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.

The Healthier Lives Data Fund is a partnership between Nesta and the Scottish Government to invest in and support innovative digital technologies that make data available and useful to citizens to help them lead healthier, and more independent, lives.

We are looking for bold and ambitious people-facing projects that demonstrate innovative approaches to empowering Scottish citizens with data and information, and develop and showcase the potential of a new generation of data-driven, people-facing digital technology.

Grants of up to £30,000 over nine months are available. These projects will benefit from Nesta’s direct advice and support, including user-centered design and project delivery, as well as Nesta’s wider network of partners and expertise. The Scottish Government will also provide support, for example on accessing data and information governance. Grantees will also benefit from being part of a Scottish peer group which will help shape how Scotland grows its data economy.

What do we mean by data?

We are taking a broad definition of data for the purposes of the fund to include both numerical and textual information. Data can be from multiple sources, including but not limited to:

  • National health data e.g. held by the Information Services Division (ISD)
  • Locally held health data e.g. held by the Health Boards
  • Social care data including data held by local authorities, the third sector and the independent care sector
  • Local authority data
  • Environmental data
  • Self-generated and experiential data e.g. from wearables, smartphones, sensors etc.

We are particularly interested in projects that combine data sources to create new and innovative technologies and user insights.

What do we mean by people-facing?

Citizens interact with health technology in a number of ways, including as patient, consumer and participant. Understanding what citizens care about and what they want from technology isn’t just an optional add-on, it’s necessary to harness the huge potential of technology to transform health in people’s everyday lives.

Here are some guiding principles for the type of projects we are looking for (but this is not an exhaustive list):

  1. Citizens are supported to self-manage their long term conditions e.g. using data in novel ways to support the self-management of people with long-term conditions, especially co-morbidities; technologies that allow citizens to access the right information at the right time for their condition including bypassing the healthcare system to other more appropriate support ; or technologies that use data to prevent people cascading to two or more long term conditions.
  2. Citizens are supported to be at the centre of decisions about their health and care e.g. technologies that facilitate shared decision making between patients and clinicians; technologies that use data and information in novel ways to enhance conversations between citizens and health and care professionals; or technologies that allow citizens to feel in control of their health and care choices.
  3. Citizens are supported to lead healthier lifestyles e.g. technologies that support people to make lifestyle behaviour changes; public health focused technologies that use data to help citizens lead healthier lifestyles; or novel innovations that use data to prevent people getting ill.
  4. Citizens have control over their data and use this to lead healthier lives e.g. Personal Data Stores for health and care; technologies that enable citizens to pool and link data sources to get actionable insights; or novel ways of incentivising citizens to donate or share data to benefit their health and the health of others like them.

Cross-cutting themes that we are also interested in are projects that:

  • address the unmet needs of the remote and rural Scottish population
  • projects that demonstrate a “triple win” of data that’s not only useful to citizens, but that also can support shared decision making with health care professionals, and data that builds knowledge and contributes to research.

Projects can incorporate more than one of these principles. We are also interesting in hearing about other novel innovations that address the overall theme but do not fall into any of these principles.

What do we mean by digital technologies?

We would expect to see a wide range of data-driven, people-facing digital technologies supported in the fund. These include but are not limited to:

  • Mobile apps
  • Interactive web platforms (but not static websites)
  • Immersive Experience technologies including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) applications
  • Chatbots
  • Voice assistant technologies
  • Technologies that include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and augmented analytics
  • Wearables, Internet of Things (IoT) applications and Smart Spaces technologies
  • Blockchain
  • Other novel or innovative technologies.


To be considered, submitted projects must:

  • Be delivered in Scotland for the benefit of people living in Scotland.
  • Aim to deliver and pilot a digital technology prototype that makes data available and useful to citizens to help them lead healthier and more independent lives.
  • Be from a legally constituted UK organisation, including health and social care organisations, private companies, social enterprises and charities. We regret that we cannot fund individuals.

Due the fund size, we anticipate the bulk of the innovations will be funded at Minimum Viable Product / early testing stage. However, we will also consider funding established technologies especially those that aim to repurpose a current solution to be person-centred, support a different patient group or condition, or use different data sets for example.

To be part of the fund we want to work with organisations who demonstrate they:

  • Are passionate about the opportunities that new technologies and ways of working can bring to citizens living healthier lives.
  • Have a commitment to actively taking part in workshops and events.
  • Have the right team, or recruitment plan, in place, appropriate for the project’s stage of development and delivery.
  • Have a clear idea of how the grant will be spent and what progress is achievable over the 9 months of project delivery.
  • Are open to being challenged and supported to grow their idea.
  • Are happy to share their learning more widely - the challenges as well as the successes.
  • Work with open data / open source technology (desirable)

What is out of scope of the fund?

  • Innovations that are only focused on making the health and social care system more efficient or that are designed to be used solely by health and social care professionals - even if they are of benefit to people.
  • Innovations that aim to help research but which are not people-facing and do not support people to live healthier and more independent lives.
  • Innovations that cannot demonstrate how they are sufficiently different from the status quo.
  • Development of a website where there is no innovative use of data.

We are also not able to support ideas that:

  • Are likely to increase inequality or exclusion, or otherwise have a harmful or detrimental effect on individuals.
  • Are not likely to benefit the public, or a sufficient portion of the public. We cannot support ideas that are solely or predominantly for the personal or private financial benefit of an individual or organisation.

How will successful projects be selected?

As well as demonstrating how projects contribute to the focus areas above, applicants will be assessed on how they meet the following selection criteria:

Problem: does the project address a real citizen health and care need? How big is the scale of the problem in Scotland? How will the technology contribute to solving this problem? Does the application demonstrate a clear understanding, and provide evidence, of what citizens want?

People-facing: does the primary function of the innovation enable people to use data to enable them, or a loved one, to lead a healthier and more independent life everyday? How will the innovation empower citizens and give them agency over their health? How will citizens be involved in the design process of the innovation? (Here is a useful co-production self-reflection tool that might help you see where your project is with regard to user-centred design and co-production.)

Inclusive: how will the project address health inequalities and issues of health literacy? How will the innovation address issues of digital literacy and access to technology?

Innovation and ambition: how novel and compelling is the idea? How could this innovation change the way people manage their health and care?

Impact: does the innovation build on existing evidence and expertise? What impact over the 9 months of the project would the project have on Scotland’s citizens and communities? How would this impact be measured? What is the plan for continuing the impact of the technology beyond the 9 months of the fund?

Scale: is this an idea that can grow and benefit many people (even if the funded project only reaches a small number of people)?

Sustainability: is there a credible route to the initiative becoming financially self-sustaining over time? How strong is the delivery team or partnership?

A panel of experts, including people with lived experience, will review applications to determine which have the greatest potential to deliver the ambition of the fund and provide the strongest evidence against the selection criteria.

How to apply

Learning about the fund

The fund opens for the submissions of expressions of interest on Wednesday 28 November 2018.

We are hosting briefing workshops in Scotland on the following dates (please book using the links:

We strongly encourage potential applicants to attend one of the workshops or webinar. The workshops will be a chance to hear more about the fund and get some practical tools to develop your idea, meet other projects and potential collaborators, and discuss your idea with the Nesta team and get feedback.

Please also see our FAQs which explain more about the eligibility criteria and the types of projects we are looking for. These will be updated based on questions we receive from potential applicants. We will also upload the slides from the workshops and webinar when available.

Proposals: submit your idea

We are no longer accepting Expression of Interest submissions.

Shortlisting: Invitations to development workshop

Based on the ideas submitted, Nesta and the Scottish Government will create a shortlist of ideas with greatest potential by Wednesday 16 January 2019 and invite you to attend a workshop to develop them on Tuesday 22 January 2019. Shortlisted applicants will meet with the Nesta and Scottish Government team to review and work on the ideas together. The aim of this is to create connections between projects and support development of all the shortlisted ideas.

Final proposals

Shortlisted ideas who have joined the development workshop will then be invited to submit full applications by 10am on Monday 25 February 2019. Nesta and the Scottish Government will then make final decisions working with expert external advisors.

Key dates

  • Briefing workshops: Monday 3 December 2018 (Edinburgh and Glasgow); Tuesday 4 December 2018 (Inverness)
  • Online briefing webinar: Thursday 6 December 2018. Replay the webinar or listen to the recording.
  • Deadline for EOI submission: 10am Friday 14 December 2018: Submit your idea via the online Expression of Interest form.
  • Shortlist notified: Wednesday 16 January 2019
  • Workshop for shortlisted ideas in Scotland: Tuesday 22 January 2019
  • Deadline for full application: Monday 25 February 2019
  • Grantees notified: Monday 8 March 2019
  • April 2019 to December 2019: period of grant funding

Next steps