Scotland seeks tech solutions to public sector problems

CivTech initiative launches sixth iteration

Credit: Hash Milhan/CC BY 2.0

A new round of CivTech challenges has been launched for the sixth year of the Scottish Government’s public sector innovation programme.

CivTech was first launched in 2016 to find original technological solutions to public sector problems. Public bodies and third sector organisations set challenges for Scotland’s tech companies to solve and invite pitches for potential solutions, with the best ideas gaining financial backing for further development.

This year there are 12 challenges, ranging from how to decarbonise manufacturing to managing tourist hotspots.

The most promising ideas from the initial submissions are placed into a tech accelerator programme, with up to £250,000 funding available for each challenge. 

The resulting products and services from this year’s challenges will be revealed in March 2022.

During its first five years, CivTech has set 48 challenges for tech entrepreneurs and companies, with 142 teams taking part in its initial exploratory stages and 55 teams going through to the tech accelerators.

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More than 90% of the teams were pre-starts, start-ups or SMEs, and all but three have continued operating, making their survival rate much higher than the estimated 80% of start-up businesses that survive their first year of trading or the 40% that survive for three years.

Over nine-tenths of participants have gone on to win further contracts from the public sector bodies that set their original challenges, and companies that have taken part in CivTech have also gone on to cumulatively raise more than £50m of investment.

Commenting on the new round of challenges, cabinet secretary for finance and the economy Kate Forbes said: “This is a national endeavour for everybody who shares the vision to see Scotland flourish. CivTech 6 represents a tremendous opportunity to take part in this by building products and businesses that will not only help rebuild the economy, but also make people’s lives better across the nation.”

Colin Cook, digital director at the Scottish Government, added: “Tech entrepreneurs and their companies can help to solve some of the biggest challenges facing Scotland, from elements of climate change and decarbonisation in the run-up to the COP26 conference in Glasgow this November through to how we use our school buildings and how we manage rural roads.Helping to solve challenges such as these not only produces benefits for citizens, but also boosts our economy here in Scotland by creating jobs and generating payroll taxes to help fund public services such as health and education.”

He added: “Taking part in CivTech’s challenges also helps to link tech experts into the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem in Scotland, enabling them to form the relationships with potential customers and investors that will allow them to grow their businesses. Our previous challenges have produced incredible results – both for Scotland’s citizens and the companies involved – and I expect CivTech 6 will continue to help take our public services in Scotland on to the next level.”

CivTech 6 Challenges

  • How can technology help manufacturing businesses to decarbonise while building resilience and strengthening competitive advantage?
    Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Economic Development Directorate
  • How do we use technology to give the citizens of Scotland trust and agency over how AI and algorithms are used in the public sector?
    Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Digital Directorate
  • How can technology help us identify peatland restoration sites that will optimise costs and benefits?
    Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Environment and Forestry Directorate
  • How can we use technology to help land managers make informed land-use decisions and increase carbon capture? 
    Challenge Sponsors: The Langholm Initiative, Southern Upland Partnership, John Muir Trust, Scottish Government, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • How can technology help to manage traffic and public road infrastructure that is used by commercial operations in rural and remote communities?
    Challenge Sponsors: Stirling Council, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Forestry and Land Scotland, CENSIS
  • How do we better understand supply and demand of childcare in communities?
    Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Early Learning and Childcare Directorate
  • How can tech help us understand how our school buildings are used, and help support asset performance, wellbeing and sustainability?
    Challenge Sponsors: Scottish Futures Trust, Midlothian Council, CENSIS
  • How do we better plan, manage and respond to the experiences of visitors and communities at ‘visitor hotspots’ in rural and remote locations?
    Challenge Sponsors: Perth and Kinross Council, Stirling Council, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate, Digital Office for Local Government, CENSIS
  • How can technology help people identify the care they need, and enable them to manage their own care services?
    Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Mental Health and Social Care Directorate
  • How can we help trainers assess the skills and practice competence of learners, using remote and online services?
    Challenge Sponsors: Care Training Consortium, CENSIS
  • How can we create the best possible user experience for people engaging with the Citizens Advice Scotland network?
    Challenge Sponsor: Citizens Advice Scotland
  • How do we use technology to make public sector data easy to find and re-use by different audiences?
    Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Digital Directorate



Sam Trendall

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