Our work in health
The challenge: How to support a population living with more long-term health conditions when the health and care system is under serious financial pressure.
We support a people powered and data driven approach to health; where people have the knowledge and confidence to be at the centre of their health and care, are supported to build their own skills and networks, and where new data and solutions help people work together to solve complex problems.
What we want to see
Nesta’s vision for health is a future where people are as happy and well as possible, and the health and care system is more sustainable. Our focus is on the long term - developing relevant and credible alternative futures for health.
We believe that the key that unlocks this vision is a people powered and data driven healthcare system; one where the citizen has the knowledge and confidence to be at the centre of their care, are supported to build their own skills and networks, and where new data and solutions help people work together to solve complex problems.
To achieve this, our work focuses on three interconnected outcomes - first, that people have more power and voice to manage their own health, second, that data and digital tech is better used to improve people’s health and wellbeing, and thirdly that the system gets better at enabling faster and better innovation, and at applying those new ideas when we know they work.
Our work focuses on...
Our work focuses on:
New sources of support - which make it possible for people to be more involved in their health. These include peer support, health coaching, neighbourhood groups, high-impact volunteering and social movements. For example, we led the Realising the Value programme to bring together evidence and practice on how these methods work best.
New sources of data - which improve people’s knowledge about their health. These include people generating their own data via smartphones and wearables - to help manage health every day, inform clinical decision-making and drive new research. For example, we have backed numerous digital innovations, such as an app that uses the accelerometer in smartphones to track Parkinson’s tremors.
New sources of innovation - that generate new solutions, including our 100-day innovation method for transforming systems; challenge prizes that open up innovation to more people; and new methods to analyse data at scale.
Nesta has set up Health Lab to act as a centre of expertise on people-powered and data-driven health. We work with partners from the health, care, voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors to test and scale new ways of doing things.
We never work alone
Our partners have included: NHS England, The Cabinet Office, The Health Foundation, The Department of Health, The Big Lottery Fund, Voluntary Voices, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, The State Government of São Paulo, The Behavioural Insights Team, Power to Change, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Over the past few years we have backed over 100 local health systems and individual organisations with more than £20 million of funding.
We see new opportunities and challenges
Futures and explorations: We explore emerging trends and technologies through our futures work. For example, The NHS in 2030 report looked at what a health system could look like in 2030 with more people and data power, genomics and behavioural insights; simultaneously saving money and improving health. We’re now exploring the many ways in which artificial intelligence and machine learning could transform health systems.
New research and evidence: We generate new insight and evidence of what works. For example, Health as a Social Movement is groundbreaking research on the power of people in movements to improve health. We also apply new research techniques, such as web-scraping, to map where new innovations are emerging.
We spark creative solutions from many sources
Early-stage innovation funds: We run early-stage innovation programmes that discover and incubate new practice. Our funding programmes incorporate mentoring, capacity-building and prototyping to enable early testing. For example, we ran the Helping in Hospitals programme, supporting the creation of new roles for volunteers in hospitals with demonstrable impact on patient mood, hydration and nutrition.
Challenge prizes: Challenge prizes are one of a family of ‘open innovation’ methods tested and refined by Nesta, that help organisations tap brains far beyond their own boundaries. Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre is behind the Longitude Prize, a £10 million prize fund to hold back the lethal rise of drug resistant infections. The prize is developing a rapid, accurate, safe and affordable point-of-care diagnostic test.
We shape the most promising ideas so they can work at scale
Scaling innovation funds: We run later-stage innovation funds to grow proven innovations. These funds emphasise implementation at scale and evidence of effectiveness. We increase capacity to generate revenue, be commissioned or receive investment. For example, through the Accelerating Ideas Fund we are scaling innovations like Shared Lives family-based care for older people across the UK. The Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund backed 20 health and ageing innovations to grow using £5 million of funding, which generated an additional £10 million from other sources. We have also helped to create and grow the GoodSAM app for smartphone activated medics, which has now spread globally.
Impact investments: Nesta has used investment to support innovation for nearly 20 years. We seek positive financial and social returns by investing in innovative approaches and technologies to reduce health inequalities. We support businesses that have a combination of high social impact, demand from consumers or healthcare providers and the opportunity for scale. Our existing healthcare investments include Oomph!, Genera, and Cellnovo.
We shift systems in a new direction
Building alliances: Nesta acts as a convener across sectors and seeks to build alliances which have large-scale impact. For example, we have been a driving force behind the Coalition for Collaborative Care, a national alliance of more than 50 member organisations committed to person-centred care.
100-day innovation method: Nesta has developed an innovation method with the Rapid Results Institute that transforms local systems by supporting frontline staff and leaders to achieve meaningful change in 100 days. We have now used the method in more than 20 local health and care systems. In Essex, for example, the work has sparked deeper collaboration across the health, care and voluntary sectors and led to reductions in unnecessary hospital admissions for frail people.
Policy influence: Nesta has influenced policy at the national and local level including the focus on people power in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View.
Innovation skills: We help people in every part of the health system to innovate more effectively. For example, we are supporting the next generation of public sector innovation leaders to learn the methods and skills of innovation.
Nesta is a UK charity but we work globally. We collaborate on health-related innovation projects across the world, such as mapping open innovation techniques to improve health systems in Brazil. We also search globally for innovative solutions - the Longitude Prize is a global race to solve antimicrobial resistance. And we have supported a number of international organisations, including Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Federation of the Red Cross, to strengthen their innovation capabilities.
By 2021 Nesta will have…
- Nurtured and grown effective sources of support to improve people’s health and wellbeing, such as peer support, and contributed to these approaches reaching millions of people through mainstream adoption.
- Created new pools of data collected by people, with many millions of datapoints, that improve day-to-day management of health, inform clinical decision-making and drive new research.
- Enabled the development of a rapid, accurate, safe and affordable point-of-care diagnostic test that can reduce inappropriate antibiotic use globally.
- Used the 100-day innovation method to transform at least 40 local health and care systems at pace.
- Developed a portfolio of successful healthcare impact investments that reduce health inequalities and improve health outcomes whilst delivering commercial returns.