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.

Nesta, the UK’s innovation agency, has acquired Behavioural Insights Limited (BIT) in a £15.4 million deal to accelerate social innovation. By bringing together two leaders in their fields, the acquisition will help Nesta tackle some of the UK’s most pressing social challenges. In 2021 Nesta announced a 10-year mission to halve obesity rates, eliminate the school readiness gap, and slash household carbon emissions by 28% to reach net zero.

As a result of the acquisition, each organisation will gain and exchange world class technical expertise in behavioural science, experimentation, design and data science. BIT will remain a commercial social purpose company, whose profits will be invested in social impact initiatives and also help Nesta to advance its social missions.

BIT has been associated with Nesta for a decade and is one of its most successful investments. Nesta has been a founding shareholder of BIT since 2014, when it helped the company to spin out of the Cabinet Office and invested in a 30% shareholding. 

Ravi Gurumurthy, Chief Executive of Nesta said: “Nesta and BIT have a proud history of working together to change society for good. At Nesta we know our 2030 goals are ambitious, but we are determined to meet the urgency of the challenges facing our society. By coming together in this way we will accelerate innovation in our three missions and we’ll benefit from BIT’s experience of translating behavioural insights into policy impact.

“Many of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the UK today are intrinsically linked with behaviour. We won’t reach net zero without shifting behaviour on how people travel and heat their homes. To tackle obesity, we need to understand and influence how food environments shape our eating and purchasing habits. Addressing inequalities in education and life chances will require a focus on parental relationships, what motivates pupils, and pedagogical practice among teachers.”

BIT has worked with governments in more than 50 countries and owns successful subsidiary businesses in the US, Australia, Singapore, Canada and France. BIT has run more than 700 randomised trials in dozens of countries. It has a rich history of influencing policy in a range of areas including health and wellbeing, energy and sustainability, and education and skills. This includes projects with UK government bodies and charities to reduce childhood obesity, improve student attendance and encourage people to switch to electric vehicles.

With the help of  BIT’s global network, Nesta and BIT will be able to scale, test and evolve solutions in a wider range of countries and settings. This will increase the impact and scale of Nesta’s work globally, while improving its domestic programmes by applying perspectives and lessons from other countries. For example, learning from BIT’s work with the UN Environment Programme to encourage people to adopt more sustainable habits and lifestyles.

Professor David Halpern, Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team said: “The coming together of our two organisations opens an exciting new chapter in our partnership. We share Nesta’s ambition to change UK society for good and transform the lives of millions of people. Our shared track record, along with our independence, commercial resilience, and deep expertise will help us rise to the enormous challenges facing us on the road to 2030.

“It is more than a decade since BIT was created as a small team in 10 Downing Street. Since then, it has expanded into a social purpose company of around 250 people delivering policy solutions across the world.

The intensification of our partnership will take the field of applied behavioural science to the next level, blending behavioural science with innovative mixed methods including data science, design, social psychology and collective intelligence. In short, it will enable both organisations to better deliver what we were created to do - to harness innovation and evidence to make the world a better place.”

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