UK follows Scotland’s lead with fund for ‘innovative fixes to public sector challenges’
Public services will benefit from a fund designed to incentivise Britain’s technology firms to develop “smart solutions to fix public sector problems,” the UK Government said in a statement. A new ‘GovTech Catalyst’ team will “operate at the heart of government”, overseeing a £20m fund.
It will help firms deliver “innovative fixes to public sector challenges”, which could include reducing traffic jams, freeing up teachers’ time and improving the experience of patients visiting their GP. The announcement follows the establishment by the Scottish Government of CivTech and the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund.
The UK Government said the team will boost productivity by helping public bodies – such as the NHS or local councils – identify challenges they face that could be solved by new digital technologies. Technology firms bidding for the fund will have “free reign to create truly innovative fixes”. Those successful will receive funding to cover their research and development costs.
The Catalyst team will act as an entry point for technology firms, where they can put forward their ideas. Once a chosen product is created, the public sector body can then choose to buy it from the tech company. “Not only will the public body receive an innovative, bespoke solution enabling them to tackle their challenge head on,” said the statement, “but their stamp of approval will also help tech firms to attract global interest.”
It added: “Using emerging technology in this way will boost Britain’s status as a world leader in digital innovation, and by removing barriers to productivity, will save time and reduce costs – helping to deliver outstanding public services for citizens.
Announcing the fund, which will run from 2018 to 2021, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said: “Britain is a world leader in digital innovation with some of the brightest and best tech-firms operating in this country. Working with us, they can provide technological fixes to public sector problems, boost productivity, and get the nation working smarter as we create an economy fit for the future.
“The £20 million GovTech Fund will support delivery of the government’s Industrial Strategy by stimulating innovation in the economy, driving the development of the UK’s growing GovTech sector, and provide more opportunities for businesses to access public procurement opportunities.
Business Secretary Greg Clark added: “GovTech has the potential to transform public services through new innovative products and cutting-edge technologies that are both entrepreneurial and efficient.
“Our investment in GovTech will help deliver a significant boost to this growing sector while delivering on our ambition set out in the Industrial Strategy of driving progress and innovation that will create opportunities for businesses and sectors across the UK.
President of techUK, Jacqueline de Rojas commented: “Many tech business and entrepreneurs have great ideas that could revolutionise our public services but struggle to navigate their way through the public sector to get those concepts off the ground.
“The GovTech Catalyst scheme will create a ‘front door ’into the public sector for tech businesses with exciting new ideas and solutions that would otherwise get lost.
“This is a great initiative that could help to drive better, more efficient user-led services for people across the county. techUK looks forward to working with the Catalyst team to help get more creative tech solutions into the public sector.”