Startups, we know that selling to the public sector is tough. In a monthly series, PUBLIC – in partnership with Tussell, the data provider on UK government contracts and spend – provides the GovTech community with the lowdown on the most valuable and exciting GovTech tenders issued by public-sector bodies every month – as well as the opportunities you might have missed. 


  1. DEFRA: what do we need to know about geospatial technology?

The big news out of central government this month is DEFRA’s PIN on digitising and remote sensing; the department is ‘seeking feedback and advice that will test its assumptions, from potential service providers who may be interested in providing integrated geospatial services that comprise digitising remote sensing and ad hoc innovation in these and related applications.’ 

We’re confident that there are a number of startups working on technology with related applications and recommend that you make yourselves known to the department through the duration of this PIN.

This is definitely one for the startups we featured in our future geospatial tech review, which we wrote in partnership with the UK Geospatial Commission. 

  1. Startups: Extend government’s reality

We’ve been noticing a growth in ‘extended reality’ tenders coming out of the public-sector and this month is no different.

The big tender in this space this month comes from Digital Catapult: they are seeking a technical monitoring and support partner for the prototypes from its CreativeXR accelerator. The tender, the winner of which will help to ‘push the boundaries of what immersive technologies can do’, is suitable for SMEs and is open until 30 October 2020. 

It’s been a busy month for Digital Catapult tenders as the body also opened hiring for two vacancies for an AI Ethics Researcher and a Service Designer

  1. Help Tourism Northern Ireland go virtual:

Digital Catapult isn’t the only one looking to the VR market for solutions: Tourism Ireland is looking to procure a 360-degree virtual reality immersive theatre to overcome ‘accessibility or weather conditions’ that may limit visitors’ experience at tourist sites. If you think you have the solution, and you can deliver both the structure and the tech, make your bid by September 2020.

  1. The Future of railways

Elsewhere, Network Rail is also dipping its toes into the virtual water: the rail infrastructure agency just published a periodic indicative notice (PIN) as it seeks to understand how virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) applications might be used as part of their training approach for on-track plant operators. 

Right now, it appears as though it’s something of a fishing exercise, but those already working in this space should take the time to engage – doing so could pay off in the long run. 

IoT connected railways

This isn’t the only space Network Rail is looking to dive into. In its second recently published PIN, it’s also looking at potential solutions for remote monitoring the quality of its track through Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Again it’s early days, but those that engage early may see benefits in time. 

  1. Can Artificial intelligence help educate health workers…

Health Education England (HEE) is seeking a partner to provide an AI solution to help health workers access  the right resources for their own education.  HEE believes that the right partner could develop a tool to diagnose capability gaps according to its framework and recommend the right resources to fill those gaps. The contract closes this month, so get in quickly if you think you have the solution.

If you follow tech news closely, you’ll have seen that the Met Office has opened a tender for an £845m supercomputer to help it better predict weather patterns – this isn’t a tender suitable for startups unfortunately, but we’ll come back to you with the name of the victor and any follow-up opportunities. 



Artificial intelligence tenders continued to dominate the opportunities advertised by the public sector – a fact not missed by UK Shared Business Services, which has awarded a contract to Cambridge Policy Consultants to investigate the ‘Socio-economic impact of research relevant to Artificial intelligence’. This project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the findings will likely be of interest to policymakers, as well as GovTech entrepreneurs.

In terms of actual technologies, the most exciting announcement since our last update came courtesy of the University of Wolverhampton – funded by the European Regional Development Fund. In its efforts to deliver a digital enterprise hub in the Marches (LEP) area, the project is seeking an ‘AI & Deep Learning machine to support SMEs in the development of powerful algorithms and complex multi-layered Deep Neural Networks (DNN).’ 

The bid closing date has been and gone, but we’ll keep you updated with any news on this tender. 

The UK Atomic Energy Authority awarded Streetdrone ltd a £177k  contract ‘For the provision of some autonomous vehicles for use as part of our CAV testbed offering at Culham Science Centre’. This contract shows the continued interest in autonomous vehicles across all sectors, and bares some thematic similarities with the UK National Nuclear Laboratory’s PIN on autonomous robots that we covered last month.

Elsewhere, the winners of this month’s big opportunities are notable by their size and reputation. KPMG takes a £2.08 million contract from the Department for Transport relating to the ‘Buses Open Data Development System BETA’: IBM, too, won a £1.89m contract from the Ministry of Defence to provide an Army Hosting Environment (AHE) system. 

What’s going on at Highways England?

Highways England continues to award contracts to support and service its Smart Motorway programme – George Corduroy LLP, Turner & Townsend limited both received relevant awards. 

Last month we were interested to see contracts continue to be awarded in this space, (given the delays to the programme), but it seems as if these contracts will continue to be awarded at a steady rate: HE awarded a third contract related to research for opportunities to finance SMES to Aurecon Jacobs Joint Venture – so this agency seems committed to supporting small businesses. 

If you are a tech company that wants unparalleled insights into the key government opportunities and trends, get in touch with us about how we can help – you might be interested in applying to our GovStart programme

Using Tussell’s comprehensive database of UK public sector procurement and spend, you can get trends, analysis and live updates on the government’s procurement of technology. Essential for anyone looking to take a strategic approach to scaling up through public procurement.