25 May 2023
by Gary Todd

Empowering the early-stage GovTech ecosystem to unlock innovation (Guest blog by Centrakin)

Guest blog by Gary Todd, Founder at Centrakin #LPSInnovation

I expect we can all agree that widespread change is afoot in the public sector at present. Even aside from the noisy, 'sexy' topics like AI, IoT and smart city infrastructure, there are innovations in every area of the sector. GovTech innovation holds tremendous potential in driving forward fast step-changes in the public sector and across every function, which poses somewhat of an overload challenge when you consider the 700+ lines of business in each local authority alone.

One key aspect that often remains untapped is the power of early-stage innovation and particularly innovators in micro and small SMEs. So how can the public sector keep abreast of the best solutions or gain confidence in choosing smaller innovators, when they are often perceived as 'riskier' or less sustainable over the well-resourced or 'noisier' supplier?  And what are the barriers we have to overcome to get better at accessing innovation in this space?

Recognising the Value of Early-Stage Innovation in Micro and Small SMEs

Early-stage innovation from 'focused innovators' offers unique strengths that can drive public sector innovation. These enterprises are often characterised by agility, adaptability, and localised expertise. Their close proximity to the communities they serve allows them to identify specific challenges and develop tailored solutions. By empowering these early-stage innovators, the GovTech ecosystem can tap into a vast pool of untapped potential and unlock innovative approaches to public sector challenges - and even identify problems the public sector didn't know they had.

Overcoming Challenges Faced by Early-Stage Innovators in Micro and Small SMEs

Despite their potential, early-stage innovators in micro and small SMEs encounter significant challenges. Limited resources, including funding and access to networks, often hinder their growth and impact. Moreover, risk-averse mindsets and bureaucratic processes within the public sector can create barriers to innovation. To empower these innovators, it is crucial to address these challenges through targeted initiatives and coherent spaces that provide greater opportunities for early conversations, methods of connection and discovery, localgov collaboration, and innovative funding and 'parallel pilot' opportunities.

Strategies for Empowering Early-Stage Innovators within the GovTech Ecosystem

To unlock the full potential of early-stage innovators in micro and small SMEs, collaboration between government agencies, larger organisations, and these innovators is essential. Establishing mentorship programs, incubators, and accelerators can provide guidance, resources, and networks that support the growth and development of these innovators. Additionally, simplifying procurement processes, creating dedicated funding schemes, and undertaking regulatory reforms can promote inclusivity and enable easier access to public sector opportunities for micro and small SMEs. But above all, the biggest change will occur when the public sector actively engages with the national landscape of innovators, regardless of size. We can only benefit from a meritocracy of ideas by inviting, listening and engaging with the broadest innovation.

A time for localgov openness and ambition

Empowering the GovTech ecosystem to unlock public sector innovation requires a deliberate focus on early-stage innovation and innovators in micro and small SMEs. Recognising their unique strengths and addressing their challenges through collaboration, engagement, support, simplified procurement, funding, and regulatory reforms will create an environment conducive to innovation - and it starts with open rhetoric and discussion. By harnessing the potential of these innovators, the GovTech ecosystem can drive meaningful and impactful change within the public sector. It is imperative for governments, policymakers, and larger organisations to invest in and nurture the GovTech ecosystem, specifically focusing on empowering and supporting innovators in micro and small SMEs. Together, we can unlock the full potential of public sector innovation and create a future that is citizen-centric and responsive to the evolving needs of our society.

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Gary Todd

Gary Todd

Founder, Centrakin

Gary Todd helps local government to discover and implement step-change innovation, in particular from early-stage innovators addressing GovTech, business-led innovation and social innovation. As founder of Centrakin, Gary is empowering localgov leaders to quickly and easily create early conversations about the most innovative solutions, with less risk, less waste and greater confidence and collaboration.