The GovTech Academy Showcase
Pitching Public Sector Innovations
By Laura Bennett
On 30th March 2022, the GovTech Academy (GTA) held a Showcase event to mark the end of their first cohort, and celebrate the successes of the participants. Since November 2021, eleven ambitious companies took part in regular learning and mentoring sessions with Tim Barnes, Programme Director of GTA, and a whole host of external speakers, all experts in different areas of public sector innovation.
The audience filled the room, and it was great to see representatives from the four local authorities as well as from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority. We were joined by Lee Strafford, founder of Plusnet and one of Sheffield’s foremost entrepreneurs, who gave a welcome address. His was a somewhat cautionary tale about the importance of looking after one’s mental and physical health while building a startup – wise words for all of us.
About the Author
TEAM Super Connector
He also waxed lyrical about why South Yorkshire was such a great place to build a business: not only is it a great place to live, but it is easy to make the connections you need for your business to success – whether that’s seeking out business support or connecting with a potential client – the willingness of South Yorkshire people to help others out is a big benefit to startups.
Seven of the cohort had volunteered to present their companies, and each provided an overview of their innovative products and services. There was a fantastic variety of businesses covering different aspects of public sector innovation – from improving the provision of childcare services (Famiio), and easy-to-publish content management services for community groups (Townbase), alongside urban tree management (Mapscape), and using AI and data to improve public sector procurement (Spend Network and Hivatic). We also heard from Doncaster-based Knowledge Pool, who provide digital capability training to communities, and Legal-Pythia, an AI-powered service which helps lawyers to keep on top of casework documentation. The audience was engaged and asked great questions, and there are a few follow-up conversations that are ongoing.
The sheer variety of companies and solutions just goes to show the breadth and depth of what we refer to when we say “public sector innovation”. Tim had opened the Showcase by telling us that Government was the biggest industry on earth, with 16% of global GDP and 15% of all employment – and that’s not including state-funded healthcare and education. The sector is ripe for innovation and presents a huge market opportunity for startups.
Reflecting on the 5 month programme, the GovTech Academy participants said that they particularly valued the sense of community that came from being part of a cohort. This is despite the majority of the sessions being run virtually. It proves the value in bringing together companies who share similar challenges. Gary Todd, founder of Famiio, summed up the experience of taking part in the GovTech Academy as follows:
“The GovTech Academy is a great opportunity to share, discuss and hopefully solve the range of challenges that face GovTech founders. During the various sessions, I was surprised at how many founders have or were going through similar issues, and there was usually someone on hand to share how they tackled and overcame these difficulties. Founding a startup is harder than it looks, and particularly in GovTech. The Academy has been a great experience to meet fellow entrepreneurs and equip us for the future.”
Claire Renwick, Programme Manager for the GovTech Academy said,
“The quality of companies taking part in this first cohort was exceptionally high. Our instincts were correct that there is appetite for this type of programme outside of London, and we’re very excited to do it all again with cohort two later on this year.”
Here at TEAM SY we are also very excited to see who will join the GovTech Academy on their next cohort. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know when applications go live.