Nesta and UKRI offering £6m funding for start-ups in healthy ageing

Thursday 29 April 2021 (London) – Nesta – the UK’s innovation foundation for social good – and UK Research and Investment (UKRI) have announced a new two year partnership to provide up to £6 million in combined investment and grant funding for companies working to improve health outcomes in later life.

This funding partnership is a significant step towards increasing healthy life expectancy in the UK, which has slowed dramatically as health inequalities have widened. Research shows that on average the poorest in society die around nine years before their more affluent peers, and experience ill health almost two decades earlier [1].

The new Nesta and UKRI fund aims to support companies between Seed stage and Series A offering products or services to increase healthy life expectancy and reduce health inequalities. Nesta is particularly looking to invest in start-ups that are focused on reducing loneliness – for instance for those transitioning to living in care – or supporting people to remain in work in later life, which is crucial to quality of life.

Potential investees can apply for between £250k and £1M of investment capital from Nesta Impact Investments. Nesta is making up to £3 million of funding available. Qualifying companies will then be eligible to apply for further match grant funding from UKRI. 

Manish Miglani, Investment Director, Nesta Impact Investments, said: 

“Nesta is committed to increasing the average number of healthy years lived in the UK, whilst narrowing health inequalities. This £6 million partnership with UKRI will enable us to invest in innovative approaches, and solutions that can overcome an issue that is central to Nesta’s mission through Impact Investments. We are particularly interested in companies between Seed stage and Series A that are reskilling older people to reduce later years unemployment – further perpetuated by the ongoing pandemic – as well as solutions that can keep people healthy and independent for longer.” 

George MacGinnis, Healthy Ageing Challenge Director, UK Research and Innovation said:

“UKRI’s new partnership with Nesta will deliver meaningful investment in helping people live longer, high-quality lives with dignity.  The Healthy Ageing Challenge sits at the heart of healthy ageing research and development in the UK and is an engine driving economic and social development. The issue of inequality in health and the effect it has on later years has yet to be solved.  We can’t expect that just providing more of the same old products and services will address this.  As a nation we need to encourage, support and nurture radical, disruptive approaches that change the game for people at risk of poor health outcomes, investing in prevention and supporting life choices that enable us to get ahead of the curve of health inequality later in life.” 

The new £3m fund from Nesta is open for applications now, through to 31 March 2023. Nesta Impact Investment will invest between £250k and £1 million in successful applicant businesses. Successful applicants will then be able to apply for match funding from UKRI up to the same value as Nesta’s investment. 

Nesta is a champion of diversity, equality and inclusion – it encourages applications from founders of all backgrounds and, likewise, diverse teams.   

Visit Nesta Impact Investments for more details, eligibility criteria and to apply:




Investments leads £1.5 million investment round in Q doctor 

  • Funding comes at a critical time to enable Q doctor to ramp up support for NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The Q doctor platform enables greater virtual access to NHS care in GP practices, hospitals, and the community via 111 and community clinics, helping to keep patients and clinicians safe
  • Q doctor works with the largest urgent care providers nationwide and an NHS Digital approved supplier for video consultation

Social impact investor Nesta Impact Investments (NII), part of Nesta, has led a £1.5m growth funding round in Q doctor, a rapidly growing healthcare technology platform that is helping the NHS to deliver patient-centred care. Nesta’s investment was made alongside key angel investors and retail investors represented by Seedrs and comes at a critical time to enable Q doctor to support the NHS in responding to COVID-19.

Q doctor provides hundreds of NHS GP practices, urgent care providers and hospitals with the technology needed to have safe, secure, easy to use video consultations with patients. Having recently been approved by NHS Digital for video consultation in two different centrally funded fast tracks, in response to COVID-19, Q doctor is scaling at pace to meet the demand and is now available to 25 million patients. This fresh capital will be used to scale Q doctor’s reach and impact in the UK by strengthening its product development and business efforts. The investment is the latest addition to NII’s healthcare portfolio and forms part of the strategy to invest in products and services that use patient-centred solutions to help improve health outcomes in the UK.

Manish Miglani, Healthcare Lead at Nesta Impact Investments, and who will join the Q doctor Board, said,

“Nesta’s health investment activity focuses on innovative and scalable technologies that improve health outcomes, reduce health inequalities, and help patients get more tailored care. Q doctor already assists NHS clinicians and patients by integrating with existing NHS systems, rather than seeking to replace NHS GP services: this was key to our investment decision. We are excited to have led this very significant investment round, particularly at this pressing time, and look forward to supporting Q doctor’s scale-up plans.”

Chris Whittle, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Q doctor added,

“I am delighted to have completed our funding round led by Nesta Impact Investments and being able to bring in pro-NHS individuals at the same time via Seedrs. Q doctor has achieved national firsts in supporting 111, outpatient departments, hundreds of GP practices, and most recently London’s first COVID-19 Isolation Centre at Heathrow. Our solution, from a clinically led company, is tried and tested across the NHS; this funding is well timed to resource our rapid growth, as we support the NHS through the COVID-19 crisis at scale”.

Empiribox Ltd raises £2m funding to support primary teachers to deliver inspiring practical science lessons online

Social impact investor Nesta Impact Investments (NII), part of Nesta, and London-based investment manager, Downing LLP, have led a £2m growth funding round in Empiribox Ltd. The rapidly growing science education provider supplies resources for primary school teachers to teach practical science lessons.

Empiribox subscribers are sent science equipment, lesson and assessment resources and professional development plans for teachers. As teachers are forced to adapt quickly to teaching remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak, the investment will help Empiribox to launch its new online platform to engage students with exciting and practical science lessons from afar.

The new digital ‘Empiribox @ Home’ service will provide interactive videos, worksheets, quizzes and hands-on experiments allowing impactful science education to take place from home. This new product will serve as an add-on to the existing subscription service and as a stand-alone service that will be free for use by registered users during the Summer Term.

Nesta and Downing’s investment will enable Empiribox Ltd to tackle the UK’s persistent STEM skills gap by capturing the imaginations of students at a time when science education is needed more than ever to address global challenges such as climate change, health pandemics and resource conservation.

Empiribox aligns to the national curriculum, inspires children of all ages and saves time for primary school teachers. Its mission is to ensure young pupils experience the excitement of science, are equipped with the best building blocks for future science education and are ultimately encouraged to study science subjects past the age of compulsory education.

Manish Miglani, Education Lead at Nesta Impact Investments, who has joined the Empiribox Board, said,

“Nesta’s education investment activity focuses on innovative and scalable solutions that improve education outcomes, whilst reducing education inequalities through access to resources.

“We are excited to have taken part in this significant growth round and look forward to seeing the expansion of Empiribox’s digital and classroom science offerings and its ongoing growth.”

Mike Kennedy, Portfolio Director at Downing LLP, who has also joined the Empiribox board added,

“We are thrilled to have participated in this funding round alongside Nesta Impact Investments to facilitate what we see as a critical investment in the future of STEM related business and research. Working with businesses everywhere, we recognise the lack of adequately experienced applicants for manufacturing, research and technology posts – so many of which will require an education or qualifications in science – so we are unreservedly passionate about assisting companies like Empiribox in their mission. We see the opportunity for Empiribox to grow its user base exponentially, break into new markets and really influence the education outcomes for pupils everywhere. We look forward to working with Empiribox in this exciting new phase.”

Richard McGrath, CEO of Empiribox Ltd said,

“I am delighted to have completed our funding round with Downing LLP and Nesta Impact Investments. At Empiribox, we have worked tirelessly to bring hands-on, exciting and impactful science education to primary pupils. We know what we do makes a real difference to our pupils in preparing them for future careers, and our teachers, in assisting them to deliver the very best practical science lessons possible.

“We now have the opportunity to support science in primary schools through our in-school and our new Empiribox @ Home service. Having both available for use by schools and home learners is incredibly important during these difficult times. We are here to make a difference, and this funding round will make a massive impact on our ability to deliver these goals.”

BibliU Raises $10 Million to Empower Remote Learning for Students in the U.K. and the U.S.

BibliU, a digital learning platform that makes textbooks and reading materials more accessible than ever before, has secured $10 million in a Series A equity round. The investment was led by Nesta Impact Investments and included Guinness Asset Management, direct investment clients of Stonehage Fleming and ClearlySo. Nesta is the leading European early stage edtech investor which backs mission focussed businesses that seek both a social and financial return, including those which empower learners, teachers and learning institutions to make more effective use of technology and data.

Our world has changed drastically in the past few months, giving way to a generation of students demanding a level playing field regardless of their needs, and expecting their education providers to use digital services to meet them. Whether those needs are as a result of remote learning or accessibility, BibliU endeavors to deliver their class-leading content platform to more universities in the United Kingdom and the United States.

“As a student at Oxford and the University of Western Australia, I would’ve loved to have had access to this content online for free. That’s why I founded BibliU and I’m proud to say we’ve addressed that for hundreds of thousands of students at our partner universities. We’re investing in our team and continuing to develop our institutional delivery tools. I’m also thrilled to have Sean Devine joining our board as Chairman, his experience as CEO and President of CourseSmart and Safari Books Online brings invaluable industry experience to our team.” Dave Sherwood, CEO of BibliU said. “BibliU is proud to be an innovator for higher education, building an accessible solution for modern students – ensuring that amidst a growing necessity for remote education – textbooks and research materials are accessible to every student.”

BibliU will continue to invest in the digital transformation of higher education institutions, offering access to all varieties of tertiary reading content, enhanced by a first of its kind institution-wide search algorithm that empowers students to find the answers they are looking for in seconds. Its partnership with Coventry University created Europe’s largest digital content program and demonstrates BibliU’s commitment to building a digital library environment that provides accessible education and resources to every student. BibliU works with a growing list of universities, including Oxford, Imperial, University of Lincoln and more than 40% of universities in the U.K.

Oxford Sciences Innovation, BibliU’s original investor, will remain on the board and will be joined by Lisa Barclay from Nesta, offering 15 years of impact investment experience, and Sean Devine as Chairman.

“Now more than ever before, education institutions have the opportunity to harness technology to deliver new ways of learning. Nesta is delighted to be investing in BibliU, to support equal access to course materials for all students.” Lisa Barclay, Investment Director at Nesta, said.

ProFinda Receives £1m Nesta Investment

ProFinda has received one million pounds of funding from Nesta Impact Investments, the venture capital arm of one of the UK’s leading innovation foundations, to accelerate the deployment of its platform across the private, public and third sector, and increase social impact.

Nesta Impact Investments supports businesses like ProFinda which have the potential to deliver clear social impact as a part of their business model.

ProFinda’s mission is to revolutionise how organisations and their supply chains of people assess, identify and develop the skills, knowledge and capabilities of the people involved with them.

The Nesta investment will be used to:

  • build on success with blue chip clients and partners
  • make its technology available to non-profits
  • improve it proprietary skills machine learning IP

ProFinda’s ground-breaking technology uses a machine learning platform to build a dynamic and detailed map to far better understand the skills and knowledge of the total workforce. This is based on a skills ‘ontology’, which utilises tools such as semantic parsing and matching to dramatically increase understanding of skills. It is part of a new category of workforce optimisation technology that is becoming essential for organisations wishing to be more adaptive and agile.

This “science of skills” enables organisations to improve how they leverage the skills of their collective workforce, including internal employees, contractors and alumni. It intelligently matches project requirements to ability and knowledge.

Nesta supports innovation in building the workforce of the future, skills, and developing the ‘collective intelligence’, where technology unlocks human potential and improves collaborative working. This focus is essential as the workplace faces unprecedented change in both its structure and the roles that are carried out within it.

Nesta’s innovative programmes further the science of skills and future of work and directly complement ProFinda’s mission of enabling organisations and their workers to extract more value and reward from their skills.

Nathan Elstub, Nesta’s Chief Investment Officer, said:

“Nesta Impact Investments has a strong track record of supporting businesses using cutting edge technology to develop novel approaches to emerging societal challenges. ProFinda is exploring two of our key areas of research – the future of work and collective intelligence.  We want to continue to support organisations like ProFinda that are developing innovations that will uncover the hidden skills and capabilities across society and enable new ways of working. 

“ProFinda is a platform that will help transform the workplace, empowering people to demonstrate, use and develop their skills more effectively and facilitating the development of new forms of collaborative working that break down the limitations of traditional enterprise structures.”

Roger Gorman, ProFinda’s CEO, said:

“We are already working globally with some of the most knowledge intensive firms, helping them adapt to the future of work through a skills lens. Nesta’s investment is key to enabling us to use these corporate deployments to light the way for organisations everywhere to see that there is a better way to match a person to a piece of work for the benefit of everyone.

“People work better when their work makes the most of their skills and interests and builds in purpose. The challenge is that it’s all too easy for skills and interest to be wasted. Talent is hidden behind job titles or departmental walls. Talented people feel trapped or lost.

“We can deliver impact through ProFinda by transforming how the right people are matched to the right work, enabling people to find meaningful projects and experiences, and helping businesses to harness the potential of their employee and contingent workforces. This leads to greater satisfaction at work and smarter personal development which unlocks huge social good. Alongside, we can contribute to those organisations who are solving the world’s most pressing problems by helping clever groups like Code First: Girls and onPurpose to deploy their talent better. Our partnership with Nesta and their investment in our platform enables us to grow and significantly extend ProFinda’s impact.”

Since 2011, the impact of ProFinda’s technology has been demonstrated in some of the most demanding client environments. It is used in a wide range of contexts including workforce resource management by global professional services partnerships, client network support by leading private banking organisations and network mobilisation by international disaster management bodies.

Formerly NESTA, National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, NESTA was established in 1998 with an endowment from the UK National Lottery and became an independent charity in 2012.

FutureGov sale

We are happy to announce that we completed the sale of our investment in Futuregov to The Panoply last month.

FutureGov was one of our impact fund’s initial investments and we invested three tranches of capital spread between January and November 2014, as lead investor alongside Surrey County Council.

The company has been changing public sector organisations through digital transformation for over a decade, using design, technology and organisation development approaches to create public services fit for the 21st century. Their client base ranges from Homes England and Essex County Council to NHS Digital. During our investment horizon, we helped the company’s organic growth and strategic mission alignment, building out a senior management team, and expanding the service offering through acquisition. This resulted in the company becoming a thought leader and a rare asset with few specialist competitors of scale.

With an 8 figure enterprise valuation led by a strong team and a fast growing EBITDA margin, this transaction is likely to be a strong venture capital benchmark for GovTech businesses, especially social enterprises, for some time to come. It also underlines the results that management teams with grit and resilience, coupled with patient capital from Nesta and others, can achieve.

Our heartiest congratulations and best wishes to CEO Dominic Campbell, Chairman Peter Martin, and the entire team in scaling the next stage of growth in their new roles at Panoply.

Pensions For Purpose Award

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