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.

Expressions of Interest for ShareLab Fund closed 11:59pm 5 January 2018

We’re pleased to announce the launch of this year’s ShareLab Fund, which aims to support early stage organisations to develop and apply collaborative digital platforms to tackle real world challenges. Grants of £15,000 - £30,000 are available.

In last year’s fund, we worked in partnership with eight pilot projects, which focused on areas as broad as sharing community spaces to helping the homeless. We’re using what we’ve learnt to inform our thinking and help shape the debate around the collaborative economy, but there’s more to be done.

What is the ShareLab Fund?

The ShareLab Fund was established in 2016 to grow evidence and understanding of how collaborative digital platforms can deliver positive social impact. To date, most applications of collaborative digital platforms have been driven by the corporate world - and especially by Silicon Valley - in for-profit business models. We believe there is potential for some of the characteristics of those platforms, such as enabling new ways to find and mobilise assets, time, skills, money, resources and people, to be directed specifically towards addressing social needs.

The ShareLab Fund aims to test this hypothesis by supporting early stage organisations to develop and apply collaborative digital platforms to tackle real world challenges that deliver positive social impact.

By collaborative digital platform we mean: A web based digital tool, such as an app or a website, that helps find, connect or mobilise assets, time, skills, money, resources or people

This year's fund theme: Prevention

The theme of this year’s fund is “Prevention”. Recognising the intense pressure on local authorities and other public sector organisations, we invite expressions of interest (EOIs) from people with ideas for how collaborative digital platforms can help relieve pressure on existing local public services. These ideas might be focused on preventing social problems from starting, from growing worse, or from creating follow-on needs.

Examples areas might include:

  • Connecting the elderly
  • Addressing transport poverty
  • Sharing community resources
  • Reducing waste and improving sustainability
  • Supporting communities to help themselves
  • Supporting people with low-level care needs
  • Encouraging children to learn and play
  • Addressing anxiety and mental health issues in young people
  • Tackling homelessness

We are offering grants of between £15,000 - £30,000 to organisations who best meet our criteria (see below), and who wish to test an innovative idea, or move from prototype to pilot.

Nesta’s grant funds can be used to cover:

  • Direct project costs
  • Related staff costs
  • Learning and development / user research

We also aim to offer non-financial support in the form of:

  • Providing mentorship and advice to develop and grow the idea
  • Helping to identify local authorities or other community partners who may be willing to support a pilot
  • Accessing other funding opportunities

Criteria for Expressions of Interest (EOIs)


To be considered, ideas submitted in EOIs must:

  • Make use of a collaborative digital platform, broadly defined as: “a web based digital tool, such as an app or a website, that helps find, connect or mobilise assets, time, skills, money, resources or people to address a social challenge.”
  • Clearly demonstrate the ability to contribute to the aim of prevention: directly or indirectly preventing problems from starting, growing worse, or creating follow-on needs.
  • Focus on areas of prevention that are likely to help relieve pressure on existing local public services provided by local authorities or other public sector organisations.


Applications demonstrating some or all of these characteristics will be favoured:

  • Have the potential to be conducted or tested in partnership with local authorities or other public sector organisations.
  • Outline a plausible route to becoming financially sustainable.
  • Explore innovative forms of operating / ownership that spread benefits widely.

We are not able to support

As a social innovation charity, Nesta will not be able to fund 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 benefit of an individual or organisation.


Anyone may submit an idea to the ShareLab Fund, even if they are not in a position to develop it themselves. However, to take things further, they will need to be able to receive funds through a legally incorporated body such as a company, charitable incorporated organisation or similar, which is registered in the UK.

We are looking for individuals and organisations who:

  • Are passionate about the opportunities that new technologies and ways of working can bring to public sector and social challenges.
  • Have a commitment to taking part in workshops and events as part of idea development.
  • Are supported by a competent team who are open to being challenged and supported to grow their idea.

Frequently asked questions

We have created a FAQ page for the ShareLab Fund to help answer any queries, but if you have any questions please email [email protected].

How to apply

Phase 1 – Submit an idea

We invite you to submit your Expression of Interest (EOI) by 11:59pm 5 January 2018. You will need to fill out a short questionnaire to explain your idea.

Phase 2 – Development workshop and webinar

Nesta will shortlist the ideas with greatest potential and host a workshop to develop them on 22 January 2018 at Nesta’s offices at 58 Victoria Embankment, London. Selected applicants will meet with Nesta mentors and external advisors to review and iterate the ideas together. The aim is to create connections between applicants and improve all the ideas. Those who cannot make this workshop will need to join a webinar covering the same content on 23 January 2018.

Those who have joined the workshop or webinar will then be invited to submit full applications, with funding requests of £15,000 - £30,000. The deadline for the full applications will be 5 February 2018.

Please note: Information provided by you in your Expression of Interest, at the workshop or webinar, or in your full application may be shared with anyone else helping us to run or evaluate the ShareLab Fund (including the workshop and webinar), and otherwise as required to administer the ShareLab Fund. Other applicants who attend the workshop and webinar may also have access to the information you share at those events. You should bear this in mind when attending the workshop or webinar and preparing your full application, and in particular if you intend to share information that could be confidential or commercially sensitive.

Phase 3 – Selection and awards

A panel of experts will review the full applications to determine which will receive funding. Beyond the requirement to meet our main criteria, specified above, the panel will consider the following five elements when recommending awards:

Innovation and Ambition: is the idea original and compelling; does it meet a clear and demonstrable public need?

Desirability: is it appealing to users / commissioners?

Impact: if the idea were successful, would the impact be meaningful?

Scale: is this an idea that could have broad applicability in other geographies / contexts?

Sustainability: is there a credible route to the initiative becoming self-sustaining?

We will also consider the extent to which each team has the necessary skills and partnerships in place. As part of the support offer, Nesta will provide teams with appropriate advice, networks and support.


5 January 2018 - Submit your idea via the Expression of Interest form by 11.59pm

22 January 2018 - Workshop for shortlisted ideas


23 January 2018 - Webinar for for shortlisted ideas

5 February 2018 - Submit your full application