BrazilLAB is an innovation hub conceived to connect startups with the public sector and accelerate their solutions with a focus on improving public services. It stimulates urban innovation by supporting high-impact entrepreneurs searching for solutions to complex city challenges. BrazilLAB is also a key driver of Brazil´s GovTech movement by leading a government advocacy coalition. Besides, it has launched a GovTech Seal through which startups can be easily accessed by the government.
With the digital transformation and citizens’ demand for more efficient public services, governments need to build new collaborative arrangements, bringing innovative and scalable solutions to the administration and its constituents. On the other hand, a whole ecosystem of startups with solutions to the governmental and urban challenges is looking for opening new markets with the public sector. Nonetheless, there are still many obstacles that prevent effective collaboration between the government and the innovation ecosystem.
BrazilLAB´s goal is to bridge those two worlds by stimulating an innovation culture in the public sector while supporting high-impact entrepreneurs that are engaged in the search of solutions for the complex urban and social challenges. It is Brazil ‘s first B2G (Business to Government) innovation hub and their scope of action is divided into 4 pillars:
B2G Acceleration Program
BrazilLAB has implemented an acceleration program focused on the development of the selected projects. The program is already on its 4th edition and targeted solutions in diverse public management realms. The fourth acceleration program edition has been launched in September 2019 and will select 25 startups.
The acceleration program includes three modules of face-to-face activities. In each of them, entrepreneurs receive specialized mentoring, access to experts, investors and public leaders, information on public sector challenges, and media exposure. And, differently than other standard programs, they have the chance to deep-dive in the public procurement process and how to measure the solution´s social impact.
Completing this phase, the startups pitch their ideas to a group of investors and experts on a final ‘DemoDay’. The best one receives up to R$250 thousand (approx. U$60 thousand) in investment in exchange for a small share of their businesses, which helps BrazilLAB in its sustainability.
Nonetheless, the program cannot be summed up to its face-to-face activities. BrazilLAB's network of partners, mentors and staff are accessible to entrepreneurs throughout their journey (See Annex I for further information).
BrazilLAB is also a key driver of Brazil´s GovTech movement, leading some of its advocacy initiatives envisioning a better regulatory environment for innovation and entrepreneurship development. It is actively participating in Congress commissions for government simplification and digitalization and also on improving public procurement for startups. It has participated in the elaboration of the “Startup Legal Framework”, a proposed regulatory norm to enhance the Brazilian entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The plans for the Advocacy pillar include the Creation of the Procurement Guide to Public Leaders; strengthen relations with the Federal Government and Development of Advocacy Plan to facilitate public procurement (see Annex II for further information).
As part of their ecosystem development and advocacy efforts, BrazilLAB organised in August 2018, along with ITS Rio (Institute of Technology and Society), and TV Host Luciano Huck, the ‘GovTech Brazil’. It was the first international conference dedicated to how Brazil must position itself in the GovTech revolution and what steps must be taken. BrazilLAB will organize the event´s second edition in 2020, focusing on Smart Cities (see Annex III for further information).
In other to scale its activities, increase the impact on the B2G market, and promote startups that are ready to sell for governments, BrazilLAB has recently launched its ‘GovTech Seal’. It is a platform that certifies startups as skilled and able to work and sell to different governmental agencies, allowing public managers to easily identify solutions. The ‘GovTech Certification’ platform is a great showcase for startups and for all public managers in the country, who can easily identify potential entrepreneurs to help solve their challenges (see Annex IV for further information).
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
When BrazilLAB started 4 years ago, GovTech was not part of the government´s agenda. Therefore, the changes it was able to make in this scenario over the past years are remarkable.
During the acceleration program, entrepreneurs receive specialized mentoring on public sector challenges, access to public leaders, network with investors and media exposure. Differently from other programs, entrepreneurs deep-dive in the public procurement process and how to measure their solution´s social impact.
BrazilLAB also supports startups to implement their solutions in municipalities to demonstrate their solutions’ impact. Organisers have implemented 6 solutions in many areas of public management, reaching around one million people.
Another innovative approach of BrazilLAB is to promote a digital and innovative culture in government from the outside to the inside. Civil society has a major role to play to secure that digital transformation in government is transparent, inclusive and cost-effective.
What is the current status of your innovation?
As of submission in 2019, BrazilLab is already running its fourth B2G (Business to Government) Acceleration Program. Organisers are now at the stage of announcing the startups that will be accelerated. Further, the GovTech Seal has already certified 28 startups and there is more than 170 startups interested under evaluation.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Sponsors – As an NGO, the financial help they have received for the past 4 years came from partners who trust in this project. BrazilLAB has seen 100% sponsorship renewal from its main sponsors, which demonstrates the value of the initiative. Strategic Partnerships – BrazilLAB counts on an ever-growing network of strategic partners. These partners provide technical support, knowledge, and mentorship to enable BrazilLAB´s mission fulfillment. See Annex V for the complete list.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Startups – they are the program´s source of solutions, they offer products that can help the governments´ digital transformation and provide better services (see Annex VI - solutions implemented in cities).
Governments – their role is to start incorporating innovation as a main driver in the city administration and also serve as a testbed for the program´s startup solutions (see Annex VII - partner municipalities).
Civil Society – they are impacted by better public services provided by the these solutions
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
B2G Acceleration Program:
• 4 editions (1 ongoing)
• 97% of program approval
• 25% of the portfolio selling to public sector
• 4.200 entrepreneurs impacted
• 650+ startups registered
• 55 startups accelerated
• 63 mentors dedicating 343+ hours
• 58k+ people - social media reach
• 100+ events
• 441+ mentions in Brazilian high-impact media vehicles
• 3 blogs in Brazil´s main online media portals. (see link session)
• Participation in Congress commissions for government digitalization
• Participation in the elaboration of the new “Startup Legal Framework”
• ‘GovTech Brazil’ - 1st international conference dedicated to Brazil´s GovTech revolution
• 700+ participants
• 47 lecturers
• 5 presidential candidates discussing the subject
• 600+ mentions in the press and more
• 1M+ people social media reach
• 9 strategic actions to promote the government´s digital transformation (link session)
• 28 certified and +170 startups interested in it
Challenges and Failures
As BrazilLab’s main goal is to promote a digital government, it identified three major barriers to innovation in the sector. The first is legal. Without an adequate framework, there will be many obstacles to encourage an innovative approach in the solution of the public challenges. BrazilLAB´s role is to confront this by promoting Brazil´s legal modernization, through advocacy and active participation in the conception of new legislation. The second barrier is cultural. Already legally constrained, public officials have little incentive to be innovative or be more efficient. Besides, the constant change of leadership contributes to an aversion to change. Organisers tackle this issue by publicizing best practices that have a positive impact technology has when applied in the public sector. Another challenge is the uncertainty governments face when procuring. BrazilLAB guides both startups and governments on procurement practices that can support innovation and advocate new legislation.
Conditions for Success
While pursuing their mission to digitize Brazil’s public sector, BrazilLAB have identified some key points for innovation to be truly embraced by the government. The first is political will and leadership, the primary element for moving government bureaucracy towards modern management. The second point is the regulatory and legislative frameworks. The legal basis for fostering innovation needs to be developed and it must be co-created with the society to be effective. The third element is people management. Public servants must be educated to adopt innovation. Also, they should be given the necessary knowledge and tools on how to procure and implement new innovative services. The fourth is the promotion of the GovTech agenda, a relatively new topic. Therefore, it is necessary to raise awareness so it becomes relevant to the general public. Therefore, at this early stage, advocacy is crucial to model a regulatory framework that nurtures the ecosystem so it can drive a real positive social impact.
In the organisers' view, technology and innovation are the best tools available to overcome the challenges society faces today. BrazilLAB's mission is to connect demand and supply, understand the government´s main challenges and offer solutions created by startups, which are innovative and will increase their social impact. They test their hypothesis, refine their methodology, and implement innovative solutions within the government, creating success stories that confirm they are on the right track. BrazilLAB's role as a facilitator between startups and government can be easily replicated to other global contexts. The relationship between these stakeholders is not automatic, making it necessary, at least in an initial phase, a third party to articulate their collaboration. Thinking of that, they have launched the ‘GovTech Certification’ in March 2019. The ‘GovTech Certification’ platform is a great showcase for startups and all public managers, serving as marketplace not only in Brazil but potentially in other countries.
The main lesson learned is the importance of promoting a digital and innovative culture in government from the outside to the inside. Civil society has to be a relevant actor to secure that digital transformation in government is transparent, inclusive and also cost-effective.
It is also important to promote the GovTech agenda with a cross-sectoral approach, including stakeholders from the government, startups, private sector, academia, and civil society. And BrazilLAB's role as a facilitator is increasingly necessary to promote dialogue between these actors.
With scarce government resources, technology plays a crucial role in ensuring efficient services for the population. And it is becoming evident that political will and leadership is necessary to promote the country’s digital transformation.
The ecosystem in Brazil is finally realizing that the government’s digital transformation strategy shouldn’t only focus on technology. It should progressively become people-centered and bring solutions with a deep understanding of the problems and the social context there derive from.
The main objective of BrazilLAB´s acceleration program is to adapt and validate the selected solutions to meet the needs of city administrators and solve problems faced by local municipalities. BrazilLAB's long term plan is to become a hub that stimulates innovation inside the government from outside, which will, in turn, make a positive impact in Brazilian cities through digital transformation and, possibly, inspire other organizations and countries to do the same.