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.

Started: January 2015
Website: www.sustainabledevelopmentlab.com
Location: Leeds

Urban Sustainable Development Lab (USDL) was commissioned by the city of Leeds to develop a series of Age Friendly Smart City solutions. Using innovative tech and ethical solutions, it address the needs of the most vulnerable citizens in radical ways and has the vision to build vibrant, inclusive and ethical Smart Cities across the UK.

What sets USDL apart is its approach. Instead of being driven by policy or tech, the Lab defines and co-produces solutions with the community. Taking the life-experiences of older people as a focus, issues such as social isolation or public transport can generate accessible and affordable outcomes. Solutions can then be scaled by governments to help cities address the genuine needs of their communities, using cutting-edge technology.

In its first year, USDL has produced affordable services that are now being scaled to 100,000 residents across the city. A mesh network box has been designed for older poeple to combat social isolation and trialled in a sheltered care home. The brief: to make sense in under five minutes to the over-80s. Residents were quick both to operate the tech and to see the positive advantages for social communication. Another project is Great Sense of Home, an interactive questionnaire that uses local data to help people choose where to live.

This model is not limited to Leeds: any city can run a Sustainable Development Lab and USDL promises an innovation pathway from problem statement to prototype in six months.