Annual report and accounts 2021–22

Nesta’s story for 2021-2022 has been one of new beginnings. In the first year of our new strategy, we have reoriented our work towards addressing three major societal challenges.

  • Our mission to give every child a fairer start has focused on reducing the gap in school readiness at age five between children on free school meals and the average.
  • The healthy life mission has addressed obesity – the biggest driver of ill health, after smoking.
  • The sustainable future mission has focused on achieving a rapid transformation in how we heat our homes.

As an organisation, we have become more focused and mission-driven. The way we are delivering our three missions is through three roles.

Firstly, we are acting as an innovation partner, working closely with a wide range of frontline organisations, from local authorities and energy companies to supermarkets and schools. In each of our missions, we deploy teams of designers, behavioural scientists and data scientists to design, test and scale new solutions. For example, in our fairer start mission, we partnered with local authorities in Leeds, York and Stockport to use administrative data to help improve the take-up of health visiting services and tested behavioural interventions to improve attendance of free nursery education.

Secondly, alongside supporting existing institutions to grow and change, we know that new entrants are a key contributor to innovation. This is particularly the case where solutions require new business models, or can be delivered by technology-enabled products rather than services. This year, Mission Studio – a new partnership between Nesta and Founders Factory – was created to support new tech start-ups. For example, as part of our sustainable future mission, we developed a venture that streamlines the retrofitting process and another that buys old housing stock and renews the property to meet energy-efficiency standards.

Our third role is to act as a system shaper, ensuring that the funding, policies and institutions within our mission areas are conducive to learning and innovation. Through our work on each mission, we’re starting to identify those issues, so we can create environments that nurture innovation more successfully.

As we reorientate towards three missions and start to work in new ways through our three roles, we have built on the expertise established within Nesta, as well as drawing on new capabilities. Each team supporting our three missions contains staff with subject matter expertise, as well as staff from a wide range of academic disciplines. One crucial development this year has been the acquisition of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), of which Nesta had been a founding shareholder. In December 2021, BIT became a wholly owned subsidiary of Nesta. We can now combine its expertise in behavioural science and conducting experiments with our capabilities in data science, design, experimentation, collective intelligence and arts and culture to drive even greater social impact.

Our strategy seeks to address some of society’s most deep-rooted inequalities and we know that, in order to succeed, we must ourselves become a more inclusive employer and innovator. Last year, we set ourselves nine measurable goals to improve equity and tackle exclusion through our work and within our workplace, from expanding the diversity of our staff to fostering a truly inclusive culture within our organisation. While our journey to tackle inequalities within our organisation is far from over, we are proud of the progress we have made this year to increase the diversity of new hires at Nesta.

The past year has seen a number of changes designed to ensure we use resources as efficiently as possible. Most of the work associated with our previous strategy has now been completed or become self-financing, with a view to these teams spinning out of the organisation next year. Our resources are now concentrated on delivering measurable impact against our three missions, each of which has defined theories of change and concrete, measurable goals.

By the end of March 2022, we had completed our hugely varied first projects. We have worked with National Gallery X to use the arts to bring attention to home heating in creative ways; supported local authorities to develop and use data dashboards to monitor take-up of public services; created video games that simulated the food environment of Dundee and enabled participants to visualise the impact of different interventions; and run online trials testing the effect that small changes on delivery platforms could have on food purchasing behaviour.

This year saw Sir John Gieve end his tenure of six years as Nesta’s chair of trustees, having guided Nesta with energy, inspiration and wisdom. We are enormously grateful to John, under whose leadership Nesta has gone from strength to strength.

The need for innovation to tackle the UK’s social, economic and environmental challenges has never been greater. This year we built the foundations for our work and we are now ready to go further and faster, designing, testing and scaling new solutions that improve the lives of millions of people.


Ravi Gurumurthy

Ravi Gurumurthy

Ravi Gurumurthy

Group Chief Executive Officer

Ravi Gurumurthy is Group Chief Executive Officer, joining Nesta as Chief Executive in December 2019.

View profile
Ed Richards

Ed Richards

Ed Richards


Ed Richards is the Chair of Trustees. He is also Chair of the Board of the Behavioural Insights Team.

View profile