‘More than an acronym’: Authorities set out plans for a London Office of Technology and Innovation

Written by Rebecca Hill on 5 May 2017 in News

Scoping exercise launched for an organisation to cut down duplication and add value to a tech ecosystem that ‘drifts too readily’ towards tech solutions in search of problems

London Office of Technology and Innovation must not add to the 'alphabet soup' of organisations - Photo credit: Pexels

The Greater London Authority and London councils are looking to establish a London Office of Technology and Innovation to link up disparate organisations’ efforts, set common standards and create a culture of open innovation.

A scoping exercise for the office, LOTI, was launched this week, with a notice on the Digital Marketplace asking for bids for a six-month project to explore how London’s public services can coordinate innovation on data, digital and technology.

Andrew Collinge, assistant director at the GLA, said that as public services increasingly rely on technology and innovation, government bodies needed to focus on collaboration and cutting out duplication and wasted effort.

“Looking to the future, it seems increasingly pressing that public services adopt and share an anticipatory approach to the disruptive potential – regulatory and ethical dimensions included – of new business models emerging from the data and platform economies,” he said in a blogpost.

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As political support for a greater use of technology grows, Collinge said it would make more sense if organisations put their “collective, collaborative, minds to it” - as well as achieving better results more quickly.

“These are not activities or questions that should be dealt with 33 times over (in the case of the London Boroughs),” he said.

Instead, the authorities should “promote ‘technology preparedness’ through a set of mutually beneficial and well balanced relationships with business, academia, and the broader tech and innovation ecosystem”.

The idea, Collinge said, is for the LOTI will be a “convening point in a post-Brexit world”, bringing together expertise across London, and focusing on creating common, open standards, and encouraging open innovation and co-production.

 "A convening point in a post-Brexit world."

Collinge said that LOTI would need to add “new value – societal, economic, environmental and monetary– to a critical mass of public bodies that recognise how it rebalances discussions with the market and ecosystem that drift too readily and too often towards (technology) solutions in search of problems”.

He added that it would not be a physical space - "accelerators and innovation centres are already abound in the capital" - but that as a virtual organisation it must not be “another acronym, lost in the alphabet soup of organisations that already exist”.

London is already piloting work to improve data sharing across the boroughs, through its London Office of Data Analytics pilot, which is being carried out with the innovation agency Nesta and data science company ASI.

The initial work has used council datasets to train computer systems to predict buildings that are likely to be houses of multiple occupancy, to allow authorities to carry out more targeted investigations.

Collinge said at a conference last week that early results suggested it had succeeded in improving authorities’ ability to accurately identify HMOs, and that he hoped it would “pave the way” for further studies, for instance on air quality data.

His latest blogpost said that if LODA was to continue after its initial evaluation it may become part of the LOTI, which is expected to have a broader technology focus.

The GLA has also this week launched the hunt for a chief digital officer for London, who will be tasked with boosting London’s reputation as a smart city and be a “powerful advocate” for increased use of technology.

A spokesman for the GLA said that the chief digital officer would have oversight of the LOTI work with the other partner bodies, but added that the LOTI work was still in an “early exploratory phase”.

The closing date for bids to be involved in the scoping exercise for the LOTI is 17 May, with the deadline for asking questions about the work 10 May. The work must start by 12 June.

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