Publically driven startup programmes are exploding around the world – from challenge-based programmes to vertical-specific accelerators. Check out the incubators enabling startups to make a dent in the GovTech market.
At PUBLIC we run GovStart, a programme to equip technology startups with the skills and channels required to execute in the public sector. Over the last 3 years, we have worked with 40 companies from the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Israel, Greece and Serbia supporting each to work with government services.
However, the need for new technologies in public services is vast – and even operating with ten times this number of startups, we couldn’t support the whole ecosystem. We commend (and indeed need) other programmes – both public and private – that support startups to make a dent in the GovTech market. Below, we outline a number of fantastic programmes pioneering new models.
CivTech Scotland and GovTech Polska both operate what is known as a ‘challenge-based’ programme. First, the programme team collect problem statements from willing government bodies who act as partners. Then the programme finds great companies able to solve these problem statements in new and innovative ways.
The programme acts as a facilitator of the relationship between these two groups of bodies, helping one understand the needs and wants of the other. Both CivTech Scotland and GovTech Polska have a fantastic record of working with startups, with a number of great success stories. You will be able to hear from Alexander Holt and Justyna Orlowska who founded these programmes at the GovTech Summit 2019.
This Challenge-based model of programme is now starting to be employed globally, from R9 accelerator in New Zealand, Civic Labs in Melbourne, Startup in Residence in California and The Netherlands, Dubai Futures Accelerator in the UAE. PUBLIC also works with the Danish Government on GovTech Program Denmark – a similar model.
Less new, but undeniably effective, there are now a cadre of public sector-focussed accelerator programmes that specialise on specific verticals – health, security and defence, local government, to name but a few. These are often either run by public bodies, or in partnership with a private partner.
Leading the way are d-code, based out of Washington DC, who run 4-5 programmes/ year. Each will have a different technological focus and aim to facilitate engagement with the US Federal government.
Great examples of vertical specific accelerators include DASA (UK) and Innovation Defence Lab (France) work with startups focussed on defence. For Health, The Health Innoavation Hub (Germany) and the NHS Innovation Accelerator (UK) stand out, while cyber is covered by the NCSC programme, run by Wayra in the UK and the Cyber Innovation Hub in Germany.
On a slight tangent, governments also have a long history of funding accelerators aimed to drive improve local startup ecosystems. In a recent report by BAES, they estimate that the EU is spending up to £30m/year in funding programmes for startups in local regions.
Where’s the Future?
To summarise, publically backed or publically motivated startups programmes are growing at a rapid rate, focusing on new verticals and new models.
Where does the future lie? Accelerators are a great step to fostering early talent, this is just one step that needs to be taken. If governments are really going to support startups to build the best tech available for the public sector, they have to be able to win contracts, not just join programmes. Public sector leaders need to embrace the GovTech agenda, update procurement laws, and help startups win contracts not just join accelerators.
We believe this is the future ahead, and we look forward to discussing how to drive the GovTech accelerator agenda, alongside many of the programmes mentioned in this article, at the GovTech Summit. Join us in Paris to accelerate the desire to re-think government. Get your tickets to the GovTech Summit 2019 here.