Conversations with founders: How to build a GovTech startup (Part II)
Ever wondered how startup founders decided to build their company? Or what experience they had in that industry that made it possible? As part of our research for PUBLIC’s upcoming report on the background of GovTech founders we interviewed 8 startup founders to explore some of the challenges and successes encountered when building a GovTech startup. To ensure a diverse cohort of experience and expertise we interviewed founders of startups across multiple sectors including healthtech, policetech, edtech and civtech.
In the second in our series of ‘Conversations with founders’, we interview three GovTech founders about their experiences building a startup.
John Witt is the co-founder and CEO of public-sector sales-tech platform Stotles. John and his co-founders Taj and Carsten met, and founded Stotles, during their time at London Business School.
Stotles plunged into the market with its sales-enablement SaaS focused on opening up public sector procurement to more suppliers. Their product uses data science to help suppliers proactively find the hottest leads in the public sector and boost sales productivity.
John gained relevant public sector exposure while working as a financial auditor of U.S. public sector agencies and tech companies who sold to the public sector. Before founding Stotles, he also worked at the World Economic Forum on the digital transformation of public bodies. Like many founders, John found that his previous experience working beside the public sector helped him understand how governments are approaching digital transformation; this enabled him to understand the opportunities for Stotles.
His previous experience founding a financial inclusion start-up taught him valuable skills, such as unearthing customer pain points, conveying the “art of the possible”, and learning the types of businesses he most enjoyed: B2B, rather than B2C, at the intersection of business and government.
John considers one of the best ways to find problems worth solving is to get your hands dirty in messy experiences, and to connect dots across those experiences. His experience and connections across the public and private sectors helped him identify problems he wanted to solve.
John sees no substitutes for hard work and a world-class team. But he’s also convinced that much of Stotles’ early success has also come through the support of family, friends, networks, and luck. During their funding round, Stotles worked hard to change the stigma that working in the vicinity of the public sector is “boring”. The team firmly believes “boring” is actually not-so-boring at all.
Key takeaway from founding Stotles? People are everything. Build something people love and find the people with the right values to build it. Particularly in a software business, employees and customers are the foundation of our product; of our growth plan; of our mission to unlock the potential of two largest institutions on the face of the planet – business and government – working better together.
Stotles is currently running a private beta of its platform for suppliers aiming to grow in the public sector, bringing hundreds of UK businesses onto its early-access list. Sign up for the private beta here: stotles.com/w/PUBLIC
GovStart 2019 founder Alfonso Zamarro co-founded Unblur in Barcelona in 2014. Unblur helps emergency services make faster and better decisions and grew out of a previous startup that Alfonso founded. The idea for Unblur came when they were trying to develop a platform for drones, and the emergency services they were talking to were interested in certain aspects of the software but not the drones, hence why they decided to turn the software into a new startup.
Like many other founders, Alfonso met his co-founder at business school – the founding team of the previous company they co-founded were no longer relevant for the new company, but played an instrumental role in using their connections to help Alfonso fill the new c-suite roles. They interviewed over 100 emergency response organisations across Europe for their previous startup, and this network proved crucial for getting Unblur off the ground.
After bootstrapping in the original stages, they got an Enisa loan from the Spanish government and used this money to build the product. Alfonso admits once they had the product it was easier to get other investors interested.
Biggest obstacle? Being taken seriously by the emergency services, this involved building credibility and gaining their trust and cooperation in co-developing the solution.
Simon speaks from experience when it comes to building, running and innovating companies, as Coeus Software is not the first company he has started. Prior to Coeus Software, Simon founded HeliMedia, a leading supplier of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) communications solutions. Before that, he held a number of roles, from spending 10 years as an engineer for the BBC to heading operations for three years at a Californian startup.
Coeus was created from the vision of developing technology to help frontline police officers with their day to day duties through digitising manual paper-based processes. Coeus completed an initial trial with Lancashire Constabulary and this won the APPSS Innovation Award judged by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch in 2008.
However, Coeus soon learned that there are many barriers which prevent innovative solutions, created by SMEs, from being commercially successful in the UK Police Market. Coeus has continued to build on the initial innovation to rapidly and continuously test and adapt ideas to provide enough evidence from the field to prove they will work. This has included working with the NPIA and CPS on Electronic Witness Statements and with the Home Office and BAE Applied Intelligence on a technology demonstrator to showcase UK technology at the Security and Policing Show. This evidence-gathering approach helps to reduce the risk and uncertainty for those in the public sector that are looking at new ideas, but as Simon points out, it is no guarantee of immediate success.
As a start-up in the police sector, Simon points out that the only way to gain contracts is through larger prime contractors as there is a reluctance to work with SMEs, especially if you are not on any of the government frameworks. The disadvantage of this is that you are one step removed from the customer which can make it more difficult to understand their needs.
Greatest challenge? Breaking the ‘cosy cartel’ that currently exists in the market where forces complain about the high costs and poor service they are being provided by the incumbents but yet they still go back to them because of the ‘better the devil you know’ attitude.
If he could change one thing about his experience as a founder he would wish that the talk from the government sector would be matched with the same action and enthusiasm that exists in GovTech Startups.
Calling all GovTech founders! Help shape the future of digital governance by filling out our short survey – this will greatly help our research team who are working on their latest report. Click here to fill out survey.
Yet whilst education and its future is a much discussed topic, the role technology can play in enhancing learning still feels open to be defined. As education budgets across Europe become more and more stretched and students’ expectations of teaching resources rise, new technology can provide a welcome bridge for these ever-growing gaps.
The EdTech Market
Europe is already producing many of the world’s leading EdTech startups and is well-positioned to become world leader in the sector. The UK currently ranks top for edtech venture capital funding in Europe and also hosts London EdTech Week each year in June – one of the continent’s leading EdTech events.
The EdTech market is broad and encompasses all technologies that seek to improve education. This can be split into a few key areas: learning/educational platforms, school administration, learning management systems, communication platforms, study tools and learning analytics.
Even this segmentation, however, does little to indicate the full breadth and volume of offerings available. Intersections with other technology sectors, such as HealthTech and FinTech, are beginning to produce some of the most vibrant EdTech hybrids – such as BlackBullion, an app trying to create a financially literate generation of students by providing financial education to university-level students; and Lexplore, which helps determine reading attainment of children and highlight specific reading difficulties, such as dyslexia.
Within learning platforms, the market ranges from the language learning apps like Duolingo and Lingumi, to platforms like MATH42 and Code Kingdoms which teach children maths and coding skills respectively. Startups like Airsupply are changing how schools find teachers, by matching teachers and teaching assistants to vacant positions. Academic assessment processes are also in a period of transformation, whether that’s through DigiExam changing how students take their exams and how teachers write their questions, or through Peergrade allowing students to learn through assessing their peers’ works.
Where are the opportunities for EdTech within the public sector?
Last year, the Department for Education published its aims to increase the use of new technology – to lead a classroom revolution. There is a huge amount of new technology available in this area, but as of yet, few have been adopted by schools in a widespread way – an opportunity for startups, but only those who are able to scale quickly across a very fragmented market.
Adjacent to in-classroom tech is efficiency and cost-saving technology for schools – automation of back office processes such as assessment and HR, and workforce management and improvement, such as recruitment and training. Startups such as Arbor are blazing ahead in this arena, but automation in education systems still leaves much to be desired.
Outside of schools, inclusive access to education and lifelong learning remain key agendas – and large markets. High quality online resources which are readily available for students are increasingly used and remain attractive to governments as a means to help break down barriers of class or regional inequality. Schools themselves may even start looking to online platforms to provide resources to students. With parents now being asked to buy textbooks for their children, startups like Perlego and Bibliotech may provide a tech solution to an increasing educational challenge.
Language learning is one of the most developed areas of EdTech – apps like Duolingo and busuu are already household names. However, even within this field new companies are emerging, such as Lingumi, supporting children aged 2-6 to learn English; Little Bridge, providing a global online platform for children to interact and learn English, and Tandem, linking up native language speakers to language students. Platforms teaching coding and STEM subjects are following a similar trajectory.
As a general rule, the technology needed to improve the lives of teachers and students is already out there – whether it’s finding teaching tools to increase accessibility or making assessment and administrative processes more efficient, the EdTech market has a solution. Now is the time for schools to start adopting.
Applications for our GovTech accelerator programme GovStartare now open – want to find out more? Get in touch.
Johnny Hugill, lead researcher at PUBLIC, and Nick Chubb, co-author of PUBLIC’s report Frictionless Trade, look into building the UK’s first Smart Port following its announcement in Maritime 2050.
Two weeks ago, the Department for Transport published its long-term strategy for the future of the UK’s maritime sector – Maritime 2050.
This strategy has arrived at a particularly important time for the UK. There has simply never been more public and political interest in this country surrounding international trade.
Indeed, with over 95% of our international trade going through our ports and across our seas, a successful maritime strategy is of critical importance for the UK economy.
Maritime 2050 represents an enormously encouraging and ambitious vision for the UK’s maritime sector. Not only does it outline key provisions to future-proof the UK from the global macro-trends shaping the industry, but it also targets areas where the UK has the potential to develop key strategic advantages.
More specifically, it makes the case for the UK to lead the way on clean energy growth, maritime safety and security, and the application of new and emerging technologies.
This is a vision for UK maritime that we share at PUBLIC. In October, we published our own report on the future of the UK’s maritime sector – ‘Frictionless Trade’ – which outlines the key technology capabilities that the UK must embrace to protect and consolidate its place as an international trading powerhouse.
In particular, Maritime 2050 makes a commitment to deliver on a key recommendation outlined in our report: to develop the first smart port in the UK by 2030.
What is a smart port?
As an island nation, the UK’s ports are vital pieces of infrastructure, facilitating the overwhelming majority of our trade with the rest of the world. In its most basic form, a smart port leverages digital technologies to continually improve the safety, efficiency, yield, and environmental impact of these trading operations.
Achieving this level of digital transformation requires the development of an ecosystem where innovation can flourish. Global seaports including Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Singapore have launched dedicated smart port ventures over the past few years, usually in partnership with the local port authority, government, academic institutions and corporate shipping and logistics companies.
The upshot of this is that these ports are far ahead of any port in the UK in terms of core technology capabilities, especially those relating to the seamless processing of imports and exports.
In the world-famous Port of Rotterdam for instance, there are autonomous gantry cranes and trucks handling the loading and discharging of cargo, as well as a dedicated data-driven application for optimising how ships come in and out of port (developed by Dutch startup Teqplay).
Indeed, the Port of Rotterdam provides a model for how to successfully execute a smart port: operating every day at full capacity, its operators move between 25-50% more containers per hour than any other port in Northern Europe.
Importantly, these innovations have largely been powered by support and funding from government, and have seen local high-tech maritime startups contribute to the national trading capacity.
What technologies should we have in our smart port?
There are a number of well-established and maturing technologies that could feature in the UK’s first smart port. Below, we review the technology systems that should be at the centre of any smart port:
Improved connectivity The underlying infrastructure behind any smart port will be the availability of the connectivity systems that are as strong as anywhere inland. Today, connectivity in ports (and coastal areas more generally) often lags behind the UK’s major cities. The rollout of industrial WiFi or 5G in a future smart port is a key enabler for a new wave of digital innovation.
Forward-thinking ports are already starting to build up their connectivity capacity. Last year, the Port of Hamburg launched a successful 5G pilot in partnership with Deutsche Telekom and Nokia. Indeed, connectivity solutions are not only being offered by major IT providers. Belgian startup Port-Wifi develops and implements tailor-made connectivity solutions for ports, making it possible and affordable to connect smart devices and assets to a network. Their first networks have been deployed to the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam and have not only made it possible to connect IoT devices, but also connect visiting seafarers to the internet.
Automation of physical assets
Every day, thousands of tonnes of goods are physically moved on or off ships safely and efficiently by cranes, conveyors, and pumps. From there, they are transported throughout the port for storage and further processing.
The ships, cranes, and port vehicles that support this process can all be automated, with a significant amount of progress already made in this area. In addition to the automation of gantry cranes, trucks and straddlers at ports around the world, we are now starting to see the automation of ships. Boston-based Sea Machines builds autonomous control and remote command systems to upgrade the operation of commercial vessels. They have recently worked with Danish shipping giant Maersk to install AI-powered situational awareness technology to their new ice-class container vessels.
On top of the automation of physical assets, artificial intelligence has an important role to play in the implementation of smart storage and processing of goods and in port security. London startup Stowga has created an on-demand ‘Uber for warehousing’ platform which allows users to book space in one of 4,000 warehouses they currently have live.
Port-call optimisation platforms
Digital port-call optimisation platforms are transforming the flow of ships in and out of ports. Powered by geospatial location data, and the real-time tracking of document exchanges, these platforms provide ports, shipping companies, agents, terminal operators, and service providers with a shared operational view and joint window for the exchange of information related to their port calls.
Using a combination of publicly available data and private data submitted by participants, it is possible for any stakeholder to get a real time and planned overview of the port and vessel movements within.
In addition to the highly sophisticated platform developed by Teqplay at the Port of Rotterdam, London-based Intelligent Cargo Systems has recently launched a new free self-assessment tool for container ship operators. With just a few simple questions, their calculator helps container ship fleet management teams to assess the efficiency of their port-call process and how this is affecting their bunker consumption.
Secure digital communication systems
The global trade in goods generates an incredible amount of data but the shipping industry is still heavily reliant on phone calls, email, and even fax. Indeed, the principal method of contact between the ship’s crew and personnel on the shore is by VHF radio, which is a reliable but limited method of communication.
New communication platforms will allow more seamless and secure processing and exchange of operational and transactional data. Indeed, new workflow and communication platforms are not only the remit of office-based tools such as Slack and Teams: over the last few years, we have seen a proliferation of newer players in the market, such as Zaptic, and Blink in the UK, which offer single workflow platforms optimised for deskless field operations and multi-stakeholder management.
Creating cloud-based platforms that communicate the correct information to every stakeholder in the complicated shipping process will completely revolutionise the way ships are operated. London based Shipamax has developed a communication platform that automatically extracts important data from emails and attachments and feeds it into existing internal systems. Collaborative communication tools like this can reduce planning and administration time, with Shipamax’s platform able to cut freight forwarding admin costs by up to 70%.
IoT for maintenance of port assets Ports represent the perfect setting for the application of industrial IoT. They contain valuable assets deployed over vast areas. There are high costs for any disruption or downtime. Service visits to assets must be well-timed and well-prepared to avoid unnecessary operational disruption.
If a crane or cargo pump stops working for a prolonged period, it can cause major disruption, not just to the ship currently on the berth, but to all the ships that are waiting to come into the port. As such, emerging IoT technologies such as remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and performance analysis offer enormous potential for the safe and secure management of port key port assets.
This is the principle used by major engine manufacturer Wärtsilä, who have created a dynamic maintenance planning service which relies on IoT sensors to monitor engine condition, and provide automatic responses to maintenance staff as soon as an alert is flagged.
Real-time vehicle tracking
The flow of vehicles in and out of ports is also a further key area where technology can make a difference. In particular, new technology platforms allow shippers, hauliers and customers to have complete visibility over vehicles and assets across the supply chain.
There are two main models for the live tracking of vehicles in real-time. One (employed by Swedish company Automile) involves drivers simply downloading an app on their phone, allowing fleet managers to use geolocation data to track the movement and position of their vehicles in real-time. This allows enterprise companies running fleets to track their vehicles, which could have powerful potential applications coming in and out of ports.
The second (used by London-based startup ChillChain) requires connecting to driver’s operating systems via an API, without the need for them to download any additional software on their phones.
Both of these forms of tracking can provide unprecedented levels of information and transparency in the journey of vehicles carrying cargo. These kinds of systems will be crucial to delivering fully-joined up ports, operating at maximum operational efficiency.
Finally, the global shipping industry simply needs to move away from its reliance on fossil fuels to move goods around the world. Last year, the IMO introduced its new green new strategy, which aims for global greenhouse gas emissions from the industry to be halved from the 2008 levels by 2050, as well as a longer term vision to make the industry entirely emission-free beyond that.
For the industry to hit these targets, all ships built from 2030 onwards will need to be emission-free. Electric power and hydrogen have both long been touted as marine fuels of the future, and their development and the infrastructure required to produce them represents a massive opportunity for the UK.
How can the UK build its own smart port?
Taking advantage of the smart port opportunity is not only a matter of developing new technologies. Creating a sustainable and effective smart port requires establishing a thriving innovation hub, powered by startups, government and leading research institutions. To make a success of our first smart port, we propose the following steps:
Build the infrastructure
First, the UK has to build the right infrastructure to make a success of its first smart port. That includes a strong connectivity system, and most importantly, a state-of-the-art solution to prevent the port’s digital assets from cybersecurity attacks.
Indeed, as well as building the physical and technological infrastructure required for a smart port, it is also important to ensure that there is also the regulatory and financial infrastructure in place to make it thrive.
Blend public and private funding
Building a hub for innovation will require a mixture of public and private finance initiatives, including grant funding for research and growth capital for emerging businesses. A strong anchor investment commitment from UK government to develop a world-leading smart port will encourage major private companies to match that funding, and co-create an ecosystem that will deliver better outcomes for all parties.
Use startups to drive innovation
Over the past few years, the UK has seen the growth of an emerging ecosystem of technology startups that are transforming the entire maritime value chain. To ensure cutting-edge innovation and technology in our ports, its vital that the digitisation of our ports is led by startups.
For major infrastructure projects that are too large for startups to deliver alone, we recommend adopting the same approach used by the UK government to develop a new dedicated vertical launch site in Sutherland, Scotland. This involved providing £23.5m of funding to the major prime contractor (Lockheed Martin) to deliver the majority of the infrastructural outlay, while funding a UK startup (Orbex) with £5.5m to help to deliver innovation to the sites micro-launch capabilities.
Foster close collaboration between startups and corporates
It is very difficult for large corporate incumbents in the sector to innovate quickly on their own. Equally, it is difficult for startups to get access to the industry and feedback on what drives real value. Facilitating the sharing of technological challenges and opportunities between corporate incumbents and startup innovators helps to close that feedback loop, making innovation faster and more effective.
Run an on-site accelerator
The UK’s first smart port should include an on-site accelerator for high-growth maritime technology businesses. A smart port represents the perfect place to create a physical cluster for startups in the sector, with the new technologies and platforms being developed within this accelerator being quickly implemented and commercialised on-site.
Attract and develop talent
The digital transformation of every industry is being fuelled by talent and the maritime industry is no different. The UK is a world-leading centre for maritime training, with close ties already in place between academic institutions and industry.
Involving local education and training institutions in the development of a smart port will give academic research a route to feed into viable commercial solutions for industry and create a pipeline of people with the right qualifications, skills, and experience to transform the sector.
Involve universities and research institutions
A local university should be the key anchor in any smart port. Not only will this provide the setting for more intensive R&D projects, but universities will also enable sustained academic teaching and mentoring required to train a new wave of maritime innovators.
Indeed, partnering with major anchor institutions such as universities is also crucial for local economic growth. In Liverpool, local cluster body Mersey Maritime, recently announced a partnership between Peel Ports, Liverpool John Moores University and Wirral Council to create a £25 million Maritime Knowledge Hub. The hub will work as a catalyst for business growth in the local area and will create 4,000 new jobs over five years.
Importantly, however, there must be a clear link between the R&D activities of these research institutions and the commercial innovation activities of the rest of the port. In particular, there must be a clear route to commercialisation for all cutting-edge research, primarily through the smart port’s dedicated on-site accelerator. The Maritime Masters programme run by industry body Maritime UK is a great example of commercially focused academic research. Students who take part in the scheme adopt research topics proposed by industry for their Masters’ Dissertation theses. Once complete, they have the opportunity to present their findings back to industry leaders and gain work experience opportunities within the sector.
The UK government’s commitment to building the first smart port is a serious one, and is a central part of its long-term vision of becoming the most digitally-advanced trading nation in the world.
A thriving smart port, however, requires more than just building a few new digital capabilities. To fully seize on the smart port opportunity, government must demonstrate the investment and innovation appetite to build a new digitally-enabled maritime ecosystem. Not only will this guarantee better outcomes in our ports, but it will create a UK centre of excellence that will be the envy of all other trading nations around the world.
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Mark Lazar looks back on the GovTech market and how things have changed since we started GovStart One in 2017.
Two years ago, we launched PUBLIC and the GovStart accelerator programme.
At that time, we had to convince a lot of people of the merits of GovTech – convince public officials about the potential of new technologies, convince startups that government is a viable market with real commercial opportunities, and convince investors that startups wouldn’t die in the government sales cycle.
Two years on, the atmosphere has definitely changed. In November, we hosted the first ever GovTech Summit in Paris, bringing together 3000 people to have a conversation about how new technologies can transform the public sector. One attendee commented that “no one is having the debate about whether GovTech should be a thing – everyone is debating the best way to make the most out of the opportunity.”
There are many that are still unconvinced, and we will continue to make the case for GovTech, but it’s safe to say that more & more people are paying attention – and GovTech has gotten bigger.
This year, GovStart is also getting bigger. Building off the back of our success in the UK, and the GovTech Summit, we are launching GovStart France, with two more locations getting announced in next few weeks. Stay tuned.
In the last two years, we have worked with companies with one person, companies with fifty people and everything in between. We have also worked with companies engaging across the public sector: from central government, to local authorities, to the health services.
Every company that joins GovStart needs different things. We work by setting core goals with every founding team about what we want to achieve, and building a programme of support around each of these goals. Therefore – although we operate in a cohort – each company engages with GovStart in different ways, whether it be building networks with key decision makers in the public sector, bidding for tenders, developing products to a government level spec, fundraising, or all of the above and more.
Whether you are a new entrepreneur with an idea and a big public vision, or a startup with private sector traction exploring a new market, or an established company looking to harness PUBLIC’s new European offices for international scale – we want to talk to you. Sign up herefor a short call with our team to discuss whether GovStart could be for you.
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PUBLIC and its GovStart companies respond to the NHS Long Term Plan.
Earlier today the NHS unveiled the NHS Long Term Plan, detailing its vision for the next 10 years. It follows the release of Matt Hancock’s tech vision: The Future of Healthcare last year and, in line with the Health and Social Care Secretary’s focus on digital transformation, features a chapter on digitally-enabled care. Though not by any means the first long-term vision for the NHS, this paper has a far greater focus on digitisation than previous iterations.
From universal digital GP access (“digital first”) to plans to expand the scope of NHS Apps and replace the slow and clunky technology – such as fax machines – used by NHS staff, it is indicative of where the NHS is going and the increasingly prominent role of technology. Indeed, the report itself notes: “Virtually every aspect of modern life has been, and will continue to be, radically reshaped by innovation and technology – and healthcare is no exception.”
Several of our HealthTech GovStart companies – and members of the PUBLIC team – have shared their opinions on the NHS Long Term Plan:
“If we are to create a 21st century health service that can streamline provision and make the most of the budget available, then we must heed the comments made by Chancellor Philip Hammond today; “To meet this challenge, we must go back to our roots. We must be innovative… We in Britain built a health system…that pushed the boundaries and must do so again to deliver the needs of an ageing population in the 21st century.”
“Whilst our NHS services are in dire need of this additional funding, it’s innovation that will stop cash injections from being sticking plasters and instead turn them into pivotal moments for progress. Without innovative approaches to the integration of services, this simply won’t happen.
“The NHS has only recently started shedding its reticence towards innovation, despite years of calls to upgrade and digitise the service. Indeed, a few pioneering Trusts are now embracing new solutions across the board. But to achieve the level of cross-sector integration we need, we must fast-track this culture shift and explore new ways of increasing efficiency and breaking down silos. Empowering NHS staff with the digital tools they need to do their jobs is the place to start.
“Many of these innovations are simple; the technology already exists. We can ditch archaic technology, such as fax machines, landlines and pagers, and provide clinicians with new ways of communicating between and within wards via apps and bespoke messaging platforms. We can reduce the waste linked to staffing inefficiency by introducing new, fit for purpose platforms for recruiting and retaining staff. We can digitise appointments and move away from paper-based referrals at all levels through cloud-based software.
“Through these changes, we can create communication pathways from the point at which a patient comes into contact with the NHS all the way through to their discharge; allowing doctors and patients alike to access the information they need quickly. And that’s just for starters. These digital innovations will break down communications challenges to allow clinicians to treat patients quicker, reduce the burden of admin placed on medics, and provide NHS staff with the capacity needed to do their jobs properly instead of focusing on keeping their heads above water.”
Daniel Korski, CEO and Co-founder of PUBLIC:
“The NHS is no stranger to long-term plans but this tech-savvy, well-funded strategy looks set to be different. Indeed, there is probably no better time than now to push healthcare transformation given the advances of technology like AI and the growing need for a step change in prevention and treatment.”
“The NHS Long Term Plan’s focus on technology and out-of-hospital care is highly welcome. This combined with the Government’s record investment places the NHS on a strong footing to embrace the imminent health-tech revolution and offer world-class services. This however must be combined with a clear strategy and funding package for social care if it is to succeed.”
Hanna Johnson, COO at PUBLIC:
“Better use of data and digital technology underpins much of what is talked about in the NHS Long Term Plan. We are already seeing innovative companies like Cera doing things differently in social care, Patchwork backing our workforce, and Flynotes helping the NHS to get the most out of taxpayer investment. In the coming years, GovTech will help transform all aspects of health and social care, so it’s right that it is a central part of the Government’s long term plan.”
Johnny Hugill, Researcher at PUBLIC:
“Government is right to recognise that technology should be at the forefront of any health and social care strategy. The key challenge now is to make sure that trusts are buying the right technology to deliver on these ambitious digital goals. To guarantee state-of-the-art-technology, as well as greater value for money for the taxpayer, it is crucial that procurement is opened up to smaller companies and startups, instead of relying on the same behemoth suppliers responsible for the outdated legacy systems we have today.”
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Matt Hancock’s decision to axe the fax – PUBLIC Opinion
PUBLIC voices its opinion on the NHS decision to axe fax machines.
Yesterday it was announced that the NHS will be banned from purchasing any more fax machines and must phase out the ones they already own.
Fax machines and the NHS are not a new subject of discussion – or ridicule. Speaking at the GovTech Summit last month, Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, joked: “As the legal owner of the world’s largest collection of fax machines, I would accept that we have some way to go in the NHS.”
The Health Secretary also commented: “If you have an idea for the improvement of the health system in the UK from use of technology, we want to hear from you. We want to try it, we want to see it work.” But what does the decision to #AxeTheFax mean for the public sector? A step in the right direction towards a more tech-enabled NHS?
Here’s what the PUBLIC Team (and beyond) had to say:
Daniel Korski, CEO and Co-founder of PUBLIC: “New technology can transform public health. Old and outdated technology carries the risk of NHS underperforming, being slower and less efficient than it could and should be. Fax machines, along with cheques, landlines, and pagers fall into the latter category. So it’s great to see changes happening that will benefit patients and NHS staff.”
Alexander de Carvalho, CIO and Co-founder of PUBLIC: “We need to ensure that we’re future-proofing our NHS. Some people will be worried about the immediate risks of removing faxes. This will of course be a phased approach. It is, however, the right approach. Digital tools are more than capable of replacing and improving on the current ways of business and are not more expensive. The reason fax machines are still used is to support poor IT infrastructure. That is not a reason to continue. This announcement is an important nudge to the tech sector that will help drive the development of integrated, electronic health records and improved pathways. This is an ambitious and exciting step towards improving patient outcomes and step-changing our system and we should support the announcement and its positive consequences.”
Dr Barney Gilbert, Co-founder of Forward Health: “This is a fantastic step forward for the NHS. For too long clinicians and patients have had to grapple with outdated technology. This causes delays and inhibits our ability to offer the highest-quality, most efficient care. Scrapping the fax is a real line in the sand and we hope it is the first of many steps towards modernising how we communicate in hospitals. From pagers to paper, there are a lot of areas still to be addressed, but there is also a huge amount of new tech that can help that happen. We’re looking forward to seeing further progress in the months and years ahead.”
Dr Anas Nader, CEO of Patchwork: “The fact faxes still exist is itself almost a hindrance to the digitisation of the system. As long as people have fax there as an option, they won’t invest in new digital systems that truly transfer information between people in a seamless way. If we are to accelerate the digitisation of the NHS and truly create the incentives to invest in interoperability and systems speaking to each other, we need to phase out fax machines which are often used as a shortcut.”
Dr Govin Murugachandran, CEO of Flynotes: “It’s about time! Fax machines are time-consuming cumbersome and can impact on the quality of care. There are cheaper and more efficient ways to communicate and it is a shame it has taken this long to phase out a piece of technology which is not fit for purpose in a quickly evolving digital NHS.”
Want to hear what else Matt Hancock had to say at the GovTech Summit? Watch his panel, From Lab to Gov, on YouTube now.
Earlier this year, PUBLIC published a report on HealthTech. Click here to read The Promise of HealthTech.