Innovation Unit

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The Innovation Unit is a UK social enterprise that looks to improve public services through 'innovation'.

It focuses on three key areas: education; health and social care; and local government.

Lobbying for 'education reform'

Radically transforming education... globally

The Innovation Unit leads the Global Education Leaders’ Partnership (GELP), which has the grand aim of 'reimagining the future of education at a global scale'[1]

The Innovation Unit describes the Partnership as a ‘community of key education system leaders, policy-makers, thought-leaders and world-class consultants collaborating to transform education at local, national and international levels'.

GELP began as a Cisco-run project, before handing over to the Innovation Unit in 2011. It now recieves funds from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Promethean; the Ellen Koshland Family Fund, and Cisco.

The Innovation Unit's David Albury is the 'design and development director' of the partnership.

Other education reform programmes

  • New York's iZone: The Innovation Unit helped New York City's Education Department develop its iZone initiative, which has seen a small number of schools in the city - 'Lab Schools' - try to reform how they teach, often through the use of more technology. iZone has received funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cisco and Google. David Albury of the Innovation Unit, in a Nesta video, describes what they are trying to do as 'transformative change'.[2]
  • Learning Frontiers, a similar project in Australia, sponsored by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, that brings together clusters of schools and other interested parties into ‘design hubs' to 'radically rethink their approach to learning'. It has a stated, if somewhat nebulous, focus on the need to 'engage learners', but also draws on the ' ‘21st century skills’ agenda, and the need to bring new entrants, including for-profit education providers, into schools.[3]


Board members

History and Funding

The Innovation Unit was established in June 2002 by the what is now UK Department for Education as part of the measures in the White Paper 'S'chools – Achieving Success which followed the Education Act 2002. Its focus until 2006 was purely on reform of education and services for children. Since 2006 the Innovation Unit has been independent of government and receives no funding from it. It is funded by the projects it undertakes for clients in the public, private and charity sectors.


Address: CAN Mezzanine, 49-51 East Road, London N1 6AH


  1. Global Education Leaders’ Partnership, Innovation Unit website, accessed August 2015
  2. iZone, Innovation Unit website, accessed August 2015
  3. Insights and ideas, Learning Frontiers on the AITSL website, accessed August 2015