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.

Learning to take risks, learning to succeed

This report outlines ways of developing an informed attitude towards risk taking.

This report outlines ways of developing an informed attitude towards risk taking.

Key findings:

  • Risk taking is a core skill, essential for innovation to occur and therefore for the economy. Projects  involving risk taking  need to be well organised, planned and recorded to maximise learning. They also need support from the top.
  • Schools have many opportunities to assist young people to acquire risk-taking skills, both through and outside of the curriculum. These should all be identified and taken up.
  • Barriers that need to be overcome if young people are to understand risk better include schools' constraints on time and pressure to achieve results. 
  • Risk taking can be facilitated through simple measures, for example giving young people greater freedom to design their own projects.

Innovation is urgently needed for economic growth and to find solutions to pressing national and global problems.


Risk taking is essential to innovation: anyone developing a new product, service or idea risks the possibility that it will not work, that someone else will get there first or it will be met with disinterest. Young people entering work in the twenty-first century will need to take risks to find these solutions, and addressing everyday challenges also involves complex decision making and evaluation of risk.



Heather Rolfe