Launched in 2016, CivTech is the world's first government-run technology accelerator. The organisation is a partnership between the Scottish Government's Digital and Economic Directorates and aims to bring private sector thinking and problem solving into the public sector to improve services and efficiencies across a huge range of services that public bodies deliver to Scotland every day.
CivTech's scope of work touches many sectors and involves everything from connecting tech companies with public sector bodies on projects as diverse as rural bus routing and tree planting to meet carbon targets, and the complex issue of coordinating and paying for communal repairs in Scotland's iconic tenement buildings.
We spoke with Barbara Mills, Deputy Programme Director at CivTech to learn more about the crucial role the organisation plays in building new partnerships that benefit Scotland and how public bodies can start to procure what they don't know exists.
What is CivTech?
CivTech's mission is to drive innovation in the public sector by collaboratively solving challenges to make people's lives better - and in doing so, to create generations of sustainable, high growth businesses.
For public sector organisations, CivTech offers a route to develop highly innovative products and services in a fast, efficient and safe way, using private sector systems such as open challenges and tech accelerators. In a tech world that is increasingly fast paced and ever-changing, CivTech solves the problem of 'how to procure what you don't know exists'.
For innovators and entrepreneurs, particularly Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), it offers a unique opportunity to engage with the public sector and win contracts from major organisations. For everyone CivTech offers a great way to develop innovation in a collaborative, cost-effective and managed environment that puts the needs of the user first.
How does the CivTech process work?
Across Scotland, public and third sector organisations have problems they would like to solve. With budgets under pressure and rising demand straining services, the need for smart and efficient solutions is greater than ever and the public sector is increasingly aware that innovation is key to doing that.
The Scottish Government is also committed to ensuring that a large part of its tech spend goes to small, innovative businesses. This is where CivTech comes in.
Our process, which we call our Innovation Flow, which gives individuals, teams and companies the opportunity to tackle a challenge, solve it, and win contracts with a blue-chip public sector organisation. Successful applicants will build both a product and a business with CivTech's support.
The Innovation Flow process starts by setting Open Challenges, which any organisation, team or individual can respond to. Applications are assessed, and shortlisted proposals go into an Exploration Stage where they are developed further. Successful proposals will then go through to the Accelerator - a four-month programme of intensive work to create a solution. And through CivTech's unique business workshop system, a business capable of taking the emerging product to the world is created.
What are some successful projects CivTech has facilitated so far?
The CivTech programme has had many notable successes supporting teams across a wide variety of Scottish Government policy and delivery areas to deliver new innovative approaches to priorities they're focused on. These include:
- Helping the Scottish Government reduce pre-employment checks from six weeks to six days with the solution now also being used across the NHS to speedily and efficiently fill Covid related vacancies.
- Supporting Forestry Land Scotland to increase efficiencies in tree supply enabling it to meet demanding climate change tree planting targets, dramatically improving both germination and planting results. TreeTape doubled germination rates and planted over one million young trees in a single day, shattering the previous world record of 60,000, and delivered a 2000% increase in resource efficiencies overall
- Helping The City of Edinburgh Council transform its approach to the complex issues of shared repairs in private tenement buildings, creating a more efficient, effective, and transparent approach - one that is now going to be rolled out city-wide and adopted by the Council itself, with the potential to positively impact many thousands of households across the whole of Scotland.
CivTech 6 saw over 130 applications. Successful companies included iSumio, which developed a way to measure indirect company emissions that will help decarbonise Scottish manufacturing; Matter Of Focus, which has created an app that allows care practitioners to speak directly with individuals about the services best aligned to their personal care needs; and Buro Happold, which has produced a data-driven platform that will improve learning environments across Scotland.
Scotland is a country that embraces change
Scotland has a long and varied history of innovation and invention, and we believe that CivTech continues this tradition. In seven short years our Accelerator has become one of the most successful of its kind in the world. It's a great example of how Scotland is leading the way in driving meaningful change to benefit communities using technology, problem solving skills and a solid work ethic.
Anyone can join CivTech, all you need is a good idea. And in true Scottish tradition, we welcome anyone into our community, whether you are based next door or on the other side of the world - we want to hear from you.
CivTech 7 is now open for business. We have set some fantastic new Challenges this year, ranging from how we can support communities to move towards sustainable energy solutions to supporting people with disabilities to better access public services.
To find out more information, or to submit an application visit www.civtech.scot