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Nesta and BIT announce UK 2040 Options

Hear from policy experts as they suggest solutions to the UK’s biggest challenges

Politicians looking to form the next government should focus more on “how we should govern, as opposed to how we should campaign,” according to former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell.

Speaking at an event in advance of the launch of UK 2040 Options – a new forum for exploring and testing policy choices – O’Donnell, project sponsor for UK 2040 Options, argued for a renewed commitment to realistic and achievable policymaking in the run up to the next election. 

Politicians should focus “more squarely on the end goals they are looking to achieve,” and then interrogate the evidence and trade offs about how best to get there, he said.

Policy experts and attendants discuss the biggest issues facing the country.

Former Director of Policy at No. 10, Munira Mirza, said the state of the economy means there is a particular pressure for all political parties to balance people’s urgent short-term needs, like the cost of living, with long-term systemic challenges. 

“Solving economic stagnation is central to solving all the other problems we face as a country – the way services are funded, how we use the tax system to encourage investment and boost productivity,” she said.

Speaking about policy opportunities, and the choices needed to capitalise on them, she pointed to AI and potential future energy abundance through nuclear fusion. Both have the potential to transform the economy and public services, she said, but realising their benefits for people requires action now, whether through regulation or investment.

Georgia Gould, leader of Camden Borough Council, called for a “completely different relationship” between the state, local and regional government if the UK is to address climate, inequality and unemployment at the pace required. She said such a new relationship could take the form of ‘missions’ – rallying partnerships across the private sector, government and civil society focused on shared outcomes.

Run by Nesta and the Behavioural Insights Team, and working with a range of established experts and emerging voices from across the policy landscape, UK 2040 Options aims to support policymakers as they make choices about what to prioritise. The project will set out alternative policy options and pathways for the future, creating space for honest debate about the trade-offs and testing and interrogating ideas that take us beyond immediate crises.

Policy experts and attendants discuss solutions to the biggest issues facing the country.

“The aim is to be future-focussed; to surface a true range of ideas and then to really test them,” explained Alexandra Burns, Director of UK 2040 Options. The Options project aims ultimately to offer policymakers the opportunity to think ambitiously about what policies can address the biggest challenges facing the country, not just today but in the near future too, offering fresh insights and tools to inform the choices they now face. 

The panel characterised the major issues facing the next government as technological growth, inter-generational conflict and economic stagnation. They explored the choices and trade offs to be made about how to tackle these, from devolution to industrial strategy to political choices over the role of the state as the solution.

Opening the event, Nesta CEO, Ravi Gurumurthy, said: “We’re aiming to lay out options, rather than a single way forward. But also to really test ideas and interrogate them. And tackle that certainty with which we usually conduct our politics.”