Durham County Council and Blaenau Gwent Borough Council launch challenge to transform local authority services with intelligent data

Businesses can apply for funding, provided by the GovTech Catalyst Fund, to develop innovative solutions to capture and analyse real-time data to improve public services

Durham County Council and Blaenau Gwent Borough Council have launched a call for technology businesses to develop innovative solutions that can capture and analyse data to transform Local Authority service delivery. Development funding is provided under the GovTech Catalyst Fund scheme and the competition opens for applications on 24 September.

Business Durham, the economic development organisation for County Durham working on behalf of Durham County Council, will play a key role in promoting the competition and supporting Durham County Council in ensuring its success in coordination with the GovTech Catalyst team. Business Durham was also involved in preparing the bid to the GovTech Catalyst team, alongside Durham County Council and Blaenau Gwent Borough Council, to deliver this challenge.

The councils have secured £1.25 million from the GovTech Fund to support successful applicants in developing their solutions, with a focus on how real-time data routinely captured by residents and vehicles can be used to improve public service delivery – such as recycling, litter collection and street repair – while reducing costs.

The five winning companies will initially be awarded up to £50,000 to develop their ideas. The two companies providing the best potential solutions may then be awarded research and development contracts of up to £500,000 to build prototypes, which will be available to the public sector to purchase.

The challenge focuses on two initiatives:

  • Boots on the Ground: enabling residents of County Durham to collect and report data regarding highway maintenance. This scheme addresses two key issues: gaining accurate data location for the highway defect and improving understanding of the defect’s severity.
  • Eyes on the Street: enabling Blaenau Gwent Borough Council’s vehicle fleets to collect and report data as they travel around the borough concerning recycling participation, deterioration of the highways as well as monitoring and identifying highways violations.

The GovTech Fund, which is awarded via competitions and overseen by the GovTech Catalyst team, was launched by the Prime Minister in November 2017 to incentivise UK tech firms to produce innovative solutions to solve the problems facing the public sector and improve services for citizens. The funding is allocated via Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).

Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden, in the Cabinet Office, said:

“This fund will elevate British companies onto a global market while helping to deliver outstanding public services and improving lives for citizens.”

Councillor Brian Stephens, Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhoods and Local Partnerships at Durham County Council commented:

“The GovTech Catalyst Fund competition is a fantastic way to drive innovation in our economy and provide more opportunities for businesses to access public procurement and funding. We have a wealth of technology expertise in the region that we look forward to showcasing through this competition. We are excited to see the applications and the development of an innovative, bespoke solution that will enable us to deliver even better public services based on the use of real-time data.”

Cllr Dai Davies, Executive Member for Regeneration & Economic Development of Blaenau Gwent Borough Council, added:

“We are delighted to have been shortlisted in the first round of challenges, understanding our communities and delivering services that align to communities needs is a priority for us, especially during these challenging times of austerity. We have the ability to capture so much information, but not quite sure how we interpret it, and use it to its full benefit. So there’s our challenge…its over to the experts to find us a solution.”

Full competition documentation will only be available to applicants who register via Innovate UK’s website once the competition opens on 24 September. Further information can be found https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/245/overview.

A briefing event for applicants is taking place at NETPark (North East Technology Park), Thomas Wright Way, Sedgefield, TS21 3FD on 8 October – please register here.