Innovation and Efficiency

02.07.18

Stepping up to GovTech

Source: PSE June/July 2018

Malcolm Harbour CBE, chair of the LGA working group on innovation in public procurement, gives us an update on the progress of the GovTech Catalyst challenges, and explains how successful projects will be rolled out.

My last article in PSE gave details of the GovTech Catalyst, which engages digital innovators to increase productivity and improve service quality in delivering public services. It is being organised by the Government Digital Service (GDS), with funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BEIS) of up to £20m over three years. All public bodies are eligible to apply, including local and mayoral authorities.

The first bidding round opened in early 2018 and closed on 19 February – a very tight deadline. It was very encouraging that 11 local authority proposals were among more than 50 submitted from across government.

After a review by a cross-Whitehall panel, the shortlist was submitted to ministers. At a GDS event on 10 May, the first five successful challenges were announced by minister Oliver Dowden to the 600 delegates. Local authorities demonstrated their appetite for innovative procurement and the quality of their ideas by submitting three of the winning bids.

The successful local authority challenges show the wide scope for innovative thinking:

  • Tackling loneliness and rural isolation (opening July) submitted by Monmouthshire Council. It noted: “Rural transport provision can sometimes be weak, compounding the problem of isolation. Car-share initiatives are already underway, but a technological solution, identifying vehicles with spare capacity, designed with the elderly in mind, could support rural economies and reduce health and social problems. We also invite innovative solutions to tackle loneliness more generally.”
  • Cutting traffic congestion (opening August), submitted by the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Department for Transport. This seeks “better ways of collecting and using data, but also innovative interventions to deal with live traffic issues and improvements in long-term planning.”
  • Deploying smart sensors on council vehicles (opening September) proposed jointly by the councils of Durham and Blaenau Gwent. Their submission notes that by “using smart sensors, our service vehicles could photograph potholes, measure air quality, identify fly-tipping and look at parking capacity, all in real time. They could actively improve some of the services that matter most for people’s quality of life.”

The selected GovTech projects will be rolled out under the pre-commercial procurement process, used by the Innovate UK Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). Regular readers of these articles may recall that this was one of the procurement tools recommended in the LGA report, which drew attention to model contracts and other information available from Innovate UK as a resource for local authorities. Innovate UK will work closely with the challenge winners throughout the programme.

To ensure that Innovate UK expertise is available, the challenges will be launched at monthly intervals and promoted across the technology sector. Small companies and inventors will be encouraged to apply. In the first phase, ‘Discovery,’ contractors will be invited to submit their proposed ideas that meet the challenge requirements. The most promising, which could engage up to five competing firms, will be offered funding (up to £50,000) to prove their feasibility. In the second phase, ‘Alpha,’ one or two providers could then be awarded up to £500,000 to turn their idea into a functioning solution.

The success of local government in this first GovTech round should be a big motivation to council leaders and procurement teams to launch more challenging and innovative procurements. It is essential that GovTech projects encourage information sharing  and feed the development of best practice, extending digital solutions to all aspects of procurement.

The BEIS needs to take a much wider view of the innovative potential of procurement tools, which can be applied to less ambitious and simpler projects than those driven by SBRI. The chairmen of three Commons select committees engaged with economic competitiveness have already written a joint letter to the chancellor asking for SBRI to be given additional funding to take on a wide range of projects.

GovTech is the prominent and well-promoted programme that could open the eyes of policymakers across the public sector to the untapped power of innovative procurement.

 

Enjoying PSE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

‘Bodies may be uncollected’: No-deal Brexit chaos could see council staff work from home for months

10/12/2018‘Bodies may be uncollected’: No-deal Brexit chaos could see council staff work from home for months

Bodies will remain uncollected and council staff may be forced to work from home for six months due to gridlocked roads in the event of a no-deal... more >
Major public services contractor seeking second rescue deal to avoid Carillion-style collapse

10/12/2018Major public services contractor seeking second rescue deal to avoid Carillion-style collapse

Interserve, one of the government’s largest outsourcing companies and provider of public services, has announced it is seeking a rescue dea... more >
Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

10/12/2018Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

All councils must publish detailed rough sleeping and homelessness strategies by winter 2019 or face government intervention if they fail to do s... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
‘Bodies may be uncollected’: No-deal Brexit chaos could see council staff work from home for months

10/12/2018‘Bodies may be uncollected’: No-deal Brexit chaos could see council staff work from home for months

Bodies will remain uncollected and council staff may be forced to work from home for six months due to gridlocked roads in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Kent County Council has warned. In a... more >
Major public services contractor seeking second rescue deal to avoid Carillion-style collapse

10/12/2018Major public services contractor seeking second rescue deal to avoid Carillion-style collapse

Interserve, one of the government’s largest outsourcing companies and provider of public services, has announced it is seeking a rescue deal as it struggles with £500m of debt and is ... more >

the raven's daily blog

Re-energising citizen engagement

10/12/2018Re-energising citizen engagement

Could smart cities and social media be the perfect match? Simon Dennis, director of artificial intelligence and analytics innovation at SAS UK, reports.  Politics is a divisive issue and not simply from a philosophical standpoint. Engagement levels are highly polarised across different sections of society. We could postulate man... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

The digital buying community is live

12/11/2018The digital buying community is live

Many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace were either non-compliant or poorly worded, which resulted in challenges f... more >
A force to be reckoned with

12/11/2018A force to be reckoned with

The South Bank plan, which refers to a number of investments and proposed activities across a massive plot of land south of the River Aire, is on... more >
Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

12/11/2018Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

As councils across England struggle with their finances in the face of massive cuts from central government, Simon Edwards, director of the Count... more >
A two-speed England

05/11/2018A two-speed England

Central government needs to change its approach to local transport planning and investment, including by consolidating funding and maximising dev... more >

interviews

New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >
Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

26/09/2018Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has outlined her priorities for dealing with soaring demand of children’s services and social ... more >
Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

05/09/2018Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

Nottinghamshire County Council is considering proposals to scrap its current two-tier structure for a new unitary system in order to save on... more >

public sector focus

View all News