Jacobs Foundation Aims To Bridge The Gap Between Research And EdTech

April 14, 2022

To place evidence at the heart of the UK’s £3 Billion EdTech industry, The Jacobs Foundation has launched a global CHF 40 million initiative to develop collaboration between investors, edtech companies, and academia. 

Fabio Segura and Simon Sommer - Jacobs Foundation Aims To Bridge The Gap Between Research And EdTech

The Jacobs Foundation has called on investors, edtech companies, and academia across the UK and around the world to deepen their collaboration and integrate more research in the development of new edtech products. The Foundation also urged edtech venture capital funds to make greater use of evidence in investment decision-making, after UK edtech start-ups received a combined total of $609 million in venture capital funding last year, more than start-ups in any other European country.[1] It is estimated that the UK now attracts over 40% of all edtech investment in Europe.[2]

The Jacobs Foundation made this call ahead of next month’s World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, where world leaders will convene under the theme, ‘Working together, restoring trust’. They will look at the role of public-private cooperation in rebuilding trust and shaping a more sustainable future. This comes after the pandemic disrupted learning for more than 1.5 billion students throughout the world.[3]

To help further this drive, the Jacobs Foundation has committed CHF 40 million ($44 million) globally to foster greater cooperation between edtech investors, start-ups, and researchers. These key actors will convene in May this year at the Jacobs Foundation’s Unlocking the Impact of Edtech Conference in Germany, where they will discuss ways to make more and better use of evidence in edtech.

UK edtech has been gaining momentum in recent years. The sector grew a staggering 72% in 2020,[4] and is now worth upwards of £3 billion.[5] Globally, analysts predict that up to $150 billion of venture capital could be deployed in edtech by the end of this decade.[6] The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in its Digital Education Outlook 2021, called for more evidence on how technology benefits learning, as well as clear criteria on how it should be assessed.[7] A study published earlier this year by the US non-profit Digital Promise found that products grounded in learning sciences research are more likely to continuously improve and match students’ and educators’ needs.

Fabio Segura and Simon Sommer, co-CEOs of the Jacobs Foundation, said:

“With dizzying amounts of investment pouring into the UK edtech sector, we must not lose sight of what really matters: whether these new innovations truly benefit children’s learning.

“Today we are calling for a culture shift in edtech. The UK investment and research communities should work together, and with partners around the world, to integrate more evidence in the development of edtech products. This will be a win-win for everyone. Investors will make better decisions, start-ups collaborating with researchers will improve their products, and students will have access to edtech that benefits their learning. There is not a moment to lose for students disrupted by Covid.”

To bridge the gap between learning science and edtech, the Jacobs Foundation has committed CHF 40 million ($44 million) to three interlinking initiatives around the world. It has launched the Learning Edtech Impact Funds (LEIF), deploying CHF 30 million ($33 million) through leading edtech venture capital funds that are committed to investing in projects backed by research. These partner venture capital funds include BrightEye Ventures, Educapital, Learn Capital, New Markets Venture Partners, Reach Capital, Rethink Education, Sparkmind.vc, Owl Ventures, and Kaizenvest.

The funds will work with the Jacobs Foundation’s newly launched edtech research centre at the University of California Irvine, Connecting the Edtech Research EcoSystem (CERES). CERES will collaborate with edtech companies and produce cutting-edge scientific research into how children learn through technology. The Jacobs Foundation has awarded CERES a five-year CHF 10 million ($11 million) grant to bring together experts in computer science, human computer interaction, education, and psychology.

To further support a large-scale shift towards evidenced based investment, the Jacobs Foundation will spearhead EdFIRST – a proposed alliance of leading foundations that will work together to encourage the use of evidence in edtech investment decisions. Fabio Segura and Simon Sommer added, “This alliance ultimately wants to strengthen the edtech ecosystem and support a large-scale shift towards evidence for impact in edtech to shape education policy globally by 2030 and beyond.”

Marie-Christine Levet and Litzie Maarek, Founding Partners of Educapital, said:

“At this historic juncture in education, we have an opportunity to shape technology’s impact on learning and schools. By combining our deep knowledge of the start-up ecosystem with researchers’ expertise in testing whether and how innovations truly benefit learning, we can ensure funding is directed towards innovations that will make a real difference in children’s learning.”

Dr. Gillian Hayes and Dr. Candice Odgers, co-Leads of Connecting the Edtech Research EcoSystem at the University of California Irvine, said:

“From AI to VR, edtech is an incredibly fast-growing field. We look forward to strengthening ties within the vibrant edtech ecosystem, in particular collaborating with investors and edtech companies to embed research into edtech development and evaluation. By working together, we will be able to truly capture edtech’s great promise.” 

[1] https://www.brighteyevc.com/post/the-european-edtech-funding-report-2022

[2] https://www.odgersinterim.com/uk/who-we-are/intelligence/the-elusive-uk-edtech-unicorn-roundtable-for-education-technology-leaders-5056/

[3] https://www.oecd.org/education/state-of-school-education-one-year-into-covid.htm

[4] https://www.odgersinterim.com/uk/who-we-are/intelligence/the-elusive-uk-edtech-unicorn-roundtable-for-education-technology-leaders-5056/

[5] https://edtechnology.co.uk/business/uk-edtech-market-expected-reach-3-4bn-this-year/

[6] https://www.holoniq.com/notes/global-edtech-funding-2021-half-year-update/#:~:text=A%20record%20half%20year%20in,support%20learning%20and%20education%20delivery.&text=At%20this%20time%20we%20conservatively,almost%20tripling%20the%20prior%20decade

[7] https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/oecd-digital-education-outlook-2021_589b283f-en#page18

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