5 Minutes with Sean Croghan of Nesta


Founded in 1998, with the first ever publicly supported national endowment in the UK, Nesta’s mission revolves around backing innovations that are destined to make positive change. After being established as an independent charity in 2012, Nesta has continued to evolve, pushing new ideas that tackle the challenges society faces, to grow and change the world for the better.

In its earliest phase, Nesta backed individuals whose ideas showed ambition and promise as well as the technologies it believed would make the most vital, and needed, changes. For example, Nesta supported the development of one of the earliest driverless cars which went on to be used in Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and then in the UK’s first experiments.

Since then, Nesta has discovered that its biggest impact comes from helping new fields to emerge, backing them with a mix of research, events, advocacy, investments and grants to guarantee the most positive outcome.

The Nesta Story

Since relaunching as an independent charity eight years ago, Nesta has established new policy’s, pioneered new funding models and launched initiatives such as The Longitude Prize – a £10m prize to reduce the lethal rise of drug-resistant infections within a range of sectors including education, healthcare and government innovation.  Now, Nesta works on projects and partnerships in dozens of different countries, working with everyone from the United Nations and the European Commission to international charities and foundations.

But with the increase of projects and partnerships, comes a dramatic growth in the number of innovation experts and voices to be heard, particularly when making critical decisions around funding and investments. Nesta has a total of 24 board members who are spread across the globe, working in different environments. This meant that correspondence, internal documents and forms required a physical sign-off and were often sent via email, post or courier. The uncertainty of knowing whose eyes were seeing what, even if the documents were arriving to the right recipient, posed a significant risk as the organisation grew. Not to mention the overheads of printing documents and courier charges alongside the amount of time being spent unnecessarily on admin tasks.

Not satisfied with being an innovation hub that didn’t embrace the technology it was encouraging others to seek, Nesta make the decision to streamline its internal communications. Quickly, they came across Passageways, a leading provider of collaboration solutions for boards and employees which seamlessly integrated with the likes of Google, Microsoft and Zoom to make board meetings more efficient, secure and cost effective.

Nesta soon discovered the benefits of OnBoard, a remote meeting platform that enables board members to stay organised, make timely and agile decisions and plan progress in a cohesive manner, all with the reassurance of greater security.

The portal provides Nesta and its team with a complete suite of meeting tools that can be accessed anywhere, from any device allowing decisions to continue to be made even when leaders are apart.

Nesta’s chief technology officer, Sean Croghan, explained: “As an organisation with numerous projects all over the globe, we have a lot of important documents and files, as well as regular rounds of voting and critical agreements that are discussed during board meetings. Using a board portal has allowed us to access all of the files and conversations in one place, as well as continuing to follow company procedures, making our decision-making process a lot quicker, more collaborative and more secure. Even some of our board members who are used to the traditional way of doing things with a pen and paper, have been converted to the ease of using OnBoard.”

The Passageways Story

OnBoard is Passageways flagship product, working through the cloud to provide all the features needed to conduct remote and in-office board meetings efficiently, transforming the way decision makers communicate with one another.

The portal adopts the real-world frustrations faced by board members ahead of and during meetings to make them more functionable and valuable.  Recently, Passageways integrated with Zoom to provide a singular experience that enables directors and CEOs to meet face-to-face directly within the platform, with no need to switch between apps.

The management software also incorporates instant messaging, board meeting analytics, synced notes and annotations, and a secure voting and approvals system combining the requirements needed by the 2,000+ organisations using the portal already.

OnBoard also offers a gold standard in Cloud Security through using Microsoft Azure. With this, Passageways is able to deliver full disaster recovery, active geo-replication, and the peace of mind board members require when making business critical decisions.

The Perfect Solution

Particularly in the current climate, it has never been more important to ensure that businesses can continue to run smoothly, even if that is from the comfort of its employee’s homes. A singular board portal, that can be accessed outside the organisation, is making the transition easier.

Businesses are no longer restricted by the constraints of location and anyone can be involved in the decision-making process, as Nesta very quickly learned after implementing the software three years ago.

“If we didn’t have a personalised software like OnBoard already in place and fully integrated into the organisation, we’d be scrambling around to get something in place as quickly as possible that probably wouldn’t work as well.  We’ve already been able to conduct one full board meeting, as well as several other internal meetings, during lockdown and the whole process has been easy and secure. Working with a company like Passageways that understands the struggles of remote board meetings and makes the platform fully customised to our needs has made a huge difference to the way we work and how we will continue to work in the months and years to come as we find our feet in a slightly different world”, Croghan added.

There is no doubt that the current crisis will shape the future of the workplace, with an increasing number of employees having to adapt and work from home more regularly. This is just another hurdle for board members and business leaders to face, but with the ease of a portal that combines everything, staying on track has never been e