Our story

We have been transforming public services through innovation for over a decade, after becoming independent from what is now the Department for Education (DfE) in 2006. Today we work across the full range of public services to tackle major social challenges of the 21st Century.

Innovation Unit now

We are an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise. We have an experienced team of Partners and Senior Associates committed to advancing practice and improving outcomes in public services, as well as a team of core staff based out our offices in Old Street, London and also in Australia. We have a range of expertise and experiences – as frontline workers, leaders, service designers, consultants, researchers and policy makers.

We use our skills, expertise, knowledge methods and experience in delivering innovation in health and social care, across local public services, children's services and in education. We have worked with other social enterprises, with charities, with regional bodies, local authorities as well as on working on public service and policy reform with national and international government.

Our beginnings

In June 2002, Innovation Unit was established by the DfES (Department for Education and Skills) - now the DfE - as part of the White Paper 'Schools - Achieving Success' which followed the Education Act 2002. The first phase of our work concentrated on responding to innovative ideas that were sent in to 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, we worked on several large-scale programmes. We also advised on The Power to Innovate (PTI), 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.