At SIDE, we’ve just completed CivTech’s 3-week Exploration programme. We worked on a Challenge to improve the operation of Citizens Advice Scotland national helpline.
CivTech is a Scottish programme to drive ‘daring and innovation in the public sector’ and it deserves to be celebrated. (Perhaps it is already celebrated? I only discovered CivTech by typing secret code 72413000 into Find Tender, but there are probably easier ways to find it.)
The brilliant thing about CivTech is it acts as the venture customer for Scottish Government.
Matt Clifford, co-founder of Entrepreneur First and author of an excellent newsletter, introduced me to the notion of a venture customer. Matt says: “In my day job I observe that large organisations often lack the capability to buy from startups. I suspect we’d be net better off with fewer corporate venture capitalists and more corporate venture customers.”
CivTech is a smart attempt to solve this problem. Not only do they surface problems that are amenable to innovation, but they also create a pathway to buy the resulting solutions. They offer £5k to three firms to do an initial exploration, then £25k to one firm to do a proof-of-concept, and then up to £220k to deliver a live solution.
For a small firm like SIDE Labs that £5k is golden. It is wonderful to have the time to properly explore the problem area, rather than immediately jumping towards a solution.
In addition, CivTech had crafted a good experience for participating firms. They offered some high-calibre workshops. I cockily assumed I knew everything about presenting, but I leant lots from Maryanne Johnston’s session. In an online environment, it’s lovely to have this feeling of gift exchange, rather than simply being mined for knowledge.
(And🤞that we make it to the next stage.)