Building successful partnerships between tech start-ups and government
Thanks to the Govtech Global Alliance – originally formed in Scotland – I had the opportunity this week to present to members of a government delegation from Lithuania working in the innovation space.
The three-hour event was a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate Scotland’s capability in Government, Civic and Climate technologies, and learn from Lithuania’s experience in this space.
Novoville was one of five companies that had the privilege of sharing their experience of working collaboratively with the Scottish Government and local authorities to develop innovative tech, as we did during the CivTech programme in 2019 and 2022.
Topics covered included procurement, how to scale innovation, proven practices in organisational cultural shift towards innovation: issues we find everywhere, be it in Scotland or Lithuania.
The Lithuanian tech sector is exploding, partly down to the government’s supportive regulatory framework for start-ups. The close relationship between talent, education and business has given birth to major tech unicorns such as used clothing retailer Vinted and cybersecurity firm Nord.
The sector employs around 18,000 people and now the capital, Vilnius, is to become home to Europe’s largest tech hub, Tech Zity. Lithuania has a programme similar to CivTech in the breadth and depth of the issue areas it tackles, and it’s great to see we face similar challenges in scaling that kind of innovation across countries.
We created Novoville Shared Repairs in 2019 in response to a challenge set by CivTech Scotland, the world’s first government-run accelerator for digital public services. Through CivTech, the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) asked, “How can we use technology to manage the property condition of communal areas in privately owned tenements?”
In response, we designed and built our app to help property owners in tenements and flat blocks connect with other owners in their building, discuss works needed, obtain quotes for repairs and book them, all without having to employ the services of a factor or spend large amounts of time chasing up neighbours.
The CivTech accelerator process helped us enormously, assisting us in building a business from scratch, developing our product, and getting it to market. In CEC we had our first partnership, and we are now working with nine local authorities in Scotland, including Glasgow and Aberdeen. In just over two years Shared Repairs has facilitated more than £1 million worth of repairs in Edinburgh alone and we have more than 1,000 tenements signed up in Scotland.
2019 wasn’t the only time we engaged with CivTech, however. We also responded to a challenge issued by South of Scotland Enterprise last year and have developed an app called Shared Works, a marketplace for decarbonisation and retrofit work. At the heart of this latest innovation is the drive to decarbonise homes and reduce domestic carbon emissions.
Responding to a cry for help from the government has allowed us to create a business, residents across Scotland to avoid costly repairs and uncomfortable relationships with neighbours, and provided local authorities with a simple solution to a pressing problem.
Our success is evidence of the power of collaboration between public and private sectors. We are by no means the only CivTech success story out there. At the meeting this week, lots of contacts were exchanged by the delegations, lots of questions were asked about Scotland’s approach, and we look forward to seeing how our learning in the shared repairs and decarbonisation space can translate in a Lithuanian context.