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by Jenni Davidson
23 June 2021
New round of CivTech challenges launched

New round of CivTech challenges launched

A new round of CivTech challenges has been launched for the sixth year of the Scottish Government’s public sector innovation programme.

CivTech was first launched in 2016 to find original technological solutions to public sector problems.

Public sector bodies and third sector organisations set challenges for Scotland’s tech companies to solve and invite pitches for potential solutions, with the best ideas gaining financial backing for further development.

This year there are twelve challenges ranging from how to decarbonise manufacturing to managing tourist hotspots.

The most promising ideas from the initial submissions are placed into a tech accelerator programme, with up to £250,000 funding available for each challenge. 

The resulting products and services from this year’s challenges will be revealed in March 2022.

During its first five years, CivTech has set 48 challenges for tech entrepreneurs and companies, with 142 teams taking part in its initial exploratory stages and 55 teams going through to the tech accelerators.

Companies that have taken part in the first five years of CivTech challenges have created a total of 185 jobs, up by 32 per cent over the past year.

More than 90 per cent of the teams were pre-starts, start-ups or SMEs, and all but three have continued operating, making their survival rate much higher than the 80 per cent of start-up businesses that survive their first year of trading or the 40 per cent that survive for three years.

Over 90 per cent of the teams have gone on to win further contracts from the public sector bodies that set their original challenges and, excluding those public sector contracts, companies that have taken part in CivTech have also gone on to raise more than £50m of investment.

Commenting on the new round of challenges, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes said: “This is a national endeavour for everybody who shares the vision to see Scotland flourish.

“CivTech 6 represents a tremendous opportunity to take part in this by building products and businesses that will not only help rebuild the economy, but also make people’s lives better across the nation.”

Colin Cook, digital director at the Scottish Government, added: “Tech entrepreneurs and their companies can help to solve some of the biggest challenges facing Scotland, from elements of climate change and decarbonisation in the run-up to the COP26 conference in Glasgow this November through to how we use our school buildings and how we manage rural roads.

“Helping to solve challenges such as these not only produces benefits for citizens, but also boosts our economy here in Scotland by creating jobs and generating payroll taxes to help fund public services such as health and education.

“Taking part in CivTech’s challenges also helps to link tech experts into the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem in Scotland, enabling them to form the relationships with potential customers and investors that will allow them to grow their businesses.

“Our previous challenges have produced incredible results – both for Scotland’s citizens and the companies involved – and I expect CivTech 6 will continue to help take our public services in Scotland on to the next level.”


1. Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Economic Development Directorate

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

2. Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Digital Directorate

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

Description: This challenge will help us do that by enabling us to communicate meaningfully how AI and algorithms are being used in automated decision making, with an initial focus on decisions that affect children.

3. Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Environment and Forestry Directorate

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

Description: Peatland restoration is a very high climate change priority but we are unable at present to identify the areas of peatland that, if restored, will deliver the greatest public benefits (carbon emissions, biodiversity, timber, flood mitigation, jobs, etc) for the restoration costs.

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

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

Description: This challenge aims to equip land managers and communities with the data, information and guidance to make effective land use decisions that maximise the land’s potential for carbon capture.

5. Challenge Sponsors: Stirling Council, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Forestry and Land Scotland, CENSIS

Challenge: How can technology help to manage traffic and public road infrastructure that is used by commercial operations in rural and remote communities?

Description: Rural and remote communities are often served by single track roads. Businesses and commercial operations – especially those that require significant production and operation activities – provide jobs and benefit a local economy and way of life. When public infrastructure is overwhelmed by peak or sustained commercial use or by the flow of seasonal visitors, this can negatively affect residents, visitors, customers, and suppliers, and the environment. We seek solutions that can make commercial activities safer and less disruptive to the communities that support them.

6. Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Early Learning and Childcare Directorate

Challenge: How do we better understand supply and demand of childcare in communities?

Description: Currently there is a lack of understanding of the landscape enough to consider future policy design options which meet the needs of children, parents and carers, and local communities.

7. Challenge Sponsors: Scottish Futures Trust, Midlothian Council, CENSIS

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

Description: We currently do not fully understand how the physical spaces in schools and educational buildings are utilised, and without full understanding, effective planning and management is not possible. Understanding how the buildings are utilised can impact many aspects of their performance, for example, by planning building use so as to improve air quality, or minimise the spread of COVID 19.

8. Challenge Sponsors: Perth and Kinross Council, Stirling Council, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate, Digital Office for Local Government, CENSIS

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

Description: 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. 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.

9. Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Mental Health and Social Care Directorate

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

Description: People often receive care only when their needs have become significant. We want to think differently about how we manage the current time and task-based approaches to care at home. We seek a solution that is user-friendly, easy to understand, and empower a wide range of supported adults to access support and manage their own care on a daily basis.

10. Challenge Sponsors: Care Training Consortium, CENSIS

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

Description: This challenge aims to develop an effective way to conduct remote assessments of skills and competence for skills that have a physical element (such as taking vital signs).

11. Challenge Sponsor: Citizens Advice Scotland

Challenge: How can we create the best possible user experience for people engaging with the Citizens Advice Scotland network?

Description: 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 enjoy 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 of a local advisor is maximised, but also help CAB streamline its operations by reducing the need to pool advisors nationally. In the first instance, we want to focus on streamlining the help available for those in debt including advice on benefits and employment.

12. Challenge Sponsor: Scottish Government Digital Directorate

Challenge: How do we use technology to make public sector data easy to find and re-use by different audiences?

Description: We want to help people find data from a general topic area without needing to know the specific name of the data, who owns it and where it might be published.

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