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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New ventures that target the 50-plus

Yesterday I attended an event by an organisation called NESTA - the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. The organisation bills itself as: “a unique and independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative.” You certainly cannot disagree with the organisation’s mission.

Yesterday’s event was all about a fund that NESTA is managing (£650,000) – that will buy you a detached four bedroom house in London – so not a lot of money. The purpose of the fund (titled Age Unlimited) is to fund ventures, each limited to £50,000 that will assist people in their fifties and upwards.

Part of the rationale for stimulating new thinking is NESTA’ view that: “Without bold new approaches, our public services will be over-stretched by the short-term demands of the recession and overwhelmed by the long-term challenges of the future. What alternative to radical innovation do we have?”

Gordon Lishman, the ex head of Age Concern, and not somebody I would normally agree with, made the comment that there is no shortage of “good ideas” or small community projects but the problem is scaling them up into something that can have any real impact. Absolutely right.

I have a couple of other concerns. Some of the ‘issues’ that NESTA identified, like age discrimination, are mega cultural factors that this programme cannot possibly hope to affect.

Secondly, many of the people attending this event don’t seem to have realised that we have reached the end “Government Funding”. The days of easy Government spending have ended for years, maybe decades to come.

I wish the NESTA venture good luck. Dick Stroud

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