Demo Day

The end of the first CivTech® accelerator was celebrated this week, with a jam-packed day of pitches, speeches and chats.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy delivers his closing remarks

I first met the Head of CivTech, Alexander Holt, eight short months ago, when he described his brilliantly absurd scheme to get the public sector and tech startups working with each other. It's kind of blindingly obvious—particularly in these times of austerity—how much government agencies could benefit from the ambitious, growth-hacky, minimum-viable-producty, get-stuff-done approach now common to tech-startups; it's equally obvious the boost to a young company of having an NHS trust, police force or environmental agency as an early customer.

The problem has always been the barrier sitting between the two: public sector procurement. Governments have a tendency to over-specify solutions to problems they perhaps don't fully understand; tech startups can ill afford the time and resources needed to navigate the procurement process. So the pubic sector misses out on some of the most forward-thinking minds and we all miss the economic development opportunities of nurturing massively scalable companies at their inception.

Alexander thought he had a way to bridge this gap, and I thought he had the mettle to make it happen. So when the opportunity arose to get involved as Head of Product I jumped at it.

There was a heady mix of anticipation and nervousness when we opened the doors in late September. Nobody quite knew what to expect.

But three and a bit months of incredibly hard work later, here we are with nine companies—five of which formed solely because of CivTech—each with the bones of a product which could dramatically change for the better the way the pubic sector spends our money and serves society. Nine companies with the potential to build huge businesses operating way beyond Scotland.

Playing a small part in the process has been brilliant and very rewarding on a personal level. Although this week has marked the end of the programme, I'm sure it's also the start of something much, much bigger.