Following the announcement of the six companies that have been selected to take part in the 2020 GovStart Programme, Mark Lazar – PUBLIC’s Director of Programmes – explores the challenges the public sector faces in the year ahead and the value of the startups in helping officials to overcome them. As those of you who follow our work may recall, back in July, PUBLIC opened applications for its latest intake of startups for GovStart – our flagship growth programme for startups seeking to work with public sector bodies.Back in April when we would normally have launched, it was clear that we were living in extraordinary times. To launch as we had in previous years wouldn’t work – not for us, not for the public bodies we work with, and especially not for the startups, many of whom will not have had the headspace or capacity to engage in a programme like GovStart.So we delayed the launch of GovStart, instead working on more COVID-19 specific projects. Starting in late March, and continuing through early April, the GovStart UK team worked with NHSX and the AHSN networks on TechForce19 – a programme to identify startups with immediate solutions to support vulnerable population segments during the pandemic.The Danish team set up a resource platform to track the COVID-19 response across the Nordic-Baltic region on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The NordicBaltic.Tech platform was used to share knowledge about the key initiatives tackling COVID-19 in both the public and private sector across the regions.Elsewhere, our German team worked with startups from our 2019 cohort to tackle pressing challenges around COVID-19 on all federal levels. We are expecting the companies joining this year to continue that great work. Stay tuned for the announcement.Now is the time for tech to engage with and support governmentWith the COVID crisis continuing to drive a radical shift in how citizens and businesses interact with government, public services are now under immense pressure to identify new and innovative ways of delivering for their citizens.Here, innovative technologies developed by the startup sector will be essential to recovery. Since the crisis began, there has been a great increase of companies delivering real public sector value. From Cera, who worked with DHSC to power a nationwide recruitment and training solution for carers; or What3Words, who are now providing their three word addressing service to over UK 75 emergency service bodies; to Polyteia who provide regionalised COVID-Monitor for public sector decision makers throughout Germany to get the best data to their crisis teams; and to AccuRx, who have delivered the communication and video consultation platform for millions of patients during COVID-19, and are now working with over 6,000 GP practices.With that in mind, with our launch in July – we set out with a mission to find companies that could have an impact in their particular focus that reflected the size of the wider challenge. We see the six companies selected for this year’s GovStart in the UK having the potential to deliver that impact. Their technologies will help to keep momentum behind increasingly digitally-enabled public services that are improving citizens’ lives. Everyone at PUBLIC is looking forward to working with them over the next six months and beyond.We also know that there are so many other ways for technology to support the public sector during this crisis, and PUBLIC wants to work with great companies in this space. As the situation changes rapidly, as do the technologies needed to make a difference. With that in mind, we are keeping space in the cohort for other GovTech startups. Please get in touch with the PUBLIC team if you want to find out more.