2012 has been quite a year for the UK. The Olympic Games and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee meant the world's eyes rested firmly on Britain. But while these big set pieces had been marked out in the calendar for years, the rate of development in our financial frameworks, public services and technology sectors was not so certain. Here at Nesta we decided to pin our colours to the mast and lay out our forecasts for the year ahead. The result was our 12 Predictions for 2012, which proved somewhat of a crowd pleaser. With the year now over, it seems only fitting to triumphantly gloat over all our predictions that came to fruition, but also hold our hands up where we fell short of the mark.
The rise of Raspberry Pi
Let's start with our 'wildcard entry' in last year's predictions series. We predicted that the release of Raspberry Pi - the £30 credit-card sized computer - would be the catalyst for the rise of the cheap, programmable computer. When it went on sale in in February, expectations were that it would sell in the thousands, but the non-profit organisation behind the device is now gearing up to celebrate the million milestone. Here at Nesta we have a vested interest in the success of Raspberry Pi and any device that encourages the creation, rather than just consumption, of digital technology. Our Digital Makers programme is looking to mobilise a generation of young people with the drive, confidence and know-how to make new technology - whether websites, apps, hardware, games or brand new innovations. And the value of devices such as the Raspberry Pi was demonstrated at our recent Code Club hack day here at Nesta HQ, where 60 'hackers' where given a Pi and 24 hours to make something cool and easily replicable for a school.
The year of the crowdfunder
We said 2012 would be the year of the crowdfunder, and we think we were pretty spot on with this one. Kickstarter, arguably the world's most famous crowdfunding platform, launched in the UK in October and we saw the biggest crowdfunded financing of a venture so far when the Ouya games console raised over $8.5million. But more importantly, 2012 was the year governments recognised the validity of crowdfunding. President Obama signed the JOBS Act (Jumpstart our Our Business Startups) in April paving the way for regulation to be introduced in the US that allows the general public to receive company equity in exchange for finance. And here in the UK in December, (at a Nesta event no less!) the Treasury announced that a regulatory framework for Peer-to-Peer and crowdfunding financing is to be created.
Seeing the impact of impact investing
Impact investing was on the agenda in our 12 predictions for 2012 series. We may have been a little biased on this one given that we announced the first closing of Nesta Impact Investments, a £25m impact investment fund for social ventures, in October. But there was plenty of action on this front outside of our own work too. We predicted that it would be a year where focus moved from finding the money for impact investing to measuring the impact it was having. We saw Inspiring Impact launch a 10 year campaign to make high quality impact measuring the norm in the social sector. The Social Investors Group began working together on common approaches to impact measurement, and Big Society Capital and Deutsche Bank funded a major programme to develop best practice in the field. We also predicted that impact investments would become a standard part of individual investors' portfolios, and there was plenty of progress on this front too. We published 'Financial Planners as a Catalyst for Social Investment' in order to push forward the debate on retail social investment. Abundance launched a fully regulated retail social investment product in the year, with great early interest from investors and Allia launched the 'Future for Children bond' offer available to individual investors. However, there's still some way to go. Retail investment remains a very small underexplored source of investment.
Innovation for Frugality
Twelve months ago, we predicted that continued stagnation in many of the world's economies would have the benefit of accelerating frugal innovation. We told you to watch out for a new generation of frugal innovators maximising creative impact for minimum expense. We are certainly moving in this direction, and large companies are starting to realise the value of tapping into the large potential customer base at the 'bottom of the pyramid' by selling cut-price, bare bones versions of their products. This recent Economist blog cites Renault's no-frills Dacia brand as one example. We presented 10 more examples of frugal innovation, from our report into Indian innovation. From Dr Devi Shetty's pioneering model for affordable heart surgery to Bharti Airtel's approach to cutting the cost of mobile phone calls, the list was evidence of frugal innovation being a distinctive specialism of the Indian system.
Of course, prediction by its very nature is not an exact science. (Not yet anyway, but we have plenty to say about how that may change over the next year in one of our 13 predictions for 2013.) We fell a little short of the mark in a couple of our forecasts. Not much came to fruition in terms of the year of the mobile wallet. Despite contactless payment systems being rolled out over 2012, widespread use is still some way off. The lack of NFC (Near Field Communications) chip in Apple's lastest model of the iPhone proved a bit of a blow, and the fact that Olympic ticket holders were given paper tickets instead of Oystercards meant a big opportunity for the technology to scale was missed. Perhaps this was inevitable given that processes for the games had to be planned so far in advance meaning it simply wasn't feasible to make the most of this emerging technology. We weren't 100% off the mark however. Mobile ticketing did start to come of age this year. Eventbrite and Ticketmaster introduced mobile apps, and mobile boarding passes for flights took off. The latest iOS update for the iPhone included 'Passbook', an app to hold mobile tickets, signalling that perhaps Apple sees more opportunity here than in other forms of mobile payment.
Last year we predicted that 2012 would see more schools setting homework assignments for their students to play computer games. We were perhaps a tad optimistic with this one. The New Media Consortium believes that game based learning is still a couple of years away from widespread adoption. The negative connotations of playing games at school are still a barrier. We need more products that successfully integrate gameplay with learning to overcome this. More rigorous evidence would certainly help and we're doing our best to aid this fight with our work on Digital Education. As Sir Michael Barber, who recently spoke at Nesta, put it: "As the technology moves on, new forms of assessment - just-in-time and using simulations, for example - are becoming both possible and affordable. The sophistication of computer games may be the best indication of what the future holds."
So that's a snapshot of a few of our successful and not so accurate predictions from last year. There was also a touch of serendipity attached to last year's predictions. Days after predicting that 2012 would see more people wanting to share data about their health with others for insights and feedback, predictor Ajay Khandelwal, who'd used Ruby Wax's mental health website Blackdogtribe.com as an example, bumped into the very lady herself while on holiday in Morocco.
We'll see you back here in 12 months for an analysis of how well our 13 predictions for 2013 performed! You can read them all here.