Cabinet Office launches first GovTech competition

Companies invited to bid for shares of £20 million pot to find digital solutions for social challenges

The Cabinet Office has announced the first round of competitions for tech specialists to tackle social challenges with money from its £20 million GovTech fund.

Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden made the formal announcement at the Sprint 18 conference on the Government’s digital programmes.

The first of the competitions will focus on enabling the Home Office to use artificial intelligence in taking Daesh videos as part of the effort to combat terrorism.

It will open on Monday 14 May and runs for six weeks, with the others to be launched over the coming months.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is challenging tech experts to find solutions for specific issues including tackling loneliness and how to reduce plastic waste.

The competitions will contribute to each of the Government’s Grand Challenges on the data economy, clean growth, healthy ageing and the future of mobility, with the aim of incentivising tech firms to come up with innovative solutions to improve public services.

Assessors

Entries will go to an assessment panel made up of representatives from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, GDS, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, HM Treasury, Innovate UK and the devolved Northern Ireland administration.

Winning companies will be awarded up to £50,000 to develop their ideas, and those providing the best potential solutions for a further stage will be awarded research and development contracts of up to £500,000 to build prototypes.

These solutions will then be available to the public sector to purchase.

Oliver DowdenDowden (pictured) said: “Our modern Industrial Strategy will cement Britain’s position as a world leader in digital innovation and this Government is committed to providing more opportunities for tech businesses, including small firms, to access public procurement contracts. The GovTech fund encourages firms to find innovative ways to fix the big social problems we all face - loneliness, plastic pollution and national security.

“Through emerging technologies, this fund will elevate British companies onto a global market while helping to deliver outstanding public services and improving lives for people. “

Challenges to follow include: tracking waste through the waste chain; tackling loneliness and rural isolation; cutting traffic congestion; and equipping local authority vehicles with new data capture systems to monitor roads and environmental factors.

This article was amended on 11 May after the Cabinet Office provided more details of the first competition.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0