UK government to increase investment in nudge unit by selling stake

The UK government will sell its one-third stake in the Behavioral Insights Team – commonly known as the ‘nudge unit’ – as part of plans to attract £ 100million of investment in smart ways to reach net zero. ‘By 2050, reduce obesity rates and improve early childhood education.

The £ 15.4million deal will see BIT become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nesta, Britain’s foundation for innovation. Nesta will seek to extend the reach of the social consultancy company, which emerged from the Cabinet Office in 2014.

Ravi Gurumurthy, managing director of Nesta, said the acquisition would open the door to more funding for BIT, which started as a team of seven at 10 Downing Street in 2010, but has grown into a global social consultancy firm with 250 employees and a turnover. of £ 20million.

The group, which before the deal was also owned a third by Nesta and a third by its employees, specializes in designing low-cost or no-cost interventions that change public behavior for the better.

One of his first signing accomplishments was changing the message on the HM Customs and Revenue reminder letters in a way that expedited the payment of hundreds of millions of pounds in taxes to the treasury. The model has since been copied around the world.

Gurumurthy said the deal was part of a 10-year plan to invest £ 100million in transforming public services through a combination of Nesta’s own endowment; philanthropic and academic research grants; and the reinvestment of consultant fees paid to BIT.

“BIT has carried out more than 700 randomized controlled trials over the last decade and the new partnership with BIT will allow us to apply this rigor to these three great societal challenges”, added Gurumurthy, referring to the achievement of zero net, the fight against obesity and the improvement of early childhood. education. “We will invest in the design and testing of new solutions while developing projects. “

Nesta said she hoped to combine her own machine learning and data science expertise with BIT’s behavioral insights to design more effective solutions. It would also seek to expand into new geographic areas, including India and Latin America.

Regarding “net zero,” Gurumurthy said the group had three machine learning approaches to sift through household energy performance certificates and income data. These will determine which of the two has the most predictive power over who will buy greener but more expensive electric heat pumps to replace their traditional gas boilers.

The group will also invest in the use of data and machine learning to deliver ‘precision nudges’ to target individuals more effectively.

Testing can also reveal what not to do, as in a recent study that found that when a job was advertised as “green,” it attracted significantly fewer applicants.

Another trial aimed at reducing obesity used a hypothetical online take-out food platform to test how high-calorie foods could be replaced with lower-calorie alternatives and frame the posts around these products to get people to eat healthier.

It is also hoped that mining data from first-grade health and school visitor assessments will help identify children in need of support more quickly and expand the reach of expensive parenting programs using digital tools such as videos. and WhatsApp messages.

Professor David Halpern, Director General of BIT, said the Nesta Agreement was an exciting new chapter for the organization. “Our common experience, together with our independence, commercial resilience and deep expertise will help us meet the enormous challenges we face on the road to 2030,” he added.

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