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Scottish government tech accelerator opens latest funding round

The Scottish government’s CivTech accelerator is seeking technology businesses to help develop new tools to improve public services, as well as to address pressing social and environmental issues

The Scottish government’s technology startup accelerator has launched a new set of “challenges”, opening up around $10m worth of contract opportunities to any enterprise able to solve the issues outlined.

Launched in 2016 to “inject innovation” into the Scottish public sector’s use of technology, the government-run CivTech accelerator announced its ninth round of challenges on 27 June 2023.

Dubbed CivTech 9, the challenges revolve around how technology can assist in achieving the broad priorities of the Scottish government, in a diverse range of areas from the environment and net-zero targets to healthcare and building sustainable public services.

Examples of challenges include using tech to maintain the health of trees and wild plants, to help women access menopause support, to improve ecological restoration efforts, to create efficient and secure supply chains for public procurement, and to protect against ransomware and other forms of cyber crime.

The associated contracts for each challenge have been on Public Contracts Scotland, and all range between £650,000 and £1.3m in maximum value.

Proposals will be accepted until 22 August 2023, followed by a series of interviews to select which ones to take forward.

The selected teams will then spend three weeks working with the accelerator to further develop and refine their proposals, at which point there will be a “resubmission” period to choose which ones should be inducted into an intensive 18-week product and business development programme.

The CivTech 9 announcement coincides with the accelerator’s ‘CivTech 8’ demo day, where it showcased a range of technologies developed in response to its previous round of challenges.

“The world-class CivTech programme is enabling the public sector to work with the most innovative businesses on solving the greatest problems we face,” said Richard Lochhead, the Scottish minister for small business, trade and innovation.

“Today’s demonstrations will show how successful these ideas can be. This is exactly the kind of creative thinking we want to encourage through our National Innovation Strategy, which sets out our vision to become one of the most innovative small nations in the world over the next decade.

“I am looking forward to seeing the latest inspiring projects from CivTech 8, and help to launch new challenges with £10m Scottish government support.”

CivTech 8 companies include Port F, which is using tech to predict and measure the impact of projects and investments; Looper, which will deliver a “digital circularity” tool to help local businesses in the south of Scotland realise their circular economy and net-zero ambitions; Informed Solutions, which has developed an “environmental asset management platform” to provide domain-specific insights regarding ecosystem health; and HelpFirst, which is using artificial intelligence to identify consumer’s most at risk of harm so that support can be directed their way.

In August 2020, former Skyscanner chief operating officer Mark Logan led a review of Scotland’s tech sector, which ended with calls for government to build out “a world-class backbone implementation of core capability”.

The review added that this should be done by creating a nationwide network of “tech scaler” hubs, seven of which were later set up by then-prime minister Nicola Sturgeon in July 2022.

In April 2023, the Scottish government linked the scaler programme to the NHS, allowing the startups involved to access its regional testbeds.

The same month, trade body ScotlandIS published its annual survey, noting the Scottish tech sector employs more than 80,000 people and has has 3,900 “digital technologies” companies. It added that the tech sector is Scotland’s fourth strongest export sector, reckoning £3.3bn in overseas sales.

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