With access to government institutions, students and academics with political and technical education, and a drive to innovate, universities in capital cities are uniquely positioned to be centres of GovTech. Many European universities are now taking up that mantle, and have established schools and departments to specifically focus on digitisation and innovation in governance. We have picked the top five GovTech universities from across Europe who are ahead of the pack and are actively revolutionising services.
As a nation where voting can be done over the Internet and every citizen has access to a digital identifier, Estonia fully embraces govtech. A university at the forefront of this movement is the Tallinn University of Technology; TalTech is home to the Ragnar Nurkse Institute for Information and Governance, which specialises in digital governance and public sector innovation. Current projects include SOHJOA Baltic – a project to integrate self-driving buses into the city of Tallinn, and COSMOLOCALISM – a European Research Council-funded project to assess the sustainability and impact of local manufacturing using designs from online commons. TalTech offers Masters courses and PhDs in Digital Transformation in the Public Sector and Smart Cities, amongst many other subjects.
University College London, England
The UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) is a leader in teaching and research on digital technology policy, sustainable development and urban innovation. STEaPP offers Masters courses in Public Administration across five specialist GovTech themes, and offers both research-focused and policy-focused doctoral training courses. UCL is also home to the GovTech Lab which explores the interface between government and emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain and internet of things technology. Finally, the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, directed by Mariana Mazzucato is changing how public value is imagined, practiced and evaluated to tackle societal challenges – delivering economic growth that is innovation-led, sustainable and inclusive.
With more than half of the students in the university coming from abroad, the Hertie School is an international hub for the study and research of governance and public policy. Hertie offers education in digital transformation of governance and public sector innovation. The Hertie School is currently involved in a consortium of Berlin universities that form the Berlin Centre for Consumer Policies (BCCP). With a recent funding round of 1.1 million euros The BCCP aims to create an international platform for interdisciplinary research on consumer policies, to inform policymakers on issues relevant to the public debate. Hertie also runs a data science lab for tackling public policy challenges, and the university is currently creating a new centre for digital governance.
As a historical centre of Parisian political education, Sciences Po is actively integrating GovTech into its curriculum. Digital, New Technology and Public Policy forms one of the 12 core policy streams of the institution. Sciences Po is also partnering with institutions across the city to deliver leading education in GovTech: with the Striate School of Design and Télécom ParisTech it is delivering a two-year masters in innovation and digital transformation in government. Furthermore, Sciences Po’s internal incubator has supported multiple GovTech companies, ranging from HubUp which aims to improve fleet management for public transport, to Datagora which looks to democratize access to statistical data for fact-checking.
IE University in Madrid is home to The Center for the Governance of Change. The centre researches the big data, changing demographics, blockchain systems, sustainable development, biotech, and AI, all within the context of its political, economic and societal implications. It integrates such teaching into its curriculum, and runs executive programs that focus on these matters. IE is also home to the PublicTech Lab, which is a true hub to all things GovTech. It hosts a start-up catalyst program specific to addressing public problems. Combined with this, the lab runs a public service design lab to develop intrapreneurship: here, civil servants are taught to work with new digital technologies, and are given the opportunity to collaborate with citizens, designers and developers. IE also actively add to the GovTech ecosystem, producing events, reports and case studies.
Want to discover more about the GovTech industry & meet exciting innovators, investors & public servants making a difference? Come to the GovTech Summit in Paris on 14 Nov 2019 – Get your tickets here!
Government for the 21st century – Interview with Tony Blair
PUBLIC interviews Former PM Tony Blair about the opportunity for Europe to transform public services through technology and the upcoming GovTech Summit.
Last month, you published a report on how to build a government fit for the 21st century. In the report, you laid out an ambitious and detailed plan for how the UK government can make the most of the opportunities presented by new technologies, and how to drive the requisite organisational change to support this process.
Why do you think that governments have traditionally struggled to embrace technology as quickly as the private sector?
Historically, private companies have been driven to evolve and progress by the market in a way that states have not, while reforming the machinery of government can be like turning around a supertanker – it takes time and can lack flexibility. Often this has led to services being oriented around the needs of the state rather than the citizen, but mostly what people want is the ability to get things done quickly and companies with tech in their DNA are often far better at grasping this.
Today, we need our public services and institutions to be similarly responsive and empowering. The iterative, multidisciplinary processes and structures of the likes of Spotify or Google often far surpass those of states when it comes to embracing technology, and we have to learn from these organisations and shift how we govern, organise and deliver in the public sector. We must promote greater experimentation; learn from platform operating models to provide a foundation for innovation; and adopt more responsive structures to speed up delivery.
Making these changes will be hard, and in some quarters might require a leap of faith. But we can start by facilitating a greater interchange between the private and public sectors. This will bring not only new expertise but also embed new cultures and ways of working into government.
“What people want is the ability to get things done quickly and companies with tech in their DNA are often far better at grasping this.”
The report argues that an effective national digital identity system is the ‘backbone’ of any digital government, and point to the successes in countries such as Estonia, Denmark and South Korea.
What lessons can we learn from our failed attempts to implement such a system to-date, and what would a successful digital identity capability look like? Is Britain ready to overcome what was traditionally political concerns about identity schemes?
The crucial lesson is that behind many of the world’s leading digital governments is a substrate of digital platforms, data registers and identity systems. In the UK, the failure to implement a proper identity system and the lost momentum in the digital government movement in general have been major constraints on reform.
A digital identity system would make life easier for everyone. The great thing about technology is that it is always moving forward. Many of the concerns some people had in the past about big government databases are now obsolete, as new technologies can keep our data private, secure and under our control.
But the key point is that there’s nothing necessary about our failure to keep up. We have the capability and, in parts, ambition. It is time for progressive politicians to again make the case for the reforms we need to deliver progress.
By taking inspiration from tech companies in the private sector, you also endorse setting-up new cross-functional teams within government, bringing together interdisciplinary teams to work across multiple policy portfolios.
Given that you set up several of these during your premiership do you think you should have gone further even then and re-configured Government departments? If so, what’s the lesson from those early steps? How can we encourage the necessary behaviour change within government to make this a reality?
What’s important here is that changing public services and institutions is very different to legislating change. You can pass a law to establish certain rights or change tax rules, but essentially these are reforms where other actors then take the process forward. If you want to reform government itself, you are actually having to make systems change and that’s much harder to do because they each operate according to their own structures, cultures and interests.
“For a country like Britain to maintain its influence and protect its interests, strong alliances will be essential and in particular with its European neighbours. “
One lesson from the early years is that you can try to push systems to change, to be more efficient or to be more effective, and for a short time it might work. But once you take away that external pressure the change doesn’t sustain.
In response, the central units we created were about providing the executive with the tools to push and shape the system on an ongoing basis. But the world is different now, and as tech makes it ever more complex, we must adapt again. For many tech companies, cross-functional working is a necessary condition for progress: having everyone you need around the same table allows for far faster decision-making. It’s right that government moves with the times, and launching more autonomous, multi-disciplinary teams should be part of this.
The GovTech Summit in Paris attempts to bring together European leaders, policymakers, entrepreneurs and investors to use technology to solve major social problems.
In today’s changing political environment, how important is it for the UK to build digital ties with other European governments, and how can UK ensure this, even outside of the European Union?
For a country like Britain to maintain its influence and protect its interests, strong alliances will be essential and in particular with its European neighbours. Brexit or no Brexit, when you look at how the world is changing, this has never been more important. By mid-century, the world will have three giants in America, China and India shaping global politics more than anyone else, and if medium sized countries like Britain, Germany, France and so on don’t band together as a strong collective they will lose out. This is just the reality.
Now add the fact that technology has become a foundational layer for almost all economic and social activity. Whether it’s the debate over Huawei and 5G, or an AI arms race between China and the US, with tech so pervasive these alliances become even more important.
The UK should be using its preeminent position as a leading European developer and regulator of new technologies. We are a small but important player in this space globally, and should play our part to shape emerging technologies in the global public interest.
Europe has the potential to position itself between the other two major global technology forces – USA and China, especially when it comes to the regulation of major tech companies.
What should the new European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen do to help digitise European governments?
I have known Ursula for many years, and her first-class political mind as well as diverse and long-standing experience across several different policy areas will be much-needed during this period of profound challenge and change for the EU.
In her opening statement she recognised the increasing impact of digitisation across society and the economy, and while delivering public services and transforming states’ operating models are primarily matters for national governments, the Commission should lead by example where it can. Certainly, articulating the need for progressive technology regulation in the context of a shifting world order should be a priority.
“At a time when the big tech companies are facing a backlash, it’s essential to ensure that the right regulation – which shapes technology in the public interest – is adopted. Europe has an opportunity to set a progressive example.“
Our recent report also notes how the Commission’s research and innovation strategy is already leading by promoting purposeful missions, but it also has an important role in facilitating more enabling infrastructure and building more responsive institutions. For instance, it must help to harmonise standards in areas such as cross-border digital identities, which former Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip has regularly highlighted as being crucial for the continued integration of the Digital Single Market, while also recognising the urgent need for deep internal reform to equip it to operate within an increasingly challenging geopolitical and technological context.
How should the Commission deal with the large tech companies who supply so much of the infrastructure of democratic societies from cloud computing to our public space?
At a time when the big tech companies are facing a backlash, it’s essential to ensure that the right regulation – which shapes technology in the public interest – is adopted. As with GDPR, which is a step in the right direction that has set in motion many similar frameworks globally, Europe has an opportunity to set a progressive example.
But the central challenge for the Commission is also recognising that internet businesses often tend towards scale, and that isn’t always to the cost of consumers. That’s not to suggest there aren’t very real challenges here, and the role of the competition commissioner will continue to be important, but a long-term solution won’t be found unless we build a sustainable, structured dialogue between those changing the world through technology and those looking to respond with regulation. This is a key focus of my Institute, because it’s increasingly clear that to break the impasse we must build informed trust between two worlds which often misunderstand each other.
Join us in Paris for the GovTech Summit, where we will discuss how technology innovators are transforming governments across Europe!
Not only does Tallinn boast the world’s most mature and sophisticated and e-government system, it is also home to an emerging ecosystem of startups aiming to transform key public services.
For almost two decades, Estonia has been at the forefront of public sector digital transformation, implementing a series of breakthrough government technology initiatives: from digital identity in 2002, to i-Voting in 2005, to e-Health in 2008. Its most recent major government innovation was the implementation of a global e-residency system in 2014. Under this initiative, non-Estonian citizens from around the world can register as ‘e-citizens’, allowing them to start Estonian bank accounts or businesses from anywhere in the world. The country currently has over 36,000 e-residents, who have set up more than 3,500 companies since 2014.
With such an impressive track record of centrally-driven innovation, it is hardly surprising that the European Commission’s 2017 eGovernment Benchmark report listed Estonia in the top five nations across almost all categories for assessing digital public service design and delivery.
At the centre of this innovation whirlpool is the nation’s capital Tallinn, a veritable hotbed for ‘constructive-disruptive’ tech. Alumni from the Tallinn startup ecosystem include Skype, Transferwise, and Pipedrive, and in the last year alone, Estonian startups collectively raised over €270m in growth capital. Estonia’s startup growth has been supported by a small but engaged local VC funding network (notably, Ambient Sound Investments and Karma Ventures), multiple specialist accelerator programmes (including Startup Wise Guys and Buildit), as well as dedicated government investment initiatives. Major government startup support programmes include SmartCap (managing €40m worth of startup assets) and Startup Estonia, which aims to develop Estonia’s ecosystem through training and networking campaigns – this community of mutual support and funding is often referred to as Estonia’s ‘Startup Mafia’. The results of these initiatives have been impressive: 66% of Estonian startup founders expressed satisfaction towards government support for startups (with the global average for this metric recorded at around 25%).
In the GovTech space, we are beginning to see Estonia’s e-government expertise and strong startup ecosystem overlap, with a burgeoning number of startups now providing solutions for the Estonian government and for public services across Europe. Indeed, this has been a key aim of the city’s digital vision. As Government CIO Siim Sikkut puts it: ‘The Estonian government is a playground: when companies have a cool product idea, they can approach government to test it out in the public sector’. Top 10 GovTech Startups
Skeleton Technologies has developed an innovative energy storage solution, with applications in transportation, maritime, renewable energy, power grids, and aerospace.
Sympower enables better communication between energy assets and the electricity system, helping to reduce emissions and speed up the transition to a low-carbon future. Lingvist is an AI & big data-powered language learning app that makes learning a language up to 10x faster by providing personalised content and lessons. Ridango is a mobile ticketing and real-time passenger information solution for public transport operators. Cora Healthis a mobile health app that allows users to monitor and improve heart health and blood pressure levels, and encourage them to forming heart-healthy habits. DreamApply is a student admission platform that helps educational institutions manage applications and produce detailed, real-time reports. Flydog Marine produces customisable and autonomous sea buoys and submersed profiles, which gather marine data for environmental monitoring and flood-risk assessments. TitanGrid discovers and displays your online presence and information trails and protects you against cyber criminals aiming to abuse your data. Pere24 is an online marketplace app that connects parents with homecare providers, babysitters, and school tutors. Veriffdevelops secure web and mobile identity verification solutions for citizens to access digital public services.
Join us in Paris for the first ever GovTech Summit, where we will discuss how technology innovators are transforming cities and governments across Europe!
The GovTech Startups Transforming Europe, By Country
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=””][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding=”” dimension_margin=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text] PUBLIC outlines the most exciting GovTech startups transforming the European public services from HealthTech to CivicTech, from Austria to the UK. Across the world, the modern state is undergoing an extraordinary transformation. A new generation of technology is changing the way countries – and, indeed, local and federal governments – collect taxes, provide healthcare, distribute welfare, keep citizens safe, manage public transport, and deliver all kinds of key public services. In a surprisingly short time, the entire way a state engages with its citizens will be different. Driving this change is the rise of GovTech – new technologies applied to public services, designed for local and central governments. The phenomenon is happening globally, in countries large and small. In particular, the last few years have seen a remarkable growth in the European GovTech ecosystem – in this article, we outline the European GovTech startups that are transforming public services, delivering smarter, more efficient solutions for European citizens. ?? Austria – Enpulsion, a spin out from University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt, has developed a unique propulsion technology optimised for launching small satellites into orbit. The company has raised 3.4 million euros to date — 1 million for European Space Agency research and 2.4 million from private sources and the European Commission. ?? Belgium –Cubigo is an online platform that connects community staff, residents and family members to improve the experience of senior living communities. This includes a single platform for managing dining, maintenance, transportation, communication and other activities – which not only improves the lives of senior residents, but also delivers more efficient community workflows and lower operating costs. ?? Denmark – Monsenso is a HealthTech startup that provides a platform to support individuals suffering from mental health problems by creating a ‘triple-loop care‘ that engages clinicians, patients and carers. Its mHealth solution encourages individuals to engage in self-care, helps carers play a more active role in their treatment and provides clinicians with a remote monitoring tool that assists them to make clinical decisions. ?? Estonia – Skeleton Technologies has developed a technology that enables companies to reach significant energy savings in a wide variety of industries ranging from automotive, transportation, and maritime, all the way to renewable energy, power grids, industrial applications, and aerospace. They are currently working with the European Space Agency and several Tier 1 automotive manufacturers. ?? Finland – Huoleti is a crowdsourcing care platform that supports patients who have just been diagnosed with a severe illness. Its mobile app allows citizens to build peer support networks and to invite carers and loved ones to help them on an everyday basis. ?? France –Fluicityhas found a way to deal with the crisis of trust between citizens and politicians. They have created an app that aims to bring to life citizens’ projects and ideas by enabling a dialogue between elected officials and citizens. They have been operating across local governments in France and Belgium: for example, 12% of the population in Vernont are using Fluicity, which led to the repair a faulty public lighting within a few hours of being notified to the city via the app. ?? Germany –ParkHere is a spin-off of the Technical University of Munich that has developed a self-powered parking sensor. They have estimated that 30% of road traffic is due to drivers blindly driving down streets hoping for an open parking spot: a problem that their solution aims to fix. They are currently in operation in many cities around Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, Spain and France. ?? Greece –novovilleis a citizen engagement platform that now operates in 40 cities across Europe. Citizens are provided with an app through which they can apply for services, report problems, and, most importantly, share their opinions. This information feeds through in real-time dashboard controlled by the council, allowing councillors to detect and solve problems quickly and efficiently, whilst seamlessly updating the citizen who has filed the report. Novoville won the Digital Citizenship Challenge on the Urban Challenge, an open call competition PUBLIC organised with the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street. ?? Iceland – Ankeri’s mission is to change the global shipping industry by fostering more transparency and collaboration between ship owners and charterers. They developed a cloud-based platform that allows them to examine fuel performance and try to improve it together, leading to a more efficient transportation since customers pay for fuel. ?? Ireland – The HireLab is working with governments to give them freedom to manage their full hiring process, through an online platform with engaging candidate portals, flexible workflows, skills matching and hiring tools to provide a unique experience for their target talent market. ?? Italy – Comuni-Chiamo is a cloud solution to that aims at improving city management: from waste management calendars to communicating with citizens through an app. The startup is already working alongside 98 mayors for 4 million citizens across Italy. ?? Luxembourg – Because air pollution is the 4th highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease, Footbot developed a device that makes pollution visible and then makes it disappear. It provides an air monitoring technology that allows the measurement of indoor pollution, leading to improved air quality in indoor public spaces. ?? Netherlands –Teqplay is disrupting the port logistics industry by providing real-time data management to port managers, who are then able to carry more efficient operations, through increased collaboration along the logistical chain. ?? Norway – In 2014, a Norwegian public investigation report was published on the use of interpretation services in the public sector that demonstrated a widespread use of interpreters without proper qualifications, which creates confusion and misunderstanding. In light of this problem, TikkTalk has created an open marketplace for interpretation services, that brings more quality and fairness to the trade – for both the interpreters and their clients. They work with public sector organisations to improve translation processes in courts, hospitals and asylum centres. ?? Poland – Ifinity provides beacons based tailor-made technology to cities and public spaces around the world to let people digitally interact with reality through their mobiles. For example, it is placing thousands of beacons around Warsaw to facilitate mobility for the visually impaired. The applied technology integrates with existing electronic systems at public offices and buses allowing them to navigate their way and providing them with remote services. ?? Portugal –myPolis is working with local authorities across the country to improve citizen engagement in an intuitive way through an app that allows any citizen with a smartphone to vote on political decisions, by gamifying the process. ?? Russia –Welltory is a HealthTech startup based in St. Petersburg that has developed an app that measures your stress & energy levels by analysing your heartbeat with your smartphone. It helps hard workers increase performance and productivity by monitoring stress and energy, finding optimal work and sleeping schedules, etc. ?? Serbia – A member of this year’s GovStart cohort, Strawberry Energy aims to reinvent the urban landscape, by creating smart and solar-powered urban furniture for smart and sustainable cities. They are now present in more than 30 cities (17 countries) all around the globe with clients such as: Ford, Cancer Research UK, Canary Wharf, Crown Estate, Orange, UNDP, Eon, EWZ etc. In London, there are Smart Benches in Southwark, Islington, Lewisham and Canary Wharf. ?? Spain – Unblur is a security startup that has developed an intelligent assistant for commanders in the field, integrating dynamic information (from drones, cameras, GPS, etc.) with static information (from databases, maps, etc.) to provide in-depth situational intelligence. ?? Sweden – Mapillary is a global network of contributors who are working together to build better maps. Anyone can join and collect street-level images, using simple tools like smartphones or personal cameras. With computer vision, it connects images across time and space to create immersive street-level views and extract map data. ?? UK –Adzuna is a search engine for job ads that lists every job, everywhere. Recently, thanks to our GovStart GovStart accelerator, Adzuna was successfully awarded a £2.5m p.a. contract with the Department for Works and Pensions to power Universal Jobmatch: the Government’s job board. ? Get in touch with us on Twitter if you know any other exciting tech startups transforming public services, across Europe! You’re a GovTech Entrepreneur and you’d like to promote your idea & expand your business? Join us at the GovTech Summit – register here!
If you want to learn more about the GovTech industry and the state of the UK market, check our report!