£500,000 tech fund targets inequality

As Nominet Trust transitions into Social Tech Trust, establishing independence from its founder Nominet, the first £500,000 grant fund under the new trust name opens to support projects tackling inequality through tech innovation. 

Nominet Trust logoA new £500,000 ‘tech to unite us’ grant programme opens for applications in July for early-stage tech ventures that address UK inequality.

News of the fund came as Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading dedicated grant maker in socially motivated tech, confirmed its evolution into Social Tech Trust, establishing its independence from its founder Nominet.

The new grant programme is the first to be confirmed since the announcement in January that Nominet would be ending its funding of the trust it established 10 years ago. Across that decade, Nominet has supported the trust with £44m in funding.

Nominet Trust has a portfolio of over 750 initiatives including bionic limb creator Open Bionics, healthtech venture GiveVision and energy sector disruptor Open Utility. It is also a founding partner of tech-for-good investor Bethnal Green Ventures.

With its independence from Nominet, the trust can attract funding from other sources to help expand its programmes.

Alongside the new grants programme, the trust confirmed a new ‘strategic partnership’ with non-profit Social Investment Business. That sees chief executive Nick Temple join the board of Social Tech Trust alongside existing members Beth Murray, Sebastien Lahtinen, Hannah Keartland and chair Bill Liao (pictured).

Temple, who joined SIB in January, is a leading figure in the social investment and enterprise sectors and was previously deputy chief executive at Social Enterprise UK.

Announcing the move last week, Social Tech Trust confirmed that it would continue its commitment to supporting socially motivated tech, starting with the new grant programme.

It said it would continue to back innovative partnerships, including through its £1m support for Fair By Design, which aims to end the poverty premium within the next 10 years, and through its contribution to the £1m iAMDigital programme, in partnership with Creative England.

The trust has already reassured everyone it works with now “that support already committed will be unaffected”.

The new fund “will support ventures demonstrating how tech can reach its transformative potential when it is driven to address one of the greatest social challenges of our time – inequality”. Ventures applying from July will know by October if they have been successful, then receive nine to 12 months of support.

billliaoSIB was created in 2007 to run the £145m Futurebuilders fund for the Cabinet Office, before taking on the £98m Social Enterprise Investment Fund for the Department of Health and the £70m Communitybuilders fund for the Department for Communities and Local Government.

SIB’s parent charity, Social Investment Business Foundation, holds a permanent endowment created from the £27m that remained in the Communitybuilders fund.

SIB chair Hazel Blears said: “New technology is reshaping the world we live in and the world that charities and social enterprises operate in, attracting new talent and creating new models of change. There’s never been a more exciting and important time to enter into this partnership with the potential to transform people’s lives for the better.

“This area is a key priority for Social Investment Business to ensure we can best support the social sector in future. We have complementary skills and expertise as partners, and I am looking forward to working closely with Bill and his team in the coming years to help more organisations harness the power of technology.”

Nominet, the trust’s founding parent, manages the infrastructure that supports over 10 million .uk domain names. It was set up as a company delivering public benefit, including initiatives promoting digital inclusion.

Nominet said it was committed to investing in a programme to help a million young people overcome the challenges of the digital age. “As we focus on Nominet’s ambitious pubic benefit programme, it’s the right time for the trust to have the freedom they need to pursue their social tech agenda,” chair Mark Wood said.

“We thank the team for their enormous contribution over the last 10 years, and wish them well as they embark on an exciting new partnership.”

Nominet Trust has been the headline sponsor of DigitalAgenda’s Impact Awards for 2017 and 2018.