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London has been named the best city in Europe to develop and grow digital "tech for good" solutions to social and environmental challenges, according to new research from global innovation foundation Nesta.

The European Digital Social Innovation Index (EDSII) and interactive map produced as part of the EU-funded DSI4EU project, ranks 60 European cities on 32 indicators which are important for digital social innovation (DSI) and tech for good to grow and thrive. The indicators are grouped into six themes: Funding; Skills; Civil Society; Collaboration; Infrastructure; and Diversity and Inclusion.

The EDSII finds that London has a significant lead over the second-best city in Europe, Amsterdam, with Copenhagen, Stockholm and Paris rounding up the top five.

The EDSII aims to encourage policymakers and funders to support entrepreneurs, charities, start-ups and bottom-up movements to harness the power of collaborative digital technologies. This could include peer-to-peer and crowdsourcing platforms, open “hackable” hardware, open data and internet of things being used to tackle society’s most pressing issues, ranging from air pollution to political disengagement.

London ranked highly across all themes but fared particularly well on:

  • Skills, with a high number of research institutions working on subjects relevant to DSI, and access to employees with data science, software development and service design skills;
  • Collaboration, with a strong culture of collaboration between civil society, the tech sector and the public sector, as well as a large and active community of people engaged with the field;
  • Infrastructure, with good open data provision at the national and city level, significant support for socially-focused businesses such as accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces, and access to digital fabrication and manufacturing facilities.

The use of digital technologies to tackle social issues has huge potential in cities, partly because of the acute challenges they face from mobility to pollution to provision of public services, and partly thanks to the density of people, assets, infrastructure, knowledge and skills which allows for collaborative technologies to thrive.

While many indices exist on related fields such as entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, the EDSII is the first index looking specifically at how city ecosystems support the development and growth of digital social innovation and tech for good. While the DSI and tech for good fields have grown significantly in the past five years, there is still a relative lack of research and coordinated policy to support it.

The EDSII focuses on ecosystem factors within the ranked cities. Specific policy initiatives relating to DSI were not included, but to highlight such initiatives and spread good practice, Nesta, in partnership with DSI4EU partner Barcelona Activa, has also published an Ideas Bank of case studies from across Europe of how governments, funders and other stakeholders are supporting DSI, tech for good and civic tech.

Matt Stokes, Senior Researcher, Government Innovation, Nesta says, “Digitial social innovation has enormous potential to tackle our biggest challenges and empower citizens. The European DSI Index is the first attempt to systematically understand what factors help DSI and tech for good initiatives to develop, grow and become sustainable, and how urban ecosystems across the continent compare.

“Given London’s role as the tech capital of Europe, it’s perhaps not surprising to see it is also the best place for digital social innovators to develop, with a high concentration of skills, research, funding and infrastructure. But a lot more can still be done to proactively support the field through funding, support and awareness-raising. We’re calling on policymakers to build upon these great results to boost investment and advocacy for tech for good, and to learn from other leading cities across Europe as profiled in our Ideas Bank.”

London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, said: “We’re hugely proud that London has been recognised in this way. Technology is playing a critical role in meeting some of the big challenges facing our city and at City Hall we’ve worked hard to ensure this potential is being realised for the benefit of all Londoners – from crowdfunding platforms to open calls to the tech sector to solve problems in housing, transport and air quality.”

Examples of support in London for tech for good include:

  • The Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge, which aimed to incentivise and identify innovative solutions to climate change, access to housing, dementia and isolation among vulnerable Londoners. The Challenge received over 100 applicants, and a shortlist of 14 was chosen to further develop their ideas before eight were awarded funding of £15,000 each to jointly test and refine their ideas with a group of public and private sector partners.
  • Bethnal Green Ventures, the UK’s leading tech for good accelerator, which has supported 107 tech for good ventures since 2012, of which 55 are still active (as of December 2018).
  • The London Tech for Good Meetup, a lively community of over 8,500 people from different sectors engaged with the field.
  • CAST, the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology, whose mission is to create a more responsive, resilient and digitally-enabled social sector by supporting nonprofits to embed digital and design across their services, strategy and governance and to work with sector leaders, funders and government to make this happen.

-ENDS-

For more information contact Juliet Grant in Nesta’s press office on 020 7438 2668 or 07866 949047, [email protected]

Notes to editors:

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. We've spent over 20 years working out the best ways to make change happen through research and experimenting, and we've applied that to our work in innovation policy, health, education, government innovation and the creative economy and arts. Nesta is based in the UK and supported by a financial endowment. We work with partners around the globe to bring bold ideas to life to change the world for good.

About DSI4EU
DSI4EU aims to support the growth and scale of digital social innovation (DSI), tech for good and civic tech in Europe through a programme of policy, research and practical support. Carried out by a consortium led by Nesta with Waag (Netherlands), betterplace lab (Germany), Barcelona Activa (Spain), Fab Lab Barcelona (Spain), WeMake (Italy) and the ePaństwo Foundation (Poland), DSI4EU runs from January 2018 - June 2019 with funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme. Find out more about the project at www.digitalsocial.eu/about-the-project and find our research at www.digitalsocial.eu/open-data-research-and-resources. You can follow us on Twitter at @DSI4EU.

About European Digital Social Innovation Index
The European Digital Social Innovation Index (EDSII) is the first index to measure and compare the capacity of city ecosystems to support DSI. Specifically, it aims to: identify success factors for the creation, growth and sustainability of DSI initiatives; help policymakers understand how they can better support DSI, drawing upon successful examples from other places; incentivise the development and implementation of supportive policies; inform practitioners about where has the best conditions to support DSI, which may influence where practitioners decide to set up or grow their initiatives; and raise awareness about, and interest in, DSI among people, communities and organisations not currently involved in the field.

The full methodology and standardised data for the EDSII are published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.