You may have heard this claim before, but it’s one that CivTech®, a new pilot project bringing private sector/start-up inventiveness to bear on civic challenges, can genuinely make.
Although I was broadly aware of the CivTech® scheme, the first time I was really introduced to it was at a Girl Geek event a few weeks ago. There, I heard Katie Lyne, CivTech®’s Marketing Manager, speaking about what they do. It was fascinating, and, for a company like Be-IT, interested in any new ideas and IT developments in Scotland, a real eye-opener.
In a nutshell, CivTech® exists to help emerging (and existing) companies work with the public sector to improve public services, cut costs, free up resources and enhance the user experiencefor citizens and businesses in Scotland. That’s what the blurb says anyway, but how does it actually work and, equally importantly, why does this matter?
Well, how it works is pretty simple. Start-ups and nascent digital businesses often struggle for money and if they want to work with public bodies they have to deal with the challenge of public sector procurement process. That’s particularly challenging for those trying to take their first steps to make their digital idea both acceptable and profitable.
To try to simplify matters for such companies, CivTech® organises competitions based around a specific public sector need/challenge*. Companies are asked to enter by detailing how their ingenuity/inventiveness/innovation would solve the problem. In the last round of the project, over 80 applications were received. These were whittled down to six and then further reduced to three. The three short-listed firms are given two week and £2K to work on a prototype which they then pitch to see who goes forward to the next phase. The winner is given £15K and full support through an Accelerator programme that lasts for around three months.
So far, there have been nine companies who have been successful and gone on to develop their projects with CivTech®. The fact that CivTech®’s office is in CodeBase in Edinburgh helps no end as the companies who come through the process then enter a relentlessly invigorating techie environment where support and understanding of their problems around product development and business growth are available.
I recently visited the CivTech® office and was really impressed by just how enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable they all are. Of the 9 companies who have passed through their portals, five were start-ups and a few of these were sole traders, one even relocated from London. Crucially, all these firms retain 100% of their equity and IP. That means there are Scottish tech companies that are now further ahead of where they might otherwise have expected to be, with all that implies for employment and future economic growth.
Susie Toner, Be-IT Resourcing
* if you’re a small company/start-up that wants to get involved in public sector work, the next CivTech challenge starts around April this year. You can find out more by keeping an eye on their website.