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Belfast stages competition for business rates software


Council takes new approach in encouraging product development after failing to find suitable solution in the market

Belfast City Council has thrown out a challenge to SMEs to come up with a new technology solution to increase its revenue from business rates.

The authority has launched a competition, working with the Future Cities Catapult and the Land & Property Service team in the Northern Ireland Executive’s Department of Finance, to encourage small companies to develop a suitable software package.

It is being run under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), Innovate UK’s programme for government bodies to encourage technology firms to develop new solutions to support public services.

A spokesperson for the city council told UKAuthority it is running the competition after failing to find a suitable solution that is already commercially available.

“Market research demonstrated that, although elements of the challenge were addressed by some software, no single product exists that would meet the requirements,” she said.

The organisers have highlighted a handful of functions that they want fulfilled:

  • Identifying the occupancy status of a non-domestic property in near real time.
  • Ensuring that all properties required to pay rates have been identified and are valued for rates purposes.
  • Identifying the function/use of a non-domestic property in near real time.
  • Identifying the occupant of a non-domestic property in near real time.
  • Expediting the issuing of bills to new properties.

As part of the competition, Belfast will provide the companies with access to relevant datasets, including SpatialNI, Northern Ireland’s source of location data.

Six companies chosen for phase one will each receive up to £5,000 to develop their ideas to concept stage, following which those chosen for the shortlist will receive a share of £100,000 to develop commercially viable products.

Economic objective

Speaking at the launch event, Aileen Graham, chair of the City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said the SBRI is aimed at promoting economic growth in Belfast.

“It provides an example of how we want to move forward - working collaboratively with our businesses, government departments and academia to stimulate innovation to address city challenges for the benefit of our citizens,” she said.

“We want to use new ideas and technologies to change how we do things and to ensure that our citizens are at the heart of everything we do.”

She added: “We are developing a pipeline of projects as part of this approach that will enable us to continue to work collaboratively with the private, public and academic sectors to deliver innovative solutions to city problems.”

The competition is open to companies from anywhere. The council is taking entries until 12 pm on 19 August, with registration going through the city council’s Smart Cities web page.

Image: Belfast City Hall by Wknight94 (own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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