Innovation Unit

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The Innovation Unit Ltd
Type Private company limited by guarantee
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people Paul Roberts (Chair), David Albury, Valerie Hannon
Employees Approx 25 (including associates)[1]

Innovation Unit is a UK not-for-profit social enterprise with the stated aim of using innovation to create different, better, lower cost public services that better meet social challenges. It was originally founded as a part of what is now the UK Department for Education (DfE), but has been an independent organisation since 2006.


Innovation Unit was established in June 2002 at the Department for Education and Skills – now the DfE – as part of the measures in the White Paper 'Schools – Achieving Success' which followed the Education Act 2002.[2] Between 2002 and 2006 the remit was focused on education and children’s services. The first phase of the work concentrated on responding to innovative ideas that were sent into the Government, mainly by teachers and head teachers. It funded a number of these, and provided advice and practical support for many others. Alongside other innovative small-scale projects, it worked on several large-scale programmes, such as the Leading Edge Partnership programme and Teachers TV.

Between 2003 and 2008, Innovation Unit advised on The Power to Innovate, a piece of legislation which enabled schools and Local Authorities to apply to the Secretary of State to have regulations lifted if a strong case could be made that they were getting in the way of raising standards in education.[3] It also played an active role in supporting and sponsoring the National Teacher Research Panel, The Research Informed Practice Site and the Teaching Awards.

Since 2006 Innovation Unit has been independent of government and receives no grant funding. It consists of a team of partners and senior associates, as well as a team of core staff based at offices in Old Street, London. Its Board includes David Albury, formerly a principal advisor at the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit during Tony Blair's premiership.

Areas of work[edit]

Innovation Unit’s work is largely focused on innovation in education, healthcare and local government in the UK. It has also worked with the Smithsonian Institution in the USA and countries around the world as part of its international education work.


Innovation Unit’s education work is centred on making school more engaging and meaningful for students. Its work ranges from consulting with individual schools in the UK, to changing school systems on an international, system-wide level and trying to influence global thought on education.[4][5] It was recently awarded £906,000 by the Education Endowment Fund to test a project-based learning programme in secondary schools in the UK.[6] Its international education project, the Global Education Leaders' Program, has included governmental teams from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, China, Finland, India and South Africa.


Innovation Unit’s health work is heavily influenced by the principles of co-production. It has worked on projects concerning issues such as antenatal care, childhood obesity, long-term health conditions and mental healthcare. In 2013 it published as series of reports on People Powered Health, following a two-year project funded by UK innovation charity Nesta.

Local Government[edit]

Innovation Unit works as local and national levels with local governments in the UK. It has been involved with work addressing issues such as troubled families, supporting social entrepreneurs, early years services, adult social care and greening public services. Its approach is heavily influenced by service design.


Reducing health inequalities - the challenge of public health by John Craig


External links[edit]