Mayor of London launches ‘Civic Innovation Challenge’ to help tackle the capital’s biggest issues

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez November 13, 2019
Alongside Microsoft and the Social Tech Trust, Sadiq Khan is asking for start-ups to submit ideas to tackle London’s biggest problems.

Image of Sadiq Khan and Microsoft UK CEO

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has this week launched the second round of the capital’s Civic Innovation Challenge, inviting the city’s technology community to come together to work with the public sector to help tackle London’s biggest issues. 

Last year seven companies won financial backing to tackle issues that included active travel, dementia support, electric vehicle charging, increasing physical exercise, and loneliness in the city. 

This year, working alongside Microsoft and the Social Tech Trust, the Mayor announced that the Civic Innovation Challenge will focus on countering violent extremism online, democratising planning and tackling the housing crisis, as well as identifying more efficient freight in London. 

There are 40 places available on the Civic Innovation Challenge, of which up to three companies will be awarded £40,000 each to develop their solutions. Companies will also benefit from business and product development support, workshops and training sessions. 

The Civic Innovation Challenge website notes that firms will get an easier route to market by working with customers and partners to refine their product offering, will be able to validate their solutions, receive business support, and also raise their profile. 

The successful firms will be working with the Metropolitan Police Service, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. 

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer at Greater London Authority, said: 

The Civic Innovation Challenge is a unique opportunity for tech companies to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing our capital. I would encourage London’s tech talent to put their creativity to the test and help solve these challenges.

A blog post discussing the Challenge claims that London leads digital growth across Europe, with 45 unicorns - companies worth at least $1 billion - based in the city, including 18 fintech firms. 

Microsoft is also partnering with Social Tech Trust on its AI for Good Start Up Accelerator in Shoreditch, which supports companies that are using AI to help address societal issues and challenges such as accessibility and environmental sustainability. 

Ed Evans, CEO of Social Tech Trust said:

Like many cities around the world, London is facing a number of complex social challenges.  In a city which is already a thriving hub of tech innovation, we have a brilliant opportunity to leverage that talent in pursuit of social transformation.  

I am confident that the Civic Innovation Challenge will demonstrate how the drive to address social challenges can inspire tech innovation and improve the lives of Londoners.

What’s involved 

Applications for the Challenge will remain open until 12 December, with the Civic Innovation Challenge partners assessing every application. This will be followed by at least 40 teams being selected to attend workshops and training sessions, where Microsoft and Social Tech Trust will learn more about the solutions being offered. 

Finally, in March there will be a demo day where challengers will pitch to a crowd of investors, media and buyers, with the winners being announced. 

The winning company - or consortia - from each challenge will then progress to the experimentation and validation phase. They will work closely with either the Met Police, TfL or Greater London Authority for two months to test, validate and roll-out their solution, receiving £40,000 to support delivery. 

You can find out the full details here

Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK Chief Executive

We welcome the Civic Innovation Challenge as a way to introduce new technology companies to helping London and the millions of people who live and work here.

We are excited to be able to learn, explore and develop new ideas, and accelerate the adoption of technology and digital skills in the capital’s public sector.