Weeknote 1: The Mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge 2.0 has kicked off!

Chief Digital Officer for London
7 min readJan 17, 2020

Since Maria Geftar’s last post on this project a few months ago, the second year of the Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge has officially kicked off with a great cohort of twenty-three startups!

Welcome to our first weeknote. Every Friday, we’ll be updating you on what’s new with the Civic Innovation Challenge, what we’re working on and what we’ve learned.

What is the Civic Innovation Challenge?

The Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge is an open call to tech startups to co-design innovative solutions to London’s pressing challenges together with leading public and private organisations.

This year the Mayor has launched three challenges of importance to London:

Over 125 applications have been whittled down to a shortlist of twenty-three companies, who will work directly with Challenge Partners from the Metropolitan Police Service and the Greater London Authority to develop the proposal they submitted in response to these challenges. They will soon be joined by another twenty companies working with Transport for London.

To view the full list of companies invited onto the programme, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Facilitating co-creation

The Civic Innovation Challenge process champions Open Innovation. The aim is to harness the power of collaboration and co-design and align incentives across London’s huge innovation ecosystem to deliver social value.

“CycleStreets is very pleased to have been selected for the Democratising Planning challenge, to help us develop our new StreetFocus website. The programme’s direct access to experts and advice is excellent and will assist us in our quest to make planning applications accessible to ordinary people and help them obtain community benefits.” Martin Lucas-Smith, Developer & Director, CycleStreets.

That’s why we’ve designed our five-week programme — which kicked off this Monday — as an Open Innovation Phase; to enable startups to work directly with, and learn from, their ultimate end buyer. Accessing their knowledge, expertise, data and insights and connecting with the most relevant contacts in their organisations, offers an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate value to the customer. At the same time, it offers Challenge Partners — many of whom are public sector organisations — the chance to learn about the supplier’s perspective in a de-risked and collaborative environment.

In addition, companies benefit from a curriculum that is designed in a way that assures all teams — regardless of their stage — have the best possible grounding on which to take their products forward. Delivered by our partners, Social Tech Trust and Microsoft, the workshops help build the core capabilities that startups need in order to progress forward in the programme and which mirror the selection criteria used in shortlisting. The criteria are based on Social Tech Trust’s Triple Helix model of social tech innovation, which describes the types of value that social tech ventures need to articulate, develop and evidence in order to grow into successful, sustainable social ventures operating at scale. These include:

· Social value — the ambition to generate a positive impact on the health, resilience and sustainability of communities and society (and is the core value that differentiates social tech entrepreneurs from other tech entrepreneurs).

· User value — potential users will choose to use the product

· Commercial value — there is a realistic approach for how the solution will be sustainable and scalable over the long-term

· Capacity to deliver value — there is a strong team with resources behind it to deliver a pilot within a realistic timeframe (this criterion is specific to the Civic Innovation Challenge shortlisting process)

To help startups build on these values, the workshops over the next three weeks offer access to design thinking sessions, user groups and user testing, access to engineering and developer support to run design sprints, and business support across investment readiness, cost modelling and much more.

Week 1: Workshop outcomes

This week has been all about team building, getting to know each other and unpacking the problem statements. Since the Civic Innovation Challenge process begins with a problem as opposed to the solution (meaning we don’t tell the market what to do), the sessions stimulated a lot of interesting conversations and brought out several important insights for the Challenge Partners.

The cohort pulled out five main dimensions to the Countering Violent Extremism Online Challenge: Prediction, Prevention, Reporting, Flagging, and Sorting. There were also some interesting insights brought to light by startups working directly with radicalised young people, including how the places where terrorist content is spreading and is being consumed is changing (for example, moving away from social media and towards the dark web) and the impact this has on the public referral process.

“Agile Datum are excited to be part of the Mayor of London’s Challenge and to be working with the GLA and to be collaborating with the other companies in the challenge to democratize planning across London using our A.I. and 3D VR/AR platform. This is a really forward-thinking program with a solid focus on improving the lives of Londoners.” Anthony Peake, CEO Agile Datum

There were a lot of synergies and collaboration opportunities arising from discussions with the planning cohort. Many identified improving access to planning information that is presented in a more digestible format and encouraging interaction with the planning process as crucial to how they can address the challenge.

What’s next?

Next week we are:

· Diving deeper into the challenge definition and user research, with a presentation from Talk London — the GLA’s 46,000-strong online community — and Go Jauntly, one of the winners from last year.

· Exploring the Government Service Standard and what companies need to do to pass the Service Assessment.

The companies invited onto the programme to tackle the challenge of ‘Democratising Planning’ are:

3D Repo LTD — Bringing down the barriers to collaboration for construction professionals.

Agile Datum — Specialising in delivering cost effective AI solutions for the public and private sector that transform your organisations and give you the competitive edge.

Bulbshare — Helping the world’s leading organisations stay ahead of the game through customer collaboration.

CycleStreets Ltd — A social enterprise, working to get more people cycling through the provision of journey planning and tools for advocacy.

Emu Analytics Limited — Creating better services, places & communities by understanding location data.

Hello Lamp Post — A communication platform that brings citizens into urban decision making. It encourages people to strike up playful, text-based conversations with street objects using their mobile phones.

LandHawk Software Services Limited — Helping land finders and property developers identify land that positively impacts our environment and enhance the communities that we live, work and play in.

Open Systems Lab — A non-profit R&D lab working on open digital innovation for industry and society, currently working to transform architecture, construction and cities.

Skyscape Technologies — Unlocking urban rooftop space to contribute to a sustainable future.

Titan Reality — Indream (the Proptech brand of Titan Reality) develops immersive spaces, technologies and infrastructures enabling businesses, property developers and organizations to design and deliver immersive customer experiences.

The Future Fox — A digital platform helping planners collaborate with communities on ambitious urban planning schemes.

Tranquil City — Exploring our relationship with tranquillity in the urban environment to promote health, wellbeing and balance.

ZEG.ai — Helping clients create 3D in the fastest way possible.

The companies invited onto the programme to tackle the challenge of ‘Countering Violent Extremism Online’ are:

Cubica Technology — Building state of the art algorithms, real-time software, and highly specialised turn-key systems for analysing and exploiting digital media content to detect criminal behaviour, protect assets and help save lives.

Data Language -Data Language experts in data driven product innovation and mission-critical AI platforms.

Faculty Science — Developed and tested a new AI algorithm designed to detect and flag terrorist propaganda video content to stop it ever being uploaded and spread on the internet.

Groundswell Project — Initiates and assists local communities to promote harmony and challenge hate.

Krzana — An AI engine that provides access to on-the-ground reports, images and videos, local and international news and blogs, public discussion, and content shared across social media.

Logically — A social enterprise specialising in the use of artificial intelligence to improve how we consume and interact with information online.

LocalHalo — A smart messenger for chatting with neighbours powered by alerts.

Prodikta Technologies — Using the latest technologies to interpret global crime data, combined with advanced analytics and user collaboration.

Raven Science — An intelligent software using machine learning to find, classify, and analyse extremist videos.

Renato Software — Senso. cloud is an AI driven cloud based platform for online user threat detection.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge and how you can get involved, you can reach us at innovation@london.gov.uk.



Chief Digital Officer for London

@LDN_CDO & Data for London Board @MayorofLondon using data to support a fairer, safer and greener city for everyone​