Annual Report and Accounts 2020–21
The past year has seen substantial change at Nesta, driven by COVID-19 and the launch of a new 10-year strategy.
This financial year (2020/21) started at the peak of the first surge of COVID-19 in the UK and ended as we recovered from the second surge. Even today, the pandemic continues to shape our personal and work lives and casts a shadow of uncertainty over the coming months. Like most employers, we closed our office and asked staff to work from home in March 2020, hoping to reopen in the summer. But lockdown largely continued for a further year and we are only now taking tentative steps back towards working in the office. We are grateful to all our staff who adjusted to the new world so quickly and effectively even with the pressures of cramped flats, home schooling, and isolation.
As the UK went into lockdown, we focused on what we could do to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 on education, health and employment. Alongside the Education Endowment Foundation and Impetus, we established the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), aimed at delivering one-to-one tuition to disadvantaged pupils to help them catch up on the learning they lost as schools closed. We supported the expansion of this evidence-based intervention through online tutoring, helping the NTP to enrol 345,000 pupils in its first year. This focus on tutoring built on Nesta’s long-term work in education technology and investment in companies including Third Space Learning. Alongside this work, we grew our partnership with the Department for Education (DfE), working with more than 60 schools to test online tools that push the boundaries of remote learning.
As the NHS shifted many appointments online, our People Powered Results team worked with NHSX to support the transition, gathering and analysing feedback from frontline practitioners to help tackle challenges and accelerate the shift, so that more routine appointments take place in spite of the COVID-19 crisis.
Our CareerTech Challenge backed 31 innovators in all, who collectively supported thousands of people with guidance to retrain for and find work in more secure sectors, based on the skills they have. We also invested in a new Challenge Prize – the £3 million Rapid Recovery Prize – to support the growth of new solutions to help one million people hardest hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic access work and handle financial stress.
We also undertook a fundamental review of our strategy. Starting from our commitment to achieving social good through innovation, we asked how we could maximise our impact over the next 10 years. While we were impressed with the range and quality of Nesta’s work, we concluded that we would achieve more impact over time if we had a tighter focus both in our objectives and in our skills and methods. Our new strategy reorients Nesta towards three long-term missions, each of which reflect generational challenges.
Our Fairer Start Mission aims to narrow the gap in educational attainment between children with low incomes and the national average. We are focused on the two age ranges where inequalities widen the most – in early years and secondary school.
The goal of our Healthy Life Mission is to half the prevalence of obesity in the UK, in a drive to narrow health inequalities between the richest and poorest.
Our Sustainable Future Mission is focused on accelerating the decarbonisation of people’s homes, with the aim of reducing household emissions by 28 per cent within a decade and be on track to reach zero by 2048.
Our strategic review also saw us redefine the roles we play as a foundation, and the skills and expertise we seek to deploy. As an ‘Innovation partner’, we will work with frontline partners and deploy teams of behavioural scientists, data scientists, and designers to design new solutions and test them rigorously, with a view towards achieving nation-wide scale. As a ‘Venture Builder’, we will support the creation of new products and start-ups, and invest in early stage ventures. Using the insight we gain from our work partnering frontline organisations, our networks and capital, we aim to generate three new ventures a year, and invest in four to six existing early-stage ventures. Our third role will be more indirect, working as a ‘System Shaper’ to create the conditions that support innovation in each of our three missions.
The change in strategy and approach led to a significant restructuring, with some activities and teams scaling down as new mission teams and programmes were formed. We thank all our staff for the commitment they showed to ensure that Nesta responded effectively to the pandemic and for their help in reshaping and then launching our new mission and strategy early this year, despite not being able to gather in person. We also thank our trustees for their guidance and encouragement and particularly thank Natalie Tydeman and Joanna Killlian who have stepped down since our last report.
The need for innovation to tackle the UK’s social, economic and environmental challenges has never been greater. As Nesta enters its third decade, we aim to build on the innovation expertise we have developed and apply it to generate large-scale, long-term change. We are setting out to make an impact for our missions with optimism and humility – confident in the skills and contribution we can bring to new partnerships, while acknowledging that tackling these challenges requires patience, an appetite for risk, and a willingness to learn.
Protector's annual report for the financial year 2020 - 2021
The Nesta Trust has a protector appointed by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with a fiduciary duty to ensure the integrity of the administration of the Trust. The current Protector is James Sinclair Taylor. The Protector prepares an annual statement for publication by Nesta (as Trustee of the Nesta Trust) setting out how the Protector's function has been exercised during the year.