GovTech Catalyst

GovTech Catalyst challenges councils to tackle pain with innovation

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Nicholas Fearn

IoT sensors and geospatial intelligence software are among the technologies being utilised to tackle local authority challenges as part of the £20m programme.

The government has chosen five more public sector projects to receive funding through the initiative, which is leveraging technology and innovation to solve nationwide operational service and policy delivery issues.

Speaking at the Government ICT conference on 23 January, implementation minister Oliver Dowden revealed that 17 public sector organisations had applied for the third round of the scheme.

One of the successful candidates was Leeds City Council, which will explore ways that connected sensors can be used to proactively monitor the condition of social housing. Meanwhile, London Borough of Waltham Forest wants to use geospatial intelligence to accelerate the building of new housing.

Speaking to PlaceTech, a Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We recognise that opportunities may exist with the development of new technologies to enable us to monitor our housing stock and better help those residents that need the most assistance.

“These technologies may offer measures to proactively monitor a range of environmental variables such as air temperature and humidity as well as behavioural factors linked to residents that may need support.”

They said the use of sensors and artificial intelligence learning provides the opportunity to move towards preventative care and maintenance models.

The spokesperson continued: “For example, it could offer a means to reassure carers and family members of a resident by allowing them to be notified of any issues when they are not able to be present or to alert maintenance teams if there’s an issue with the heating before it breaks down. This could also provide useful baselining information to monitor the success of any interventions.”

The other challenges come from Oxford County Council, which will look at how autonomous vehicles can be managed in local traffic control systems; Scottish Natural Heritage exploring how to use and understand Scottish land protected for nature and conservation; and Torfaen County Council’s quest to better predict and sequence adult social care to deliver a seamless service.

Cllr Anthony Hunt, leader of Torfaen Council, said: “The GovTech Catalyst gives us the opportunity to bring together some of the brightest and innovative minds from the tech industry with the passion, knowledge and expertise of our social care workers.

“The growing need for adult social care services means we have to find new ways of managing and reducing demand, increasing efficiency while providing quality services for our residents.

“If data and digital technology can be used to improve care and health outcomes for our residents, then the benefits for everyone will be significant.”

Connecting business and public sector

Now that the five challenges have been chosen, they will be launched as pitch competitions for small and medium-sized technology companies.

Businesses will compete for up to £50,000 of funding to build prototypes. Winners will be chosen by the public sector organisations, with Innovate UK putting together shortlists for each challenge.

Successful candidates will have 12 months to test their ideas, before two of them are selected to receive a further £500,000 to accelerate development. The first competition will take place on 4 March.

Dowden said: “The GovTech Catalyst fund encourages private sector companies to help solve public sector problems. Through the programme, public sector organisations are able to submit challenges. Successful challenges will become competitions that are open to private sector innovators to solve.

“It really does allow the public sector to trial innovative technology in a quick and cost-effective way, with a view to it being deployed at scale.  private sector is given a new route to work with government, government benefits from that expertise, and the public, who we are ultimately all here to serve, feels the benefit.”

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