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Venture firm Public launches fourth GovTech accelerator

The GovStart 2020 accelerator programme is looking for innovators working on transport, health and workforce-related technology to help get more startups working on the delivery of public services

Government technology (govtech) venture firm Public has opened applications for the fourth cohort of its pan-European GovStart accelerator programme.

The six-month growth programme is designed to help technology startups penetrate the public sector, providing each with tailored support to help them develop and execute commercial strategies and raise funds, as well as build networks and relationships with key decision-makers within the public sector.

GovStart 2020 has five primary focus areas (although it will also be open to developers and providers of other solutions outside of this criteria), which have largely been shaped by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and the demand it has placed on public services.

The areas are health technology services for the remote monitoring and self-management of Covid-19 and related conditions; digital interventions to support people’s mental health; digital training and coaching that will help prepare people for the future of work; data solutions to help public transport authorities plan a safer network; and digital solutions that can help make prisons safer and aid in offender rehabilitation.  

“This crisis has shown significant new challenges that will require the public sector to further embrace digital in order to provide solutions that are both efficient and which meet the requirements of the modern citizen. For years, the UK’s startups have been the lifeblood of our economy – now, for the first time, they are the key drivers of public sector transformation,” said Daniel Korski, CEO and co-founder of Public.

“Since GovStart launched in 2017, Public has had the privilege of helping fantastic young companies to refine their offering, expand their networks in the public sector and improve public services,” he said. “However, we know there is still a huge well of tech talent that has struggled to engage with the public sector – we look forward to working with this talent to ensure that public services continue to serve society as effectively as they must.”

During the pandemic, small and medium sized-enterprises (SMEs) were awarded 31% of the value of all Covid-19 related contracts, although in 2019 were only awarded 19% of the overall contract value, according to data from Tussell, a UK data provider on government contracts and spend.

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Speaking earlier this month on a webinar organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Fourth Industrial Revolution alongside secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock, Public co-founder and chief investment officer Alexander de Carvalho claimed there has been “incredible improvements in procurement processes” during the Covid-19 response, which has allowed both buyers and suppliers to interact in far more ambitious ways when delivering public services.

“Government is obviously seen suddenly as a very safe revenue source by a lot of investors, not just the VC community, but large institutional funds, pension funds, and so on. There have been a lot of businesses that have turned into zero-revenue businesses in the past three to four months, and what was seen as a stable sleepy area has suddenly become quite interesting,” he said.

De Carvalho also claimed the increasing involvement of startups and other early-stage companies in healthcare technology will have “a dual benefit of boosting the economy and securing government response” for future health crises.

During the event, Hancock specifically praised the private sector’s close collaboration with the NHS during the pandemic, noting: “The old row about what’s delivered through the public sector and what’s delivered through the private sector has abated enormously. What really matters when there’s a proper crisis is how can you deliver the mission on which you are engaged, whether that’s treating Covid or stopping the spread of the epidemic – it matters far less the badge of the person who’s doing the job.”

GovStart has previously supported 36 companies in breaking into the GovTech space, helping them secure £11m worth of public-sector contracts and assisting them to fundraise over £53m from investors. 

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