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The private sector including SMEs, start-ups, pre-starts and entrepreneurs

The CivTech® Programme offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage with the public sector in a meaningful, effective and productive way by solving a Challenge, building a product, and developing a relationship with a major public sector organisation. It's a chance to build a business, and do some good along the way.

 Find out more about the opportunities offered by CivTech®: how you can get involved, solve Challenges, and grow your business

CivTech® harnesses new technologies to drive daring and innovation in Scotland and produce a more prosperous, just, open and equal society - and along the way, make people's lives better. For SMEs, pre-starts, start-ups and entrepreneurs, it's an opportunity to solve problems in the public sector, create products, and grow their business.

The CivTech® Innovation Flow has a number of features that make it an utterly unique and compelling proposition for you. The programme demonstrated that, before the Accelerator ended, businesses could secure their vital first client.

Best of all, you don’t even have to have an initial idea, as in the problem to be solved!

That’s because the CivTech® programme is based around Challenges - problems public sector organisations would like solved. The organisations define the problem, but not the solution. That’s for you to come up with and pitch – the best of them will get through to the Accelerator. And public sector organisations – the Challenge Sponsors - are committed to helping their chosen participants develop their idea into a product as fast and effectively as possible. Their commitment includes time, sharing of expertise, knowledge and data – and of course money. Which means from day one, you’ll not only be working closely with a subject matter expert but also, potentially, your first long-term customer. Because it's logical to expect that if a product solves their original problem, the Challenge Sponsor will want to develop their relationship with you further...

SG has committed the public sector in Scotland to increase the proportion of products and services it buys from small businesses – so the timing’s great. And it’s assembled an impressive team of people from both the public and private sectors to implement the whole CivTech® Innovation Flow, including the Accelerator. The CivTech® team is based in the Scottish Government's Digital Directorate. Designed by people with experience of start-up, acceleration, growth and accelerators, it’ll have everything you’ll need to succeed. A 40 session workshop programme will cover everything you need to know about starting up and growing a business as fast and successfully as possible. The programme is highly flexible too – so whether you’re a compete beginner in terms of business, or an established SME with a new product idea or a product that can be re-engineered, you’ll find a fit with everything going on. Our experience is that even established businesses / seasoned entrepreneurs gain from the workshops, not only in knowledge but also in sharing their experiences with less experienced cohort members. Participation is required!

It’ll also prepare you for working with, and winning business from, the public sector. Things are changing: as part of its commitment to buy from small businesses the Scottish Government is changing the procurement system. So if you’re on the Accelerator, you’ll be among the first to find out how this is happening, and among the first to learn how to do it. With access to massive experience of both the public and private sectors, the CivTech® Accelerator represents perhaps the most powerful route into a huge, previously hard-to-enter sector. And the programme proved this with over £400,000 worth of contracts being handed out to our first eight companies.


The citizen

Citizens have a vital role to play in co-production. A key tenet of the Scottish Approach to Service Design is citizen participation. Within the programme we held over 32 engagement sessions for the companies to get real user/citizen feedback to help co-produce the Challenge solution. We want to make sure that each and every CivTech® product has the input from the end-user, so that they become truly great products – effective, efficient, easy to use, and really beneficial. 

 Find out more about the opportunities offered by the CivTech®: how you can get get involved, solve Challenges, and play a part in delivering better public services

Transforming public services with digital - and how you can help

One way or another every single one of us in Scotland engages with the public sector, every day. It may be going to your doctor, going to the library, or having your rubbish collected. It may be travelling the country’s roads, enjoying its fabulous landscapes, culture and arts, or benefitting from its education system. Or it might simply be about being able to enjoy life in a society committed to a better way of life for all its citizens. There are two ways you can get involved.

First, you can put forward a solution to a Challenge: the only qualification anyone needs is a great idea and a team to support it. You can find out how to put your idea forward here. Two of our programme cohort, Gary Martin and Gordon Rates were sole traders with good ideas whom we've helped build businesses. That person could be you...

Second, you could come onboard to participate in the co-production of a solution, acting as an 'end-user expert'. We want to make sure that each and every idea being developed has the input from the ‘end-user’, so that they become truly great products – effective, efficient, easy to use, and really beneficial. We’re lining up a whole series of groups to help us do this. So whether you’re an individual who’d like to get involved, or apart of a group that feels it could help, get in touch – we want to hear from you.

This role is incredibly important to everything we're doing at CivTech®, so if you'd like to know more please contact Katie Lyne in the CivTech® team: and if there's a Challenge you're particularly interested in, please do tell her. You can see the full list of Challenges here


Academia, research centres and students

There's a range of opportunities for academia and research, from university and college involvement, research input and student involvement.  

 Find out more about CivTech® and how it works with academic institutions, research centres and students

Opportunities for graduates, students, researchers and academics

Graduates have the opportunity to engage with CivTech® initiative by -

  • Winning a place on the CivTech® Accelerator itself as a start-up answering a challenge [existing businesses can also take part]
  • Working inside an accelerator business either as interns or volunteers
  • Working inside the CivTech® team as an intern or volunteer
  • Involvement through citizen and users groups
  • Attending networking events and workshops [subject to availability]

Students can engage with the CivTech® programme by -

  • Working inside the accelerator businesses either as interns or volunteers
  • Working inside the CivTech® team as an intern or volunteer
  • Involving themselves in citizen and users groups 
  • Coming to networking events and workshops [subject to availability]

Academics and researchers can involve themselves in the programme by -

  • Coming onboard as a mentor or coach so that all the businesses on the accelerator benefit from their expertise and knowledge
  • Engaging with one or more of the businesses, adding momentum to progress through their expertise and knowledge 
  • Working through the various innovation centres that are engaging with CivTech®
  • Involving themselves in citizen and users groups 
  • Coming to networking events
  • Answering a challenge, and participating on the accelerator as a spin-out business

The opportunity for universities

In many ways CivTech® represents one of the most exciting developments in the innovation space for many years. It has the potential to draw many elements of the ‘body civic’ together to produce a country that’s driving innovation, making the most of its resources and money, creating new and vibrant businesses, is more prosperous, just, open and equal - and along the way, making people's lives better. So the opportunities for a university are many. Innovation centres can engage, and research utilised. Opportunities for students and alumni can be quickly developed. Internships can be offered. They can be partners in one of the most innovative and exciting developments in the public sector innovation space - ever.


The public sector

CivTech®'s mission is to stimulate innovation and daring in the public sector by creating an environment in which groundbreaking products and services can be developed - creating more effective and efficient services, better user experiences, and economies. It's been designed to harness the nation's innovation skills in the most effective manner possible, and help drive the Scottish Government's objectives in terms of public sector procurement and digital transformation.

 Find out more about CivTech® and how it works for public sector organisations

What it means to be a Challenge Sponsor 

CivTech® (Civic Technology) is a programme being run by the Digital Directorate of the Scottish Government to address this problem. It brings together public sector organisations, innovative small companies, academia and citizens in order to co-develop and utilize new public services that are of benefit to all.

Our mission is to harness new technologies to drive daring and innovation in the public sector, and so produce a more prosperous, just, open and equal society (and make people's lives better).

Our vision is to develop a powerhouse of innovative companies delivering global digital products and services that help governments across the world serve their citizens better.

The hypothesis being tested:

  • Posing open questions in the form of Challenges rather than conventionally publishing closed pre-determined technical solution tenders will provide a better source of innovative solutions;

  • Governments can deliver better services to their citizens by harnessing local digital talent in the form of smaller, more innovative, hungrier companies;

  • Adapted procurement rules around the public procurement of innovation will be a suitable vehicle for this approach;

  • With appropriate support and input from citizens, tech SMEs can build innovative solutions to civic Challenges;

  • Collaboration between the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate and public sector partners, Enterprise Agencies and the Scottish Investment Bank presents an opportunity to enhance digital public service delivery, whilst boosting the Scottish economy and providing investment opportunities;

  • Public sector challenges are the same all over the world, which presents an exciting opportunity to scale companies through exporting their services;

  • A Challenge Sponsor working through the CivTech® Innovation Flow is the best mechanism to deliver this.

A public sector accelerator/collaboration space will facilitate a cross-pollination of innovation across different sectors (Health, Environment, Cyber Security etc.)

Who benefits?

For public sector organisations this means enabling better citizen participation, creating better more useable services, and making your budgets go further by collaborating with the nation’s more innovative businesses.

For these small businesses it means having the opportunity to access new public sector markets in a straightforward way, giving them the opportunity to grow and internationalise their business.

For citizens this means interaction with the public sector is easier, that they have real influence on how we serve them, that it will ultimately make their taxes go further, and that their money is stimulating the nation’s innovative talent.

For the nation, CivTech® offers an idea and a product that can be taken to the world to highlight its innovation, creativity and enterprise proposition, and can become a clear national ‘differentiator’ at world level.

What makes a good Challenge Sponsor?

A quality challenge: The output is a brief that explains the context, articulates the issue, defines success / outcomes and provides an early indication of the potential market opportunity. Given the complexity of the public sector, it can take time to define what the ‘right’ challenges are and understand them well enough to be able to articulate them for appropriate solutions to be produced. So before we publicise them, we would expect a raft of user input and engagement to have been done to help present as much context as possible.

Attitude: we’re looking for the brave - those who recognise we need to procure differently, re-define the relationships we have with partners and citizens, and are willing to try new things out. And with knowledge of the public and private sectors and digital expertise, the CivTech® team will mitigate the risks and reduce them to manageable and minimised ones.

Budget: you need to have budget to procure - you shouldn’t be setting a Challenge unless there is an intent to fund a solution. As we’re operating within sub-OJEU thresholds for the programme, we’re looking at a maximum procurement of under £106,000 + VAT over 3 years. And if the business fulfils its remit in the accelerator, it would be logical to expect the Challenge Sponsor to utilise the product under the terms of a fully commercial agreement.

Video engagement sessions: As we learned with the CivTech® programme, videos are the most powerful tool to engage with our target audience, so…we will need to book in sometime with you and your team to make a short video about your challenge after the release of the Challenge and prior to responses being accepted

Time: This is the way to maximise the chances of a Challenge being delivered most effectively - and for you to have a genuinely great solution on your hands.

Selection and Sifting: This will be the most time consuming aspect of the flow. In order to select the best possible solutions submitted, we need Challenge Sponsors to be highly involved in the selection process. This will likely take between 2 and 3 days, dependent on the number of solutions submitted for your challenge. You will also need to be available for interviews with the respondents.

Exploration Stage: During the 3 weeks of Exploration stage, there will be two day long events, an opening event to welcome and meet all participants and a pitch day at the end.

Accelerator Stage: co-production requires Challenge Sponsors commit to time over the programme in order to maximise the exposure of the accelerator participants to public sector expertise and guidance. This will take up to half a day  a week; face to face is preferable, though remote Skype meetings could be an alternative.

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