Press release

‘Nudge Unit’ forming mutual joint venture

The Behavioural Insights Team, or 'Nudge Unit', is teaming up with Nesta to create a new joint venture in line with the government's long term economic plan.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The government’s Behavioural Insights Team - also known as the Nudge Unit - has teamed up with Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, to create a new mutual joint venture, Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude announced today (5 February 2014).

The mutual joint venture will be a new UK-based company, paying taxes, exporting services across the world and helping get Britain on the rise.

The Behavioural Insights Team, which was set up in 2010 with a mission to find innovative ways of enabling people to make better choices for themselves and society, is now a world-leader in the application of insights from the behavioural sciences and credited with helping the UK government save millions of pounds for the taxpayer.

As a result, they have received an increasing number of requests to help apply insights from the behavioural sciences to tackle public policy problems, both at home and overseas. As of today, the team – which will continue to be known as the Behavioural Insights Team - is able to service this demand from any part of the UK public sector, charities and foreign governments. The new company will also be able to work with commercial organisations, where there is an underlying social purpose to the project.

Win the global race

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said:

This government is determined to help Britain win the global race by setting free innovative public sector entrepreneurs like these. Public sector productivity flat-lined from 1997 to 2010 and that’s why I’m delighted the world-renowned Behavioural Insights Team is spinning out of Whitehall. As a mutual joint venture, the new company will be able to grow its business and export services across the globe. There are already more than 70 mutuals delivering more than a £1 billion of public services but I want to see a diverse mixed economy with more new providers emerging – it’s all part of our long-term economic plan for the country.

Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta, said:

Nesta is an organisation dedicated to innovation in business through to civil society and the public sector – that’s why we’re so excited to be working with a team who have done so much to pioneer new methods and to show the impact smart innovation can achieve. We’re convinced that there’s huge potential to grow the Behavioural Insights Team’s work – and to deliver impressive results – and are looking forward to helping them make this happen. Behavioural insight methods are still relatively new but we believe that over the next few years they’ll become part of the toolkit of governments, businesses and others all over the world.

The deal forms part of the government’s commitment to drive innovation in government commercial models - a central commitment in the Civil Service Reform Plan - and follows on from the launch of the civil service pension provider MyCSP in April 2012, which became the first mutual joint venture to spin out of government, and the launch of SSCL Ltd late last year in a joint venture with Steria Ltd to run shared services for Whitehall departments.

The government is determined to look beyond the old binary choice between in-house provision and outsourcing. As such they are working to develop a hybrid economy with a diverse range of suppliers from the mutual joint ventures to the voluntary sector, from in-house provision to straight sourcing.

Notes to editors

  1. As a joint venture, the new business will be a partnership between the government, the employees and Nesta, which will provide support and investment to the business.

  2. The Behavioural Insights Team will continue to work for the Cabinet Office, providing a level of service which is equivalent to the existing work programme. In addition, the new company will be awarded a UK public sector wide framework agreement that will enable UK public bodies to commission the team directly.

  3. The team will continue to be known as ‘The Behavioural Insights Team’. It will be governed by a board, which will include representatives of the Cabinet Office, Nesta and the executive management team.

  4. David Halpern, formerly the Director of the team, has been appointed as the Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team. Owain Service, formerly the team’s Deputy Director, has been appointed as the Managing Director of the Behavioural Insights Team. This joint venture is a key example of driving innovation in government commercial models – a central commitment in the Civil Service Reform Plan.

  5. There are already more than 70 mutuals delivering over £1 billion of public services — mutuals are developing in services as diverse as healthcare, libraries, and fire and rescue.

  6. Visit the Behavioural Insights Team’s new website.

Published 5 February 2014