Welsh Government sets up new innovation fund

Partnership with Cardiff University and Nesta provides £5 million in first year to promote new methods of delivering public services

The Welsh Government has set up a new £5 million fund to support the development of new approaches to public services as part of a partnership with Y Lab and under the banner Innovate to Save.

Y Lab, itself a partnership between Cardiff University and the innovation charity Nesta, plans to get the third sector involved by working closely with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action on the programme.

While the announcement did not specify any emphasis on digital technology, it is inevitable that it will figure largely in submissions for funding.

The Welsh Government said the new fund will provide repayable and non-repayable funding and non-financial support to Welsh public authorities and the third sector. Non-repayable funding will support organisations to prototype, test and develop changes to the way services are delivered. 

Expansion support

All areas of the Welsh public and third sectors will be able to apply for funding, and to draw on support from Nesta and Cardiff University to expand the scope of the projects.

Innovate to save will run alongside the Invest to Save fund, which has been operating since 2009 and supported 160 projects. It will make £15 million on top of the new funding over 2017-18.

Mark DrakefordFinance Secretary Professor Mark Drakeford (pictured) said: “More scarce resources and growing demand means all public services must think and work differently, if we are to continue to provide the level of services people need.

“We hope to see a range of projects coming forward from across the Welsh public and third sectors. The savings generated will not only be re-invested in services but will improve outcomes for people and will be able to be rolled out more widely.”

Professor Adam Fletcher, Y Lab’s academic director, said: “Public services staff in Wales are best placed to solve the biggest challenges facing their own services. This new Welsh Government initiative means Y Lab will be able to work with teams from across Wales to help them to develop solutions to persistent problems, put those ideas into practice and trial them.

“Universities have typically been very good at researching public services and recommending what they should do differently but not so good at working with public services teams to help them to innovate.

“By working in partnership with Nesta, Cardiff University is leading the way in the UK by designing, delivering and evaluating major new innovation funds such as this.”