Nesta Challenges’ role in Nesta’s ambitious new 2030 strategy

01 Mar 2021

Nesta Challenges will support Nesta’s missions as well as tackling many other pressing problems.   

Nesta is a foundation that embraces change and goes through periods of regeneration. Doctor Who-like, the fundamentals stay the same but the personality changes in quite major ways. The new Nesta marks another big shift with a new 10 year strategy that will focus the foundations’ efforts and resources on three big social missions. The foundation’s goals are to deliver long-term impact in decarbonising household emissions, improving health and early years development.   

Meanwhile, Nesta Challenges as a Nesta founded enterprise will continue to develop challenge prizes in a wide variety of settings and geographies where we can move the needle – that includes everything from tackling ocean plastics to mitigating the effects of dementia. We will do this wherever a problem is best addressed by tapping into and engaging the broadest possible community of innovators to solve a previously insurmountable problem. In this vein, we are looking forward to engaging with Nesta’s new missions where we think that challenge prizes can be the most effective method to support and accelerate the impact that Nesta is striving for. 

Nesta Challenges is now a leading centre of expertise for the development of challenge prizes to tackle a variety of pressing problems.    

Since being set up in 2012, Nesta Challenges has delivered over 40 challenge prizes – from the Longitude Prize, promoting medtech innovation to tackle antimicrobial resistance, to the Open Up Challenges, which supported groundbreaking fintech innovators. We have backed the next generation of game-changers through our flagship prize for young people, the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize, which is now in its fourth year, and delivered multiple prizes focused on tackling climate change and making the world a greener place to live. 

More than 10,000 innovators have engaged with our challenges since we started. We have distributed £19m in prizes and seed funding so far and have a further £20m waiting to be won. In December, the £1m Mobility Unlimited Prize was awarded to Phoenix Instinct in the UK for its intelligent ultra-light carbon fibre wheelchair with the potential to transform millions of lives. In February we revealed the 14 teams in the running to win the Rapid Recovery Challenge, to bring forward solutions that help people most impacted by the economic consequences of Covid-19 regain job security and financial resilience. 

Nesta Challenges has a wide geographical reach, supporting innovators all around the world to tackle pressing problems.

We have worked with governments, foundations, charities and businesses to bring about game-changing solutions to diverse problems around the world. In the UK, Europe, North America, Africa and Asia, a global community of innovators are engaged with our prizes. 

We have supported teams from across the globe, as demonstrated in this map depicting the location of our innovators

Innovator map

Our models for attracting and supporting innovators to successfully address pressing problems are needed now more than ever.    

The world is at a turning point. Covid-19 has exposed the fragility of the global economy and shone a light on what the true impacts of global existential threats will be when they become reality. There has been a notable shift this last year in the attitudes of governments, business and the wider population that great changes are needed – from post-pandemic recovery to solving global inequality and, of course, tackling the climate emergency. 

Leaps in innovation can be achieved when we create a level playing field that provides an equal opportunity for ideas and innovators from all backgrounds and walks of life to coalesce and tackle the challenges of our time. When the best ideas, no matter their origin, are supported to flourish, the outcomes are impactful and far-reaching.

Nesta Challenges will use challenge prizes to unlock the untapped potential of the global community of thinkers, inventors and changemakers who are too often overlooked for being untested and unknown.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, pivoting  from crisis management to recovery and renewal, a decade of change awaits. We must embrace it head on and with purpose. Starting now and looking ahead, Nesta Challenges – as part of the wider Nesta family – will work to establish new relationships and partnerships around the world to continue to drive innovation and change using the proven power of challenge prizes. 

Now more than ever, we need those thinkers, those gamechangers, those diverse voices that will make this a true decade of innovation. Challenge prizes are how we reach them, support them, and bring their solutions to an expectant world. 

Learn more about our plans for the next three years

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