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Nesta's new 10 year strategy. We'd love to hear from you if you think we could work together - Adam Lang, head of Nesta Scotland

Data driven innovation and Nesta’s new 10 year strategy

Adam Lang, Head of Nesta in Scotland, spoke to The Data Lab recently about the new 10 year strategy that they have recently launched. We were so inspired by his talk that we asked him to share their new mission objectives with you as well – perhaps you’ll think of a way you could work with Nesta to develop and test new ideas related to their strategy and missions and help to bring about a data driven revolution.

Nesta’s strategy is focused around 3 core innovation missions

At Nesta, we have recently launched an ambitious new 10-year strategy to guide and inform our work through to 2030. This strategy is focussed around three core innovation missions:

  • A fairer start: We want every child to have an equal start in life. Our mission is to narrow the outcome gap between children growing up in disadvantage and the national average.
  • A healthy life: We want good health for all, particularly those most affected by existing inequalities. Our mission is to increase the average number of healthy years lived, while narrowing health inequalities
  • A sustainable future: We want an economy that works better for people and the planet. Our mission is to accelerate the decarbonisation of household activities in Scotland and improve levels of economic productivity.

Diagram of Missions and Roles for Nesta - see description for all text


Each of our missions is a response to a significant generational societal challenge, one where we believe social innovation has a big part to play in driving large-scale change. Despite the big challenges in each of these areas, we are optimistic and believe that large-scale, meaningful change is more possible now than ever before, if we combine our most important assets – people, data, money and culture – in new ways.

A data revolution is taking place in almost every part of our economy and society

There is immense potential to push the boundaries of how data is used in our public services and social movements. For instance, identifying problems earlier using predictive analytics, matching resources with needs more accurately, tailoring services in highly personalised ways and combining human and machine intelligence at scale.

As a small country with interconnected public services and a shared desire across the public sector, academia, social enterprise and civil society to see more prevention and asset-based approaches, we are in a strong position to harness this data revolution for social good.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for robust, verified and open data to help inform decisions, improve government communications and public engagement – an area where Scotland can lead the way. We can be pioneers at delivering interconnected open and real-time public service data. Great progress has already been made with the Edinburgh City Deal’s focus on Data Driven Innovation and at a social policy level. For example, with recent efforts to better link homelessness and health data in Scotland. But there is more we can do. We can be more open by default across sectors and consideration should be given to how we might create shared data regions in Scotland for key public services that cut across traditional operating siloes.

We can build on the fantastic work of The Data Lab and others in the creation of Scotland’s new AI strategy to prioritise ethics, trust and data justice in our approach to harnessing data for social good and collective impact.

In addition to more traditional data science and data engineering techniques, we are also interested in exploring the role of collective intelligence to develop new insight, new approaches and new solutions to long standing or seemingly intractable shared problems.

Collective Intelligence comes when people work together

Collective intelligence can be best understood as the improved capacity and knowledge that is created when people work together, often with the help of technology, to mobilise a wider range of information, ideas and insights. Collective intelligence helps social problem solving by improving how we:

  • Understand Problems: by generating context relevant insights, facts and information on the dynamics of a given problem or situation.
  • Seek Solutions: in helping find novel approaches or tested solutions from elsewhere, supporting innovators to create new ways of tackling the problem.
  • Decide and Act: by making decisions with, or informed by, collaborative input from a wide range of people and relevant experts.
  • Learn and Adapt: by better monitoring the implementation of initiatives by involving citizens in generating data and sharing knowledge to improve the ability of others


As the UK’s innovation agency for social good we want to make a real and tangible difference in our mission areas over the next decade. But we know that we can’t do this alone – nor do we want to. We want to work with rigour and creativity alongside partners, collaborators and critical friends across Scotland to harness proven methods of social innovation – like data science and collective intelligence – to test and scale new ideas to our shared challenges.


If you are interested in working with us, learning more about our new strategy or any of our innovation methods, then please contact – an interactive version of our strategy to 2030 is also available online.

Whether you are a frontline practitioner, policymaker, private company or innovator, we’d love to hear from you if you think we could work together to develop and test new ideas related to our strategy and missions. So please do get in touch.


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