PUBLIC has been working with Mayor Andy Street and the West Midlands Combined Authority for the past year on the UrbanChallenge. Find out more about the way UrbanTech is changing the public sector in the region.
Last year, PUBLIC joined the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to organise an open call competition, UrbanChallenge for technology startups to develop new ideas to make the West Midlands a better place to live.
We defined four main challenges currently faced by the WMCA that could be solved through technology – Wellbeing, Housing, Youth Unemployment and Citizen Engagement, and then leveraged our global networks to invite startups that were best placed to solve each of these challenges to make their pitch.
The challenge to solve local problems in the West Midlands gained real global interest, as we received applications from 129 companies, from 43 cities and 8 countries across the world. After thorough technical and financial due diligence, we curated a shortlist of 5 startups for each challenge, and presented them to an independent selection panel composed of the Mayor, and top UK investors such as Christian Hernandez (White Star Capital), Suzanne Ashman (LocalGlobe), Alexander de Carvalho (PUBLIC), and Jeff Lynns (Seedrs).
The winning startups were announced at an awards event at iCentrum in Birmingham in March 2018, where they were given a chance to directly pitch to the Mayor, and members of the wider GovTech community.
The winning startups are currently engaged in a 3-month paid pilot in the region, with mentoring and support led by PUBLIC, and access to top tier investors to potentially raise further capital. Winners were also given a £10,000 grant and AWS Activate Credits, to support the expansion of their businesses throughout the duration of the pilot. With our industry expertise and experienced mentor network, we are now working with local officials and the companies selected to help to deliver successful pilots, as well as challenging both sides to turn the pilots into longer-term projects. We’ll be publishing a series of blogs on the outcomes of the pilots over the summer.
Challenge #1 – WELLBEING– What innovative ways are there to improve health and wellbeing outcomes using digital technology?
Elemental Software helps mobilise communities to enable better health through early intervention and social prescribing. Their platform connects individuals to non-medical resources, people and programmes, as well as bringing together professionals across the community, enabling strategic and coordinated care which is tailored an individual’s needs. Its pilot will set up a Social Prescribing Hub lot in one of the local authorities across WMCA and potentially partnering up with the Make Move and Munch (MMM) project and GPs to encourage patients to become healthier and fitter, through social activities.
Challenge #2 – HOUSING – Which new technologies can speed up the process of building high quality homes and connected attractive places?
DemoDev uses data to identify and unlock underused micro plots of land to help small-scale and individuals build affordable housing. They partner with Wikihouse, a self-build house company, whose kits – which include guidance on building and technology to help with the planning process – enable people to build their own homes affordably. Its pilot will create a Landmap of the West Midlands that will identify small sites suitable for the development of affordable homes. Combining open datasets, the map will create a searchable database against attributes such as ownership, plot specifics and proximity to services.
Challenge #3 – YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT – What innovative technologies are there to support young people to better understand local job, training and entrepreneurship opportunities?
Do-IT provides a modular accessible online assessment and monitoring system, which helps at-risk individuals to access education and employment. It evaluates skills, capturing past and current adversity, in order to create personalised plans which include relevant resources and signposting to services. Its pilot will test their platform with up to 200 people across the West Midlands region.
Challenge #4 – DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP – How can digital technology be used to drive improved communication with citizens?
novoville is a civic engagement platform designed to help councils better engage with their citizens while reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction. The platform provides an app for citizens to engage directly with local authorities, as well as a cloud based dashboard which enables authorities to improve delivery of public services through increased operational efficiency and data-driven policy decisions. Apptivism is building a ChatBot to integrate with novoville’s platform to engage local citizens via social media. We are proud to say that, last week, the partnership between the WMCA and novoville was nominated for the Collaboration of the Year Award in the UK Democracy Awards.
The pilot led by Apptivism will run 3 conversations with the public, through automated chat interfaces, where citizens will be able to give their view by clicking on links contained within social media posts. Following the pilot, they will then conduct a review of the civic engagement and responses and help the local government in improving its services.
We are excited for these pilots to show how new technology and innovation can bring about a transformation of social services and improve the lives of thousands of people in the West Midlands. It has been a great experience to collaborate with the local government to leverage on entrepreneurs’ creative action to allow to public sector to keep up with the fast pace of innovation already affecting all other aspects of our lives.
Join us at The GovTechSummit in Paris on 12 November 2018 to bring entrepreneurs to the public sector!
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