Public service collaboration is silver lining from COVID cloud

One of the positives to have come out of the terrible Covid-19 crisis is the overwhelming show of support for public services and the people who deliver them. Everyone wants to help, which is inspiring to see. But for local authorities inundated with offers from tech companies small and large, it can be difficult to determine which solutions are the most suitable for the tasks at hand, especially when time and money are in short supply. 

At techUK, we have come up with a novel approach to this problem, which we believe will help the transformation and delivery of public services for the benefit of those who rely on them the most. Our new approach promotes collaboration between innovative SMEs and large corporates to drive innovation and help tackle some of the big issues facing our society.

SMEs excel at innovation

A common challenge for smaller companies is scale. While SMEs excel at innovation in the design of new products and services, they often lack the sales force to take their offering to the widest possible market. At the other end of the scale, big consulting firms offer exceptional professional services to a national client base but are typically less involved in research and development. 

To bridge the divide, we brought together representatives from large and small companies for a virtual partnering conference. It gave SMEs the opportunity to pitch their proposals to corporates currently providing services to local authorities. And it gave corporates the opportunity to expand the range of SMEs they can partner with in the growing market for digital transformation. 

Support the most vulnerable in society

We discussed technologies that can shield and support the most vulnerable in society, tackle loneliness and social isolation and support carers and home care agencies. In my case, I shared details of our group’s work with health and care providers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to scale up remote care for citizens at home and in care homes across the UK.

We have pioneered the fully inclusive approach to digital health and care. Citizens have a choice of communications channels including landline telephone, Amazon Alexa, video, SMS and apps. This makes digital services accessible to the vast majority of the population, regardless of age and ability.

Councils want to embrace innovation

As a result of the event, I had follow-up calls with three large corporates, including a multinational professional services giant, a global technology company and an international IT partner. They are working with local authorities across the UK and keen to expand their service offerings in support of their clients. Similarly, councils want to embrace innovation in their service delivery but minimise any risk with unknown suppliers. 

The collaborative approach is a win-win-win: it works for the local authorities in that they can access the latest social care technologies; it works for big consulting firms because they can offer innovative new products and services to their customers and it works for SMEs by opening up the public services market. For us, it was a perfect way to engage with large corporates. The event was such a success and the feedback so positive, we plan to stage another in the coming months.

Natalie Duffield is chief executive of IntechnologySmartCities, part of Intechnology plc, and Vice Chair of techUK’s Local Public Services Committee


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