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Government launches GovTech competition

Implementation minister Oliver Dowden will launch competition for UK tech firms to help solve the country’s social challenges, using funding from the £20m GovTech challenge fund

The government has announced a competition for tech firms to come up with innovations that will improve public services.

The competition will be launched by implementation minister Oliver Dowden at the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) Sprint 18 conference on 10 May, and covers a range of challenges, including the data economy, healthy ageing, mobility and clean growth.  

It is being funded using the £20m GovTech challenge fund, which was first announced by prime minister Theresa May in November 2017 as a way of encouraging better use of technology in the public sector, and connecting tech suppliers to potential customers in government. 

This competition is part of a series of challenges, and tech companies can begin bidding for funding on 14 May for a period of six weeks, with subsequent competitions following over the next few months.

Those who are successful will be awarded up to £50,000 to develop their ideas, and those providing the “best potential solutions” will then be given research and development (R&D) contracts with up to £500,000 to create prototypes of their products, which will then be available for public sector buyers.

Dowden, who became the fourth minister in two years in charge of GDS, wants tech experts to find innovative ways of solving issues around loneliness and reducing plastic waste.

Commenting on the competition launch, Dowden said the government is “committed to providing more providing more opportunities for tech businesses – including small firms – to access public procurement contracts”.

The GovTech fund encourages firms to find innovative ways to fix the big social problems we all face – loneliness, plastic pollution and national security.

“Through emerging technologies, this fund will elevate British companies onto a global market while helping to deliver outstanding public services and improving lives for people,” said Dowden.

As part of his role as implementation minister, Dowden is also responsible for, cyber and resilience, shared services and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).

He is also responsible for the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the watchdog that monitors large government projects, including many IT and technology programmes. 

According to a report published in June 2017 by investment firm Public, the GovTech sector could be worth £20bn by 2025, and the UK has the opportunity to be a market leader. 

Read more on IT for government and public sector

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