Steve Hilton's 'nudge unit' goes global

It is likely to be less a case of "yes, minister" and more "no worries, mate" under new plans to sell some of Britain's civil service expertise around the world, to be announced today.

In a move which will delight David Cameron's former blue skies guru Steve Hilton, the Government is to contract out the services of its "nudge unit" to foreign countries – starting with Australia. The unit – officially as the Behavioural Insights Team – uses psychological techniques to encourage people to change behaviour.

Since its creation in 2010 it is credited with saving the UK Courts Service £30m a year by increasing the number of people who paid their fines after sending them personalised text messages. Now the unit is to be expanded and allowed to contract out its services to other governments. It has already signed a deal with the government of New South Wales in Australia across a range of policy areas and ministers hope others will follow.

The unit's full-time staff is to be expanded by almost half and given a larger remit within UK policy development. The Cabinet Office minister in charge of the unit, Grant Shapps, said the UK was a "world leader" in the application of behavioural economics and saw no reason not to export that practical expertise.