Thoughts on the UK Government £20 million pot for Govtech

Yesterday's budget announcement included a nice £20 million pot for GovTech projects:

GovTech Fund – The Budget commits up to £20 million over 3 years, starting in 2018‑19, of R&D NPIF funding for a GovTech Fund. Public bodies will be able to access this fund to support procurement of innovative products through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), run by Innovate UK. 

What can the Government do with this? If I were Innovate UK I would be setting up an incubator/accelerator programme for startups to develop solutions based on the new innovation partnership procedure so that both R&D and procurement can be tied together. Take a small percentage of each company going through the programme and ensure the state has a stake in their future, a bit like Mariana Mazzucato has suggested in the Entrepreneurial State.

In fact, I pitched literally this idea to the Welsh Government and Nesta back in 2014 but no dice.

That would be my preferred option but I can think of a simpler alternative based on pure design competitions or challenges which have been done a little bit all over the place with varying degrees of success. Those however hit the skids when it comes down to bridging the gap between the R&D bit and public procurement.

A further alternative would be to look at what CityMart is doing these days with their platform which they call the world's largest directory of solutions for city governments. CityMart were an early horse in the city public procurement challenges.

Personally I quite like that responsibility for the money will sit with Innovate UK and outside traditional procurement hands. Why? Because innovation in procurement needs to be tackled coming from innovation and not from procurement. It needs to be understood as "special" (ie, 'different') from regular or day to day procurement. If you think otherwise, just look at the 'success' of the innovation partnerships so far...

Links I Liked [Public Procurement]

1. NHS collaborates with a startup and rolls out product in only months to 10 regions in England. I wonder what procurement procedure they used...

2. Pre-commercial procurement can help public bodies innovate. Sure, it always did. As usual, the big, big issue is IP (and state aid).

3. UK Government to review £500 million worth of contracts won by Atsos. That the Government is doing this should not be a surprise, what should be a surprise in the other hand is that this is not done more often. Contract performance is currently procurement's soft underbelly in my view.

4. Why having a single set of legal rules applicable to the bulk of public procurement when you can have three? Scotland has the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, Public Sector Regulations (Scotland) 2015 and now the Procurement (Scotland) Regulations 2016. Why?

5. Speaking of procurement rules, the deadline for transposition of the Directive 2014/24/EU is April 18th. The game is on to find out which Member States will comply with the deadline and those who won't.