'Nudge unit' bought out by innovation charity for £15.4m

The innovation charity Nesta has bought the Behavioural Insights Team as part of an attempt to accelerate progress toward its three goals. 

Nesta, which already had a 30 per cent stake in the BIT from when it was spun out from the Cabinet Office in 2014, said it had acquired the remaining 70 per cent for £15.4m. 

The BIT was established as a small team by 10 Downing Street in 2010 and was commonly referred to as the ‘nudge unit’ because of its work to encourage people to carry out activities such as volunteering or giving to charity. 

It has since grown to become a global organisation employing about 150 people in the UK and a further 100 across offices in the US, Australia, Singapore, Canada and France.

The Cabinet Office will receive £6.6m for its 30 per cent stake in the organisation, which has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nesta. 

Nesta said the move would help it to achieve its 10-year mission to halve obesity rates, eliminate the school readiness gap and reduce household carbon emissions to net zero.

“As a result of the acquisition, each organisation will gain and exchange world-class technical expertise in behavioural science, experimentation, design and data science,” Nesta said in a statement. 

The BIT will remain a commercial social purpose company and its profits will be invested in social impact initiatives and to help Nesta advance its work, Nesta said. 

Ravi Gurumurthy, chief executive of Nesta, will become chair of the BIT, while David Halpern will remain its chief executive. 

Gurumurthy said: “Nesta and BIT have a proud history of working together to change society for good. 

“At Nesta we know our 2030 goals are ambitious, but we are determined to meet the urgency of the challenges facing our society. By coming together in this way we will accelerate innovation in our three missions and we’ll benefit from BIT’s experience of translating behavioural insights into policy impact.”

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