Alexander Holt, 8th May 2017

We're delighted that after the success of our CivTech® pilot, today we launch CivTech® 2.0 with a new round of public sector challenges. 

The CivTech® mission is to drive daring and innovation in the public sector. We're here to deliver better public services and provide economic development opportunities. The pilot saw eight cracking products launched: from 3D-printed flood warning systems to blockchain as a platform to some seriously powerful artificial intelligence data analytics tools. 

Six new companies launched, over £360,000 of contracts awarded so far, with some now onto their third contract within the public sector outwith the CivTech® Programme. Procurement has been streamlined to cut the time from application to contract to under four weeks. And ANYONE can apply if they think they have a good enough idea. Two of the CivTech® pilot's companies were started by sole traders - one even relocated from London. And for the public sector, we give organisations the opportunity to work with talent in ways they could only dream of. Getting innovation into their organisations with a smart risk-reducing process. 

Of course, some of these ideas will work and some of these will fail but that's the nature of innovation. And against the backdrop of diminishing public resources we have to do things differently. And ultimately this is about building better services for citizens - for all of us! Which is why we involve them throughout the design and development process. 

So, if you know of a talented team who might just want to tackle challenges around data, health, justice, artificial intelligence and tourism, then point them to . 

Closing date: 1st June...

With thanks to everyone who made the pilot a success, here's to driving more daring and more innovation in our public sector. 

Just two days to go!

Just two days to go before Demo Day!

Company updates

As the week draws to a close, we’ve plenty of news to share with our readers! Aside from further planning of Demo Day 2017, we’ve welcomed over 17 sets of visitors from various public sector bodies and facilitated a ‘Fireside Chat’ with the brains behind Codebase! A typical day...

Studio visits

We were glad to welcome a host of new guests this week at the CivTech® studio. This lead to great discussions about progress of the Accelerator and our plans for v2 next year! So the teams got plenty of opportunities to interact and gain some contacts/pointers.

  • Edinburgh Council - Mollie Kerr - offering our lessons learnt on Open Innovation
  • Exolta Capital Partners - Russell Dalgleish - Russell seemed to enjoy his visit to the studio. What a wealth of contacts.

  • The Datalab - Gillian Docherty and Joshua Ryan-Saha - who have been particularly helpful with xDesign's potholing app.
  • Federation of Small Businesses (North East England) - Simon Hanson - Honoured that Simon should make the effort come up from Newcastle to take a look at the CivTech® approach.


  • Scottish Government Digital Directorate - David Robb As our new Deputy Director for Digital Public Services and Business Transformation, it was great to show David Robb round the studio.

  • Rachel Gwyon - Deputy Director within Economy Directorate - thanks so much for the brilliant intros following your visit!
  • Scottish Government Digital Ecosystem Unit - Trish Quinn and her Digital Ecosystem team held their team day out - always happy to host.
  • Improvement Service - Iain McKay - good to have him back in.

Fireside Chats

On the back of hosting a Fireside Chat with Gareth Williams and then Calum Paterson (SEP), this week's speaker had some further great news to share for the Scottish tech community. The Chairman and Co-Founder of Codebase, Jamie Coleman spoke to a room full of CivTech® and Codebase businesses about his new £150m Accelerated Digital Ventures fund. Really fascinating. 


Our Firesides have been set up by Joe - so the challenge is on to beat the ones we had this year given the amazing timings (which of course he had planned impeccably).

Citizen Engagements

These continued for some of the teams this week.


  1. Company Finance and Accounts 4 - Corporate Tax and R&D, run by: Johnson Carmichael
  2. Sales and Marketing Follow-Up - David Anderson
  3. Legal Basic and Anatomy of Term Sheet - MBM Commercial 
  4. The Brand and Company Narrative (1-2-1 Sessions) - MadeBrave®

CivTech Team and Studio

As mentioned on a previous blog, the CivTech® team were delighted to be nominated for the Campbell Christie and Commercial Partnership awards at the Scottish Public Service Awards. We came away empty-handed, but just being nominated itself was amazing, particularly given we're only 4 months out of the starting blocks. Congratulations indeed to Renfrewshire Council and Aberdeen City Council on their wins. It was a brilliant evening - you realise just how much great work is going on across the public sector.

Unrelated to our categories, but this captures a bit of the glitz as Barbara Allison, Director for Communications, Ministerial Support & Facilities opens an envelope.

Anyway - the end of another belter of a week... Thanks to everyone for their continued support for our tiny team and our talented companies.

Company updates

The festive month has officially started..and we’re all looking forward to another productive month before we head for our Christmas holiday! Over this week, our teams have been super busy with meeting guests, facilitating focus groups and attending a number of workshops. A day in the life of a CivTech® participant!

Studio visits

  • Mairi McFadyen - Scottish Storytelling Centre - Mairi is working closely with the Learn to Love Digital team to create content for their mobile application.
  • Clive Gillman - Director Creative Industries, Creative Scotland -  
  • Scottish Government mygov Content Team - We thoroughly enjoyed hosting Rachel Dowle (Head of Content and her team!


  • Scottish Government Justice Team
  • Bank of Scotland - Gillian Henderson (Lead Director, Commercial) and Angela Smillie (Commercial Director, Commercial Banking) - I met Gillian at the opening of the Edinburgh University's Centre for Service Excellence (see blog post w/e 28/10/16) and I was delighted to be asked if she and Angela could visit the studio. It's testament to the hard work that everyone is putting in that parties from the private sector are taking an interest.

Fireside Chats

Following the sale of Skyscanner to China’s Ctrip, we were pleased to welcome our next speaker, Calum Paterson from Scottish Equity Partners. As the Managing Partner and Chairman, Calum was jointly responsible for investing into Skyscanner before the billion dollar sale. During the Fireside Chat, Calum spoke extensively about the creation and growth of Scottish Equity Partners, investment portfolio and the latest sale of Skyscanner. On behalf of the attendees, we all enjoyed a thoroughly interesting evening!

Citizen Engagements

Our User Engagement sessions are well underway and this week brings more updates. As we reach the last few weeks of the Accelerator, our teams have been conducting a number of focus groups and interviews with the aim of gathering feedback on their latest product developments. One of our teams, Learn to Love Digital were particularly busy this week with citizen engagement.


  1. Company Finance and Accounts 3: Corporate Tax & R&D
    Hosted by: Johnston Carmichael
  2. What Investors Really Want
    Hosted by: MBM
  3. CheckGate 2 sessions
    Hosted by: CivTech® - Joe Tree and Mark Elliott

CivTech Team and Studio

As another productive week comes to a close, we can only reflect on the progress made by the 10 teams (ok so we include ourselves) within the Accelerator. As we were working on our own Mission, Vision and Values, we watched the most amazing sunset...

Company updates

Wow what a week this has been. Our companies are getting clarity on their propositions, the challenge sponsors are constructing challenges for v2 and the visitors we’ve had in - one in particular - are off the scale!

Studio visits

  • Scottish Cities Alliance - City of Edinburgh Council’s Ritchie Sommerville - great chat about the future of Edinburgh and how CivTech® can be an asset for this city and others across Scotland.

  • Digital Directors and Team Leaders - SG - Great to have Deputy Director Anne Moises and her team in. Presentations from Diddo, (the team she’s kindly sponsoring as our second Cyber Challenge), Wallet.Services, Wallscope and Symphonic. RiverTrack also squeezed in a flood warning demo. Thank you for the feedback. Thanks also to Alex Walmsley (SEPA) for giving his insight from a Challenge Sponsor perspective - the pace and profile is what stood out for him.

  • Head of IT and Business Transformation - Aberdeen City Council - Simon Haston - brilliant chat. Watch this space...

  • Cairngorms National Park - Grant Moir 

Fireside Chats

  • Gareth Williams - CEO Skyscanner - Wow - humbled, privileged, astonished to share an evening with Gareth -  less than 24 hours after selling the company for £1.4 billion. Needless to say, it was a packed room. Chatham House rules applied, so candid insights flowed aplenty. As an investor had mentioned earlier to us, "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy." On the basis of the remarkably down-to-earth and humble chat, we wholeheartedly agree...!

Citizen Engagement

Some of our teams engaged in further Citizen Engagement meetings this week.

  • Gordon from Node on the Edge invited a team of software developers to CivTech® to discuss the possible plug-ins for the product.

  • Johnny from Streetchange busy afternoon of engagement sessions - the participants provided some thoughtful advice to help improve the fundraising platform for the Demo Day in January!

Rui attended the ‘Future of Brexit’ at Codebase - another way for the CivTech® team to raise further awareness of the accelerator programme, as well as get a sense of the issues that SMEs face.


  • Company Finance and Accounts 2: Financial Planning and Fundraising - hosted by Johnston Carmichael
  • IP, Licensing and Partnerships  - hosted by MBM Commercial
  • The Brand and Company Narrative  - hosted by MadeBrave®
CivTech Team and Studio

We have heating! It's finally working and we're all a little warmer in here.

What a week. Momentum is gathering as we lead up to Demo Day in January.

Less than 24hrs after he's sold the company for £1.4bn, we are bowled over that Gareth Williams, CEO of Skyscanner comes and does a Fireside chat - even before the BBC have interviewed! As an investor had mentioned earlier to us, " couldn't have happened to a nicer guy." On the basis of the remarkably down-to-earth and humble chat, we wholeheartedly agree...!

We have had some other visitors as well... we'll outline in more detail shortly

This week's been one that can truly be said to be heads down, noses to the grindstone for the teams, only interrupted by a series of extraordinary workshops... by Tilesh Patel of the SME Clinic.

  • Tilesh Patel, SME Clinic. Tilesh is the founder and CEO of the SME Clinic, which specialises in advising high-growth start-ups and accelerating businesses, particularly in regard to investment-driven growth. He has an extremely successful track record going back more than twenty-five years experience in senior executive roles focused on delivering significant shareholder value with organisations including Verizon and Virgin, where he was the head of group investment. So perfect for Business Planning and the Opportunity Matrix workshop sequence...

    His approach focuses not just on ‘business plans’, but on the IP and assets held by a business and how maximum value can be developed out of these – and when that can be done. This is developed through detailed, robust and rigorous financial modelling, allowing a business to clearly understand potential revenue streams, their potential magnitude, and likely timing – this in turn allowing a extremely robust business model to be built, out of which the full business plan can be easily extracted. In other wordfs, the numbers come first, and then the words...

Over two days Tilesh conducted a group session then extensive one-on-ones with the teams on the Accelerator. We even managed a fireside chat! Just a few of the comments -

  • Joe Tree. even as Tilesh was going one-on-one with teams, Joe did a return visit to a very successful workshop he did earlier on the Accelerator for the teams that'd missed it first time round: Investment and what it means for you focuses on investment considerations from the business owner's point-of-view. It's all well and good going after investment, but before you do it's never a bad idea to really understand its implications and the profound changes it brings to a business. Joe, having ben there and done it, knows the territory and passed on his own experience. The feedback (we've now formalised it) was outstandingly good!

    By the way, if you're wondering why the photos look like they've been taken from a secret camera behind the blinds, they kinda have - because we don't want to interrupt the sessions! The eagle eyes among you might also notice that there's a steady stream of new bits and pieces to the CivTech environment - large-scale monitors, sofas... heck, we'll even get the fridge next week! 

Company updates

First off, mega congratulations to Wallet.Services who won one of the Scottish Edge Wildcard challenges on Friday. It's a real endorsement on the potential of their platform. Everyone has passed their check-gates, so first round of payments will be made shortly.

Studio visits - Wow - what a cracker of a week - so many 'grands fromages' - IJ Mellis will be envious.

  • Lucinda Rivers - Head of UNICEF UK in Scotland. Plenty to chat about with Lucinda. Most of which we'll keep under our hats...for the time being...
  • Kevin Cunnington - Director General, Government Digital Service. As big as it gets in government digital circles. So, enormously appreciative of giving up his time at short notice to take a look around and meet the companies - including a live demo of Gary's flood warning capability...and...relax!
  • Andrew Murphy - Group Productivity Director, John Lewis Partnership. . What a belter to kick off the first of our 'fire-side chats'. Really interesting/inspiring/candid tale of the behind the scenes of JLP  as drawn out by his interviewer Joe. And welcome to other CodeBase companies who also joined us for pizzas.
  • Bruce Walker CEO We Are the Future - amazing how much he's achieved with WATF under the age of 22!!
    'I was very impressed with the high quality of truly innovative and disruptive businesses and entrepreneurs taking part in the CivTech accelerator. This level of innovation and creativity is unheard of by Government, so it's a huge testament to the hard work and effort from the CivTech team.'

Events -  I was honoured to be on the panel for the inaugural session of Edinburgh University's Centre for Service Excellence. What with Colin Mair (CEO IMprovement Service), Sandy Finlayson (Founder of law firm MBM Commercial), and Isabella Miller (Branch Manager of John Lewis Glasgow), I was the small fry in service delivery. However, we had some good feedback on 'CivTech in 7 minutes'. It was also an opportunity to reference the Scottish Approach to Service Design which, after the presentation by Professor Christian Gronroos (Emeritus Professor of Service and Relationship Marketing, Helsinki) made me think how progressive SG's SATSD is.

Workshops -

  • Insights profiling - this is a great workshop. I did this in my previous team 18 months ago and it's pretty accurate. What is most telling is how it maps your conscious over your subconscious self-perceptions - i.e. to what extent is someone WYSIWIG. The other useful insight is the section on how NOT to talk to someone. I see this as a more tactical and team based tool then the Wealth Dynamics test that the teams did in week 1, which is more strategic. Thanks to our Digital Directorate colleague Laurena Charles for delivering.
  • Investment Readiness part 1 - Joe delivering the basics on where to get your sources of funding from - apparently the back of the sofa doesn't count...

CivTech® team + studio - A few people down this week, so pretty stretched. Finally a bit more kit arrived, so we can at least start looking less skeletal.

Company updates - 1-2-1s completed - good preparation, so no concerns there. Nice to have feedback from Jo Blewett and Gordon Ramsay (Challenge sponsor 3+4) saying they always feel happy as soon as they walk into the studio due to its upbeat feel - clearly they feel their teams are on track to deliver. Interesting comment from Derick at Symphonic Software, “In twenty years of working with the public sector, I’ve never known a programme like this…” It appears that the CivTech® brand is a mark of assurance: one of our companies has been allowed to submit a tender to a private sector client who normally requires three years of accounts. Attendance is better - the companies are getting into a rhythm - M/F on site with clients (studio is quieter), W/T workshops. 


  • Following on from John Connaghan’s visit, Linda Semple and Pauline Fyfe (NHS Scotland) had a good tour and exploration around particular NHS challenges they face. Again, the fast pace of this programme is what is being noted by visitors.
  • Tony Bayliss (Skills Development Scotland)- What with CodeClan being in the same building, it was a logical next step to come here and look at our approach in developing skills and opportunities.
    “I was intrigued by the way that the developers are delivering a real depth of product forma  simple, short statement using their innovative skills and engaging enthusiasm. The environment that CivTech® has created clearly suit this “frontiersman”-like sense of adventure."

  • Danny Gallagher (CEO SEEMiS)- on recommendation of Martyn Wallace. I think our Digital Directorate colleagues will be of particular help…
  • Big Partnership- Bryan Garvie and Sharon Amos. One of SG’s PR Framework suppliers - particularly entertained by Learn to Love Digital’s plans for the A9…

  • Eden Scott - Jane Kennedy and
    Jennifer Telfer who have kindly offered to host a pizza tech evening.

  • Great conversation with another UK Government agency looking to collaborate. We await their visit in December.

We’ve got some crackers next week… CAN NOT WAIT!!

Citizen engagement - these sessions start next week.

Workshops - The importance of Mission, Vision & Values as experienced through the eyes of the former CEO of Digital City (NE England’s biggest tech hub) - our very own Mark Elliott. Lots of good feedback on this session. We did the CivTech® team’s MVV in February; now that we’re up and running we’ll publish our revised version in a few weeks when we have our refresher session. We've completed the procurements for the remaining workshops - the delay has meant that we’ve had to amend our ideal order - but very pleased with the line up. 

Events - Invites starting to go out to for Demo Day on 11th January 2017. 

CivTech® team and studio - Mixed presence as some people on leave. Ended Friday with a clearer approach for elements of CivTech®2:  we don’t need a large team to deliver an awesome product - it’s about remaining lean and mean. We have some chairs! And one of the teams kindly donated some sofas! This is progress of the highest order!

Insights - Week 5 of 15 and we’re starting to get into a groove. Hopefully some more furniture and kit will arrive next week. The more visitors we have in, the further the teams are in their development, and the more interactions our challenge sponsors have, the more our approach is absolutely validated.

Final thought - For our team: Culture = Lean and mean. But this programme is not about us - it's about our customers, clients and citizens...

Ok, so this is the first of our blogs. We'll post the first three weeks shortly, now that we've caught our breaths!

Highlights this week:

Company updates - All the 9 companies had their first set of 1-2-1s. These are part 1 of the check-gate reviews which will conclude in two weeks and trigger the first payment. We covered off topics of project plans, attendance, client meetings and general 'how's it going?' Delighted to hear that one of the companies is planning to hire two extra staff as a direct result of being on the programme.

CivTech® team - Great to have our Kanban board up and filled in. Some people are fans of digital boards, but having it physically up there makes it more 'real'. We have a very diverse set of companies at different stages and so tailoring a programme to take into account these needs is challenging. It's interesting to see my team get into full swing.

Studio visits - Our high profile visitors continue:

  • Martyn Wallace (new CDO for Local Government)- great blast of energy in the room and real endorsement for what we're doing. Thanks for the intro to SEEMiS Chief Exec whom we're meeting next week. 
  • Jason Leitch (National Clinical Director - Scottish Government) got round most of the companies - with a fire alarm cutting short the tour. He liked the diversity of the companies and the speed with which we had put this together.

'I had a fascinating morning visiting the work and people of CivTech®. I'm no expert on tech or entrepreneurship but I do know a public service challenge when I see one, particularly in the health and care service. CivTech® was innovative, interesting and striving to answer real questions. I'll be fascinated to see if those involved can come up with real, sustainable change and also to watch the model develop and expand. Thanks for hosting my visit, I hope to be back.'

  • A great meeting with some people from the Scottish Crime Campus, Gartcosh (which is a brilliant example of colocating agencies).
  • We had an enquiry from another UK agency this morning particularly interested in our methodology...

All our visitors seem not only impressed with the companies, but also willing to help them with contacts, data, contextual info. This exposure is invaluable. As Jason kindly commented:

Events - Members of the team attended various events. Johnston Carmichael put on some good pizzas at CodeBase as part of their continued engagement with the tech community. Coincidentally I met the very same investor quoted in Director General Ken Thompson's tweet last week. It's heartening to hear from investors and industry notables that they are delighted that the Scottish Government is taking a very innovative approach.

Workshops - Joe Tree did a great workshop (as fed back by the companies) on growth hacking and his experience on growing Blipfoto. Thanks to Graham Beedie and Jason Broekhuizen for their insights into agile delivery within the mygov team. We've just received all the tender submissions for all the workshop delivery partners. It will be good to get these procurements out of the way...

Insights - I believe we're getting there. Sure, there are bits and bobs that aren't quite right. The studio's still a bit bare - haven't even got all the furniture yet and we're waiting on bits of kit. The teams are still settling in so there's a bit of recalibration. But that doesn't matter - as a start up it's all about 'beg-borrow-steal' (well, not the latter, we're the Scottish Government and can't endorse that :) ). We're not doing anything special. We are delivering transformative change within the rules. Even if a line of code hadn't been written (which loads have) the attitude towards us shows the public sector is changing - they want access to talented companies and see this as a potential viable route to better value delivery.

Final thought - What better way to take stock of the first four weeks of CivTech® than to take off to Dorset for my annual meditation weekend.

Wow! What a week!!

Company updates

Visits - As the first week of public sector visits, we are giving our companies amazing exposure.

  • Grant Moir - CEO of Cairngorms National Park. A perfect visit: meet some of the companies and offer contacts and suggestions on go-to-market strategies.

    ‘The CivTech approach was something that I had heard about on the SG Digital Champions course and also at the NDPB CEO Forum. It struck me as an innovative and interesting approach to solving some tricky issues. It was really good to meet some of the people at Codebase to discuss their existing challenges and the solutions that they were bringing to the table. It was also good to see different companies working in the same creative space and to be able to discuss issues with multiple teams. Lots of food for thought and an interesting way to harness digital technology to deliver public policy objectives.’

  • John Connaghan, COO of NHS Scotland - took a particular interest, understandably, in WallScope and Symphonic who are developing solutions for NSS.

'Different kind of working atmosphere compared to the world of the civil servant.  It’s refreshing to see the steps you have taken to fostering a culture of innovation and blue sky thinking but with an underlying theme of practical and pragmatic delivery.'

  • Rebecca Heaney, former marketing director of CodeClan and many other illustrious organisations (!)
  • Good to meet the people behind getsafeonline. Here to meet our Cyber colleagues - where better to host
  • And then we had our very own Digital Directorate colleagues come round - some extremely interesting feedback reflecting well on the companies ...

CivTech® team - This was a strategically productive week. A number of nights spent carving out how I see  the next 3 months leading up to demo day shaping up. Good old MindNode - invaluable! And then quickly thoughts turn to CivTech2... The first key thing was to set out an initial vision statement. See the photo below. By defining our key stakeholders, we can help shape their journeys. Mark and Joe look after our customers (the innovators in the room), Rui looks after our clients (our daring challenge sponsors) and Katie looks after the citizen input and external communities. And I look after our paymasters! What I wanted to steer away from - even in a small team - was a sense that once you hand a customer off to another part of the team they are no longer your responsibility - and ensure that everyone manages their own 'customer' from start to finish.

Companies - It's week 3 and the access our companies are getting is brilliant. What particularly pleased me was one of our teams being introduced to their challenge sponsor's counterparts in another devolved administration.

Workshops - Thanks to our Information Security Officer, Paul Craig, for his workshop on data security.

Events - I had a particularly encouraging meeting at the Scottish Crime Campus' Future and Benefits Realisation Committee. When I presented to them in May, this was still a plan. Five months on it's a reality. I attended ScotSoft16 and was blown away by the positive endorsements from Mike Neilson (Director Digital) and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, Derek Mackay, who very kindly plugged us 3 times in 30 mins.

Insights - There are a few elements still requiring ironing out. The studio is a little spartan still and it's taking a little longer to get kit in. And evidently we'll need to reschedule the days of the workshops as some of the companies are offsite for a few days a week so attendance isn't as high as it should be. But these are minor things in the big scale.

Final thought - As I have written before: some of this will work, some of this won't. Fast failure is at the heart of innovation and there is nothing half-hearted about this project. Indeed, if we are to deliver an "awesome experience" to our stakeholders, then we must be about the relentless pursuit of excellence...

Still, what a week for us as a project and some of our companies...