West Midlands launches four urban challenges

Regional authority partners with Public venture firm in calling for ideas from tech start-ups for better public services

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has launched an open call competition for technology start-ups to develop new ideas for dealing with various civic issues.

Birmingham skylineIt has teamed up with Public, a venture firm which backs tech start-ups to work with the public sector, to set up the Urban Challenge competition.

The authority is offering prizes of £20,000 and a guaranteed three-month pilot for each successful proposal, one for each of four categories.

A spokesperson for WMCA said it hopes to promote a more entrepreneurial culture in the region’s public sector, and wants to attract ideas that involve using digital technology to improve the quality and efficiency of service delivery, with some of the focus on financial benefits.

It also wants to “support start-ups in the region by giving them opportunities to work with us”, and “develop a name for ourselves as leaders in urban tech, and facilitate a thriving urban tech focus here in the West Midlands”.

The four categories of the competition cover:

  • Wellbeing, with a focus on improving outcomes, supporting self-directed support and using digital platforms for mental healthcare.
  • Housing, to speed up the process of building high quality homes and connected places.
  • Youth unemployment, using technology to help young people exploit opportunities and ensure disadvantaged communities share in job creation.
  • Digital citizenship, using digital for improved communications and data to support transparency.

The competition is open for entries until 31 January, and the winners are due to be announced on 22 March. The selection panel includes Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands.

The pilots are expected to run roughly from April to June.

Image: Birmingham from Centenary Square by Andy G, CC BY SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons