the makers’.

Digital art comes to you

We’ve seen some interesting examples of digital art platforms emerge this year including The Wrong and Blackdove. However, our 2015 Digital Culture survey found that adoption of digital tech by the arts and cultural sector has slowed.

Lack of funding and staff resource were identified as the main barriers to organisations fully realising their digital aspirations. For more on making use of mobile technology in the arts sector, check out our Digital R&D Fund guide.

The next generation of digital makers

We said last year that every child would create and share something digital in 2015 and it’s now been over a year since computing was added to the national curriculum. 2015 also saw the launch of the BBC’s Make It Digital campaign, and the new Scouts digital maker badge, putting the UK’s digital potential well and truly under the spotlight and offering new opportunities for young people to express their creativity digitally.

We’ve come a long way since publishing our Next Gen report in 2011, but we’d still like to see more support for young people to create, rather than just consume, digital products. Our Young Digital Makers report found that 82 per cent of young people are interested in the field but only half of ICT and computing teachers are confident in teaching the new curriculum. Moving in the right direction then, but still lots of work to be done.