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Twenty five per cent of the UK took part in the collaborative economy in the last year, by exchanging goods or services online, according to new research1 published by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and the Collaborative Lab. The report for the first time reviews the state of the UK’s collaborate economy, profiling those that participate in it and the ways in which they do so.

The collaborative economy is defined as using digital technologies to connect groups of people to make better use of goods, services and skills. Often referred to as the ‘sharing economy’, this area is experiencing a period of growth and experimentation; research by the European Commission found that the potential of the collaborative economy is significant, with annual growth exceeding 25 per cent.2

The report shows that more people are using the collaborative economy to participate in financial transactions and to interact with people they don’t know. In the last year, 20 per cent of people in the UK had bought or sold used goods, while only eight per cent had borrowed or lent something for free. 16 per cent of people in the UK interacted with people they didn’t know through the collaborative economy.

Helen Goulden, Executive Director at Nesta, said: “The collaborative economy is growing fast, with more people than ever gaining access to finance, learning, goods and services through new digital platforms - and new networks of providers. The core principles of the collaborative economy can be applied in almost any context, whether you’re a multinational corporate or a community group in Cornwall. And although we can expect some turbulence as it grows and matures, the potential is clearly visible for the collaborative economy to work in powerful and positive ways for 21st century business, governments and communities.” 

The research showed that certain groups were more likely to be taking part in the collaborative economy, while others were less likely to participate.

Those in full (32 per cent) or part-time employment (34 per cent), managerial, professional and administrative workers (31 per cent), and people with children (36 per cent) were more likely to be taking part.

However, those over 65 (seven per cent), from ethnic minority groups (11 per cent) and people in semi-skilled and unskilled employment or unemployed with state benefits (14 per cent) were less likely.

Author and founder of Collaborative Lab, Rachel Botsman said, "The Collaborative Economy is like a zoom lens, offering a transformative perspective on the social, environmental, and economic value that can be created from a number of assets in ways and on a scale that did not exist before."    

In the coming months, Nesta will publish additional research and explore opportunities for practical action surrounding the collaborative economy. For more information and to download the report, Making Sense of the UK Collaborative Economy, go to: www.nesta.org.uk/publications/making-sense-uk-collaborative-economy

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Notes to editors

For media enquiries please contact Natalie Hodgson on 020 7438 2614 / [email protected]

·         1Making Sense of the UK Collaborative Economy is available to download here: www.nesta.org.uk/publications/making-sense-uk-collaborative-economy. As part of the research Nesta commissioned TNS Global to survey a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults about their participation in collaborative activities across a selection of sectors.

·         2 http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/innovation/policy/business-innovation-observatory/files/case-studies/12-she-accessibility-based-business-models-for-peer-to-peer-markets_en.pdf

 About Nesta: Nesta is the UK’s innovation foundation. www.nesta.org.uk