Young people and their unique approach to problem solving are key to generating solutions to the problems of today, and creating the jobs of tomorrow.
This is the assertion of Sandy Kennedy, the chief executive of Entrepreneurial Scotland, who also believes that it is those same youngsters who will generate the wealth and taxes needed to be reinvested into the economy.
There is a strong need to recognise a new way to look at and solve problems, Kennedy explained, and solutions need to be more citizen design orientated, which can only happen by including a wider range of voices.
Kennedy’s comments came during his opening address at yesterday’s CivTech 3.0 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. The CivTech Demo Day saw 11 tech companies take to the stage to pitch their ideas to help revolutionise the way public services are delivered in Scotland – with collaboration and engagement with young people as a key theme of the day.
Since its birth, the Scottish Government-run accelerator programme, CivTech, has gone from strength to strength with attendance this year increasing from 251 at CivTech 2.0 to 485. Similarly, the number of companies pitching solutions to the challenges set by the public sector increased from seven to 11, with the number of challenges also increasing.
As Alexander Holt, founder and head of CivTech, told DIGIT, the programme brings together two communities that would otherwise never interact. It enables the public sector to connect with the swathes of innovative private sector talent within Scotland.
Innovators, who are focused on cutting-edge technology, are well placed to explore the problems faced by public sector organisations, which are beset by budget cuts and an ever-increasing demand on its services coupled with a rising consumer expectation, he said. Rather than go to market seeking solutions, CivTech, which is part of the Scottish Government, facilitates problem exploration.
CivTech 3.0 brought together different mindsets to foster greater collaboration and ultimately bridge that gap between the public and private sector bodies such as Police Scotland, local councils and the NHS.
The entrepreneurial state of mind and how it can be applied to the public sector environment was another theme explored over the course of the day. “The entrepreneurial mindset is the persistence to move forward – the resilience to take the flack and the urgency to get results,” said Holt, explaining to DIGIT what he hoped the CivTech problem explorers would bring to the table and help to embed in the public sector.
Speaking at the event, Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, said: “I’m proud to see how it (CivTech) has opened up new procurement routes and inspired previous public service sponsors to adopt innovative success in terms of economic impact, developing companies, jobs and economic growth.
“Looking at that impact in more detail, the latest numbers are impressive. Only 2 years on from CivTech beta and one year since CivTech 2.0, CivTech is continuing to win new contracts, raise new funding and create new jobs with £4.66 million of contracts and 54 full time equivalent jobs. Additionally, cost avoidance of £1.5m for Stirling Council show the impact of innovative ways of delivering public services.”
CivTech 3.0 had a diverse selection of challenges that included 5 Rights, NHS circular economy, NHS waiting times, social housing, engagement with the outdoors, housing management, transport to relieve social isolation, anti-illicit trading, planning, staff well-being, and youth mental health.
Among this year’s challenges, Stirling Council and NHS sought a new way to generate a wider mental health dialogue to help young people with problems affecting relationships and work or study. Edinburgh-based tech firm Voxsio said it would address this serious issue using conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The company collaborated with mental health champions in Stirling’s secondary schools and members of the Stirling Youth Forum. Voxsio said that its AI driven tool, Alli-Chat, will offer personalised advice on where to access additional services and ongoing support.
CEO of Voxsio, Michael McTernan, said: “Our vision has been informed and inspired by the young people from Stirling. Working with these young people has provided us invaluable insights, giving us the foundations for our product Alli-Chat.
“Stirling’s young people highlighted mental health as a pressing issue for their age group as part of the ‘Our Place, Our Space’ initiative, which gives their generation a voice in influencing services.”
To support NHS Scotland in its mission to reduce waste and support product re-use across its service, Ditto Sustainability pitched its project, The Loop.
Jack Morris, senior development manager at Ditto, said with monitoring, reporting and its patented AI technology, The Loop would support transitioning NHS Scotland to more circular economies across all 22 national broads, helping to reduce its goods and services expenditure of two billion a year.
CivTech 4.0 has been confirmed for 2019. “We’ve already got a pipeline of tremendous Challenges, but we know that with the experience of three innovation Flow cycle under our belt, we’re in a good position to handle more,” said Barbra Mills, challenge sponsor manager.