Government looks to tech firms to ‘tackle major social challenges of modern age’
Competition launched for IT and digital specialists to propose solutions to societal problems
The government has kicked off a competition offering technology firms research and development grants in excess of £500,000 to help solve problems such as online extremism, hazardous waste disposal, and isolation in rural areas.
The competition will launch on Monday and, over the coming months, will invite technologists to propose solutions to five challenges. Each of these contests will invite applications for six weeks, after which winning bidders will be given £50,000 to develop their ideas.
Companies that put forward the best ideas may then be awarded an additional £500,000 to invest in creating a prototype. The money will be drawn from the £20m govtech fund launched in November by prime minister Theresa May.
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The five "major social challenges of our modern age" that the government is hoping to address are:
- Identifying, removing, and analysing images being shared online to promote terrorism. This challenge was put forward by the Home Office.
- Tracking and recording what happens to waste products, with the aim of reducing costs and any harm to health. This challenge was put forward by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
- Tackling loneliness and isolation in rural areas, possible by using technology to get the most out of “vehicles with spare capacity”. This challenge was put forward by Monmouthshire Council.
- Reducing traffic congestion via the collection and analysis of data. This challenge was put forward by the Department for Transport.
- Equipping council-owned vehicles with sensors that could enable local authorities to address – in real time – issues with potholes, air quality, litter, and parking.
The competition was launched by minister for implementation Oliver Dowden at the Sprint 18 event being hosted in London this week by the Government Digital Service.
“Our modern Industrial Strategy will cement Britain’s position as a world-leader in digital innovation, and this government is committed to providing more opportunities for tech businesses – including small firms – to access public procurement contracts. The GovTech fund encourages firms to find innovative ways to fix the big social problems we all face – loneliness, plastic pollution, and national security. Through emerging technologies, this fund will elevate British companies onto a global market while helping to deliver outstanding public services and improving lives for people."
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