January 6, 2022

July 8, 2020


National health technology and data body NHSX partnered with PUBLIC to find and trial technology to help UK health & care bodies during COVID-19.


In March 2020, PUBLIC partnered with NHSX, the digital arm of the UK National Healthcare System, to create TechForce19 - a challenge programme aimed at scouting, assessing, piloting and ultimately scaling technology solutions that could provide transformational value during the COVID-19 crisis. 

TechForce19 used a methodology designed by PUBLIC consisting of a 6-stage process: i) challenge definition, ii) open calls for technology providers, iii) selection and due-diligence, iv) pilots and implementation and v) recommendations for scale. 

The programme focused on three challenge areas:

i) Providing remote social care to vulnerable citizens that were isolating
ii) Optimising staffing in care and volunteering sector
iii) Enabling the delivery of mental health services and the self-management of mild mental health conditions


In delivering TechForce19, PUBLIC concentrated on delivering value to NHSX in 4 key areas: 

i) Finding the best innovation & technology available in the market
PUBLIC assessed the technical feasibility, solution credibility and public sector compliance of over 1600 applications from technology providers. 53 dynamic  providers were invited to an interview, and 18 were down-selected to deliver pilots and trials.

ii) Providing a path for scale
Companies were provided with the support and tools for successful deployment and scale. For example, as a result of TechForce19 the social care company Alcuris managed to close long term contracts with three local authorities.

iii) Moving fast & saving NHSX time
In total the process took 6-weeks, faster than any previous challenge programme of its type.

iv) Creating a compliant and safe procurement process
Techforce19 was specifically designed to be compliant with UK Government procurement practices and fully mirrored a legally and internally compliant procurement.

Selected startups included Birdie, providing a digital platform for home care agencies to better manage the care they provide; Virti, a virtual and augmented reality solution using its immersive training platform to upskill the NHS workforce in order to tackle COVID-19; and Vinehealth, a mobile app to support cancer patients and their loved ones during treatment by allowing them to easily track and understand their care, including their symptoms, side effects, appointments and medications.


David Howie, Chief Commercial Officer, NHSX

TechForce19 was an enormously impressive piece of work that led to an accelerated engagement with tech innovators, and resulted in a significant and palpable improvement in the way the healthcare system has been able to support vulnerable and isolated people during the pandemic. None of this would have been remotely possible without the PUBLIC team, who worked long hours in a stressful period, and with good humour and professionalism throughout.

Iain O’ Neil, Digital Transformation Director, NHSX

The TechForce19 challenge has harnessed some of the incredible talent we have in our tech sector, to help the most vulnerable and many of the problems created by isolation lend themselves to digital solutions


Photo by the author

Chiara Carlini

Lead, Startup & Challenge Programmes

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