Sam Forsdick
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Sam Forsdick

Reporter

Government calls for more collaboration between private and public sector as it launches second GovTech fund

The government has launched the latest round of funding for its GovTech Catalyst fund which will look to private tech companies to help solve problems in the public sector.

Oliver Dowden, the Minister for Implementation, made the announcement during Tech UK’s conference on “building the smarter state”.

Dowden said: “In order to build a smarter state capable of delivering excellent digital services we need a good relationship between the public and private sector and I’m determined to champion that agenda.”

Five issues were identified for the GovTech fund that Dowden hoped tech companies could provide a solution to. They were:

  • Improving operational response and safety for fire rescue teams and providing a tech solution to track the location of crews when fighting their way through fires
  • Finding a better way to make use of data to guide public sector audits, using automation to reduce waste and fraud
  • Using automation to help detect and identify illicit goods crossing the border without impacting speed and ease of trade
  • Understanding the overlap between business regulations and use data analysis to identify where to remove and streamline barriers
  • Guaranteeing prescription continuity while people move between healthcare providers and looking for a digital solution to access records and administer medicines

The fund will commit £20m to private sector companies to solve public sector problems. The Minister also announced that the UK will publish its first geospatial strategy in 2019.

During his keynote, Dowden acknowledged that he did not have a tech background and that he “might not be able to perform a git rebase” but would be “meeting as many experts as my diary permits”.

Although there was not much detail on the strategy, the Minister did say he was following a problem-led approach instead of being distracted by “shiny new technology”. “We will see where the needs are, where the technologies are and implement a strategy around it.”

Outsourcing to the private sector was a recurring theme and the government confirmed they would be looking at simplifying the application process for tech companies and removing barriers for SMEs.

Emma Jones, the Crown’s SME representative, said Whitehall was looking at ways to “encourage small businesses to sell directly to government”.

She asked: “How can we buy innovation from SMEs in the supply chain and improve that service?

“How do we connect them with services that are very innovative but that government doesn’t realise it needs or will need in the future?”

It follows the announcement that almost half of the government’s digital spend went directly to small and medium-sized enterprises and has totalled £1.9m since 2012.

The connection between public and private even stretched to the sponsors, one of which was Yoti, a digital identification app. Earlier today the government projects watchdog recommended terminating the Government Digital Services own personal identification project, Verify, which Computer Weekly revealed has already cost £130m.