Nesta as an innovation move for Turin, Italy

A few months back we wrote about the ongoing negotiations between Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and the [Italian Foundation] Compagnia di San Paolo to set up a Nesta Italia in Turin. These negotiations have now finished and the results were announced today in La Repubblica newspaper. Here is our translation:

“We want to make Turin one of the capitals of innovation, Nesta is the right move”
Mr. Profumo explains the landing of the English foundation in Turin

“We want to make Turin the southern Europe’s capital in social innovation and in social finance,” says Francesco Profumo, President of the Compagnia di San Paolo. The foundation had set this goal in its 2020 strategic guidelines and has now moved to action by bringing the Nesta Foundation to Turin. Nesta is a UK institution founded in 1998 thanks to the country’s lottery funds and specialised in innovative philanthropy. It will set up a twin (but independent) foundation called Nesta Italia, based in the Piedmont capital. Nesta Italia will be operational by this autumn and will work in close contact with the London offices.

“We will carry out several projects to address particular social issues. We will deal with art, education, health and the ageing of the population,” says Marco Zappalorto (pictured), future director of the new Turin foundation. During the last five years Nesta UK has carried out around 100 projects a year, leveraging an annual budget of about £30 million. For example, it has created a student challenge to invent a way to exploit satellite data to create benefits for society; it has launched a prize to develop new technologies that include disabled people; and it has helped ten hospitals to create volunteer teams, measuring the positive impact their use has on patients’ health.

Above all, Nesta’s strength lies in its ability to envision new support mechanisms: “Their reality is complementary to that of the Compagnia di San Paolo. We have thousands of projects each year, which we mostly handle in a traditional manner. They have different skill sets, which will help us improve,” says Profumo. Therefore, in the future, there will be less block grant contributions while other types of support will grow. For example, support might start with an initial contribution which can then be transformed into to a loan or an equity participation. Besidess, Profumo highlights, “Nesta Italia will be able to leverage an already well-developed Turin ecosystem that counts on realities such as Social Renaissance and Open Incet.”

One of the reasons that prompted Nesta to choose Turin concerns European funds: in recent years, the UK foundation has launched several projects with the support of the EU ad intends to continue its engagement with European institutions and other European countries. But there is also a broader strategy behind the landing in Piedmont: “Innovation is global and in the last five years we have been very focused on making Nesta more European and international, so we can apply elsehwere the methodologies we’ve tested in Great Britain and at the same time create a network of other realities to talk to and learn from,” says Zappalorto.

The Compagnia will guarantee a contribution of 400,000 euros for three years to cover the start-up costs of Nesta Italia, which will in turn provide staff for its Turin offices and a £ 100,000 cash contribution. The new foundation’s governance will be shared between Turin and London. It is early days still to talk about concrete projects, but some initiatives already being shaped. Nesta, for example, could build a “Health Lab” that could speed up new organisational practices in the healthcare system, as well as encourage new ways of teaching based on digital technologies. President Profumo is convinced: “We have brought an important initiative to Turin with a great future ahead of it”.