CivTech 6 Challenges Open – Games & Interactive Companies Wanted…

Civtech is a pioneering Scottish programme which was designed to disrupt the public sector procurement process. While that may not sound like something, pioneering, innovative or relevant to you, it absolutely is.

If you’re a developer, innovator, entrepreneur, team, start-up or established company, CivTech offers an unrivalled opportunity to develop a product the public sector really needs – and rapidly grow your business.

The programme uses an approach common to the digital and start up world – sprints, accelerators, rapid prototyping, to address issues facing the public sector – government, local authorities, education, cultural and heritage organisations, even the police.

Solving Global Problems

The CivTech process will help innovators to refine and realise their solution and ensure they emerge at the end with a product/service of real value to the public sector as a whole (i.e. globally), and with a strong relationship with the challenge holder. This means that the companies/individuals going through the process emerge at the end ready to do business and with a product/service shown to address a public need.

A growing number of companies across Scotland have started life as a CivTech winner. A similar number of small businesses, have kickstarted their growth – locally and internationally – through the CivTech programme.

With problems framed as open challenges, applying is easy and the procurement process streamlined. The CivTech programme is a swift, secure and proven pathway for innovative teams to win public sector customers.

Digital Innovators Wanted

OK, the public sector is not necessarily an area the games industry normally has much to do with, but with more and more of our lives becoming not just digital, but interactive, there are a growing number of challenges which are relevant to games studios, designers, applied games solutions and beyond.

CivTech has just launched its sixth round of challenges, aimed at addressing some signficant issues facing Scotland as it tries to recover from 18 months of lockdown, uncertainty and unanticipated challenges.

The round six challenges vary hugely, from addressing immediate and specific needs, through to much larger issues, which offer an opportunity to completely reinvent the way Scotland works.

Not all of them are directly relevant to the games industry, but all of them are relevant to digitally aware designers and developers.

CivTech Challenges Round Six

There are 12 challenges in this round of the CivTech programme. Ranging from the economy and climate, through to data, privacy, education and AI.

Challenge 1

How can technology help manufacturing businesses decarbonise while building resilience and strengthening competitive advantage? 

Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government: Economy Directorate

Manufacturing is a key sector in Scotland, providing business research and development, and high quality employment (approximately 170,000 people). It also needs to play a key role in helping Scotland work towards Net Zero 2045, but at the moment it is difficult for manufacturers to understand their environmental impact. Our challenge therefore is to help manufacturers assess their environmental footprint; for instance quickly estimating the carbon impact of their operations.

So how can technology help manufacturing businesses decarbonise while building resilience and strengthening competitive advantage?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 2

How do we give the citizens of Scotland trust and agency over how AI and algorithms are used in the public sector?

Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government: Digital Directorate

Without question AI is going to play an increasingly important part in our lives. Its potential is enormous, and we would like that potential to be harnessed for societal benefit – to make people’s lives better. But this is only going to happen if AI itself is both transparent and trusted, and that means we need to develop it in such a way that AI is explainable so that people know and understand it, and are able to engage with it.

A first step would be what we want this Challenge to do: enable a meaningful dialogue with the public on how we use AI to help make decisions. The initial focus will be on dialogue with children and their parents and carers about decisions that affect them.

So how do we use give the citizens of Scotland trust and agency over how AI and algorithms are used in the public sector?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 3

How can technology help us identify peatland restoration sites that will optimise costs and benefits?

Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government: Environment and Forestry Directorate

We don’t know which degraded peatland sites offer the best cost-benefit balance from restoration. The main benefit sought from restoration is a reduction in carbon emissions but there are associated benefits for biodiversity, water quality and flood management.

So how can technology help us identify peatland restoration sites that will optimise costs and benefits?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 4

How can we use technology to help land managers make informed land-use decisions and increase carbon capture and storage?

Challenge Sponsors: Southern Uplands Partnership, The Langholm Initiative, John Muir Trust, South of Scotland Enterprise, Scottish Government

Land managers regularly face significant decisions on how to best use their land. While much land in Scotland is poor quality in ‘standard’ agricultural terms, we believe it could play a major role in tackling the climate emergency by naturally locking in carbon. We also believe that making better decisions for carbon-capture and storage, will generate significant benefits for biodiversity. However, it’s currently difficult for land managers to make informed decisions on best use of their land for carbon capture and storage because the data that could support these decisions is  either inaccessible or sparse, inconsistent, and often out of date. By solving this Challenge, we can enable informed land use decisions, enable regulators to decide what (if any) incentives or regulation are needed in relation to carbon capture, and make a significant contribution to tackling the climate crisis.  

So how can we use technology to help land managers make informed land-use decisions and increase carbon capture and storage?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 5

How can tech help manage traffic and road infrastructure used by commercial operations in rural and remote communities?

Challenge Sponsors: Stirling Council, Forest and Land Scotland

In rural and remote Scotland, commercial operations in primary industries provide many jobs and benefits to local communities, their economies and way of life.

But those rural and remote communities are often served by single track roads, and this can cause problems when the public road infrastructure is overwhelmed by peak or sustained commercial use, or by the flow of seasonal visitors. These can negatively impact not just the residents of those communities, but also visitors, customers, other businesses, and the provision of emergency services. They can also impact detrimentally on the environment.

We want to make road use as effective as possible for all – efficient for the businesses involved, and also safer and less disruptive to the communities that support and rely on them, and the visitors that use them.

Our use case is Balquhidder, a small community some 10 miles north west of Callander at the head of Loch Voil. Balquhidder’s main artery is a single track Class C road, and it – along with other roads around the community – needs to meet the demands of significant and sustained use from residents, farm machinery, hospitality businesses, visitors and large forestry haulage vehicles. In this regard, forestry activity involving heavy machinery is likely to be extensive and sustained for the next 20 years across multiple sites in the area, using all the roads. 

So how can tech help manage traffic and road infrastructure used by commercial operations in rural and remote communities?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 6

How do we better understand supply and demand of school age childcare in communities?

Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government: Early Learning and Childcare Directorate

Our challenge is data-focussed, relating to a high profile new commitment for this parliamentary term to design and build an accessible, affordable and flexible system of school age childcare provision in Scotland.

In order to design a system that works for most people we need to understand what children’s and parent’s needs are in relation to childcare (as well as access to activities).

We also need to understand the school age childcare landscape better: What’s currently happening? What are children doing round about the school day?  How much of this is related to childcare needs and how dependent is this on the range of resources available within a community? How are choices limited by cost, location or accessibility challenges?

Data is central to this challenge because of the complexities of different families’ needs, and the range of different possible providers, but a snap shot in time of data will not solve this challenge alone. To help us to design a sustainable policy approach in this area we want a solution which helps us to understand both the national picture and what school age childcare needs are at a community level, and on an ongoing basis. We would like to explore solutions which can build on the baseline of understanding we already have, and then both inform our future policy approach and ultimately help us design a system in which local providers understand demand in the communities they serve, and families can access local school age childcare which meets their needs.

So how do we better understand supply and demand of school age childcare in communities?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 7

How can tech help us understand how our school buildings are used, and help support asset performance, wellbeing and sustainability?

Challenge Sponsors: Scottish Futures Trust, Midlothian Council

We currently do not fully understand how the physical spaces in schools and educational buildings are utilised beyond timetabling and term-time considerations, and without full understanding, effective planning and management is not possible. This has the potential to detrimentally impact many aspects of the building’s performance – for example in terms of air quality, which if not optimal has the potential to spread diseases such as Covid 19.

However if we could understand how our educational buildings are being used, we could make informed decisions on how we plan, invest in, and utilise them to best effect. So we want to gain an understanding about how people travel through buildings, and how they occupy rooms, spaces and external facilities, and in doing so realise a number of benefits including increased pupil wellbeing, identifying new capacities within buildings for growth and expansion, and improving the learning environment through data driven building management decisions.

So how can tech help us understand how our school buildings are used, and help support asset performance, wellbeing and sustainability?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 8

How do we better plan, manage and respond to the experiences of visitors and communities at visitor hotspots in rural and remote locations?

Challenge Sponsors: Perth and Kinross Council, Stirling Council, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Digital Office for Local Government, CENSIS, Scottish Government

Covid-19 restrictions mean that infrastructure designed for visitors and communities near to “visitor hotspots” in rural and remote areas can be overwhelmed, as was experienced throughout 2020.

In Scotland, local authorities and other public services anticipate sustained demand on infrastructure, teams, volunteers and resources. The experiences of visitors and residents are all impacted by public services that provide infrastructure for transport and parking, camping, littering and waste management, leisure, health and safety.

There is an opportunity to develop technology that can help create positive experiences for visitors and local communities while also contributing to sustainable tourism and the wellbeing including economic benefits of rural and remote communities.

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 9

How can tech help people identify the care they need, and enable them to manage their own care services?

Challenge Sponsors: Scottish Government: Mental Health & Social Care Directorate

We’re interested in solutions which can help identify and anticipate people’s care needs, and enable them to take ownership of managing them. If people can manage their care services on a day by day basis, then this will support their human rights and enable them to live more independently.

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 10

How can we help trainers assess the skills and practice competence of learners, using remote and online services?

Challenge Sponsors: Care Training Consortium, and South of Scotland Enterprise

Care Training Consortium (CTC) is a social enterprise that provides training, SVQs and Professional Development Awards for people and organisations, particularly in the health and social care sector. We are continually striving to develop our reach both locally and nationally and have recently strengthened these by developing our use of learning via digital means.  Our main challenge now is to develop the best way to deliver remote assessments, where the assessor and the learner are not in the same room but need to be able to properly assess skills that have a physical element (such as taking vital signs) as well as a knowledge base is vital. Solving the ‘assessment of skills and competence’ by remote means would create opportunity for CTC to develop even further and be at the forefront of changing learning within the social care sector. 

So how can we help trainers assess the skills and practice competence of learners, using remote and online services?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 11

How can we create the most local and best possible user experience for people engaging with the Citizens Advice Scotland network?

Challenge Sponsors: Citizens Advice Scotland.

How can we create the most local and best possible user experience for people engaging with the Citizens Advice Scotland network?

As its name suggests, members of Citizens Advice Scotland provide advice to people across Scotland, across a wide range of topics and communities. Much of this help has been traditionally face to face, but the organisation has been developing online services for some years. However the pandemic has accelerated our digital transformation, and we want to build the best services we possibly can whilst ensuring advice is delivered as locally as possible

Building on our experience of launching the national Scottish Citizen Advice Helpline (SCAH) service, which went live on 14 April 2020, we want to enable everyone wishing to use our services, irrespective of the way they contact us [phone, chat or website] to benefit from a national portal that consistently, effectively and automatically routes them to the right local CAB advisers. This would not only ensure that the chances of an allocation to a local advisor is the default, but also enable more local deployment of advisors. In the first instance, we want to focus on streamlining the help available for those in debt including advice on benefits and employment.

So how can tech help us create the best possible user experience for people engaging with the Citizens Advice Scotland network?

Explore the full challenge.

Challenge 12

How can tech help make public sector data easy to find?

Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government: Digital Directorate

Our Challenge is to help make public sector data easier to find. We want to help people find data using simple search terms without needing to know the specific name of the data, who owns it and where it might be published.

Explore the full challenge.

CivTech 6 key dates

14 June to 9 July 2021 – Challenge call

The CivTech 6 Challenges will be announced here on the CivTech website and published on Public Contracts Scotland. Proposals must be submitted via Public Contracts Scotland by midday on ninth of July.

2 to 13 August – Exploration Stage interviews

Shortlisted applicants are invited for a short interview, following which up to three teams per Challenge will be selected and taken forward to the Exploration Stage.

23 August to 10 September – Exploration Stage

Selected teams spend three weeks working with their Challenge Sponsors, the CivTech team and other stakeholders to develop and refine their proposals.

10 September – Resubmission deadline

Exploration Stage teams must submit their updated proposals, no later than 5pm.

13 to 17 September – Accelerator interviews

Exploration Stage teams are invited back for interview, following which the final selection will be made for the Accelerator Stage.

4 October 2021 to 28 January 2022 – Accelerator Stage

The heart of the CivTech Innovation Flow — an intensive 15 week programme (plus a two week festive break) of fast-track product development and world-class business workshops. The selected teams and Challenge Sponsors will come together to produce a Minimum Viable Product that proves the approach and is capable of further development.

7 to 11 February – Demo Week

The flagship event, where the Teams and Challenge Sponsors show off their hard work and pitch their products to senior figures from the public, private and third sectors.

28 January onwards – Pre-Commercial Stage

Towards the end of the Accelerator Stage, the Teams and Challenge Sponsors will have the opportunity to extend their relationship to further develop the solution and roll it out more widely.

Applying For CivTech

The application process for CivTech is straightforward and transparent. While it involves registering on the Public Contracts Scotland website, that’s a simple online process and on a par with signing up to a new online service (the Scottish Games Network signed up and we keep an eye on open contracts for anything relevant to the games and interactive sectors, so we can pass them onto local companies).

The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes and involves a couple of forms for your concept/challenge solution.

The Bottom Line

While the public sector is not necessarily an area that many games companies would think of when it comes to potential projects and clients, CivTech is doing something very different. It offers the opportunity for any creative individuals, teams or businesses, to bring innovative new ideas to the table and will actively help them to bring those ideas to life – with links into your first customer at the end of the process.

There is a reason the programme has grown from a purely Scottish concept, to 16 countries around the world, spanning the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australasia.

We know that Scotland’s games sector is one of the most innovative, pioneering and creative in the country. It has a huge amount to offer in terms of innovation and technical talent. Bringing that skill out into other areas would help establish the Scottish videogames sector as the technical pioneer it is.

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