People and places are being ‘left behind’ because they are cut off from the economic frontier - the knowledge economy. This is leading to low productivity, increasing inequality, and declining trust in politics.

To address these challenges, Nesta believes that the next government needs to change how the knowledge economy works – building an inclusive economy, preparing people for the future and transforming democracy, in particular by giving more people the power to shape the direction that new technologies and innovations take.

Review of the manifestos:

  • The Conservative’s manifesto focuses on ‘areas where the UK can generate a commanding lead in the industries of the future’, but it does not explicitly link innovation investment to solving challenges facing society. Nesta sees a missed opportunity to acknowledge the importance of social, institutional and technological innovation, which will be crucial for improving productivity and working conditions in the wider economy.
  • Labour’s manifesto promises to ‘rewrite the rules of the economy so that it works for everyone’, and commits to significant investment to improve public services. It makes proposals for a more ‘democratic’ economy and to rebalance the economy across the country. Nesta sees a missed opportunity to say more about the impact of technology on society and how the public might influence the directions that technology and innovation take.
  • The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto focuses both on creating an innovation-led economy and on inequality. It includes some measures to create an inclusive economy, a workforce ready for the future, and pledges to transform democracy (including giving more people the power to shape the direction innovation). Nesta would like to see a greater connection between these priorities: more thought about how investment in innovation can be used imaginatively to address inequality.
  • Much of the SNP manifesto is focused on the big constitutional issues in relation to exiting the EU and the potential for a second referendum on both this and Scottish independence. It sets out an economic vision that reflects several of the ideas that Nesta has argued for but could have made a stronger case for devolution of R&D spend and could have taken the opportunity to advocate for greater participation of the public in political life.

Madeleine Gabriel, head of inclusive innovation, Nesta, comments:

“A number of immediate issues like Brexit, security and the NHS are understandably taking centre stage during this general election campaign but politicians must also look much further ahead. For the UK to be ready to face the economic, social and political challenges, we need long-term solutions and manifestos containing ‘long-term thought’. If you took a ‘pick n’ mix’ from each of the major party manifestos you could assemble a whole that could help to drive an inclusive knowledge economy but taken individually, each party has missed this vital opportunity.”

Analysis of each of the main parties’ manifestos is published on Nesta’s website:

A single episode podcast featuring Nesta’s policy team discussing the manifestos reviewed in this General Election series will be released next week.


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

Nesta_Press [email protected]

Notes to editor

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. | @nesta_uk

Part of