The GovTech Lab is a public sector team focused on encouraging the creation and use of innovative solutions for the government. The GovTech Lab helps the public sector identify challenges that can be solved with emerging technologies, engages startups and SMEs, creating innovative solutions and accelerating startups in #GovTech and #TechForGood space.
Startups and SMEs are transforming major industries, ranging from healthcare to banking. But one sector is often overlooked: the government. GovTech – the use of emerging technologies to solve public sector challenges – is on the rise, unleashing the potential of startups and SMEs to support government innovation. Public and Accenture calculated the GovTech market to be US$400 billion worldwide, and in the UK alone, the GovTech market is predicted to grow from £6.6 billion in 2015 to £20 billion by 2025.
The GovTech Lab was created to foster the disruption of the public sector. The Lab was initiated as a partnership between the "Create Lithuania" programme and the Ministry of Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania. By the end of 2019, it has been institutionalised at the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology. The goal of the GovTech Lab is to encourage both the use of GovTech in the public sector and the creation of GovTech solutions in the market, with a specific focus on startups and SMEs.
To achieve that, the Lab has three core activity areas: 1) running the GovTech Challenges Series; 2) incubating and accelerating GovTech startups; 3) organising workshops, events and conferences. The Challenge Series works as an innovation on the typical procurement process, to deal with the rapid pace of technological progress in the modern era. The series begins with a call for challenges: an open call for all public sector institutions in Lithuania to submit a problem that they have, which can be solved with new technology. The challenges are then selected based on their quality, relevance and commitment of the public institution that submitted it. The chosen public sector institutions then become the owners of their challenge, overseeing the success of solutions throughout the remainder of the series. Challenges are later made public, through a series of events and marketing campaigns in order to generate as wide a reach as possible. Once this is complete, a call for ideas is issued – an open call in which the GovTech Lab defines a period of time in which companies or people may submit the ideas on how to solve the challenges. The GovTech Lab oversees this process, ensuring that adequate information is provided and any consultation needed is given. The ideas are presented at the Pitch Day, where all stakeholders gather in order to hear pitches proposed for each challenge. The best pitches are then selected after consultation with a panel of judges – experts that understand what will have the biggest impact. The selected teams may proceed to the next phase of the Challenge Series – a process in which their ideas become prototypes and later products. The GovTech Lab oversees this and ensures that adequate support is provided to the teams. Some of the teams might be selected to participate at the GovTech incubator (see next paragraph). The Challenge Series has a few different models of working - both within and outside the public procurement framework.
Secondly, the lab runs its incubation programme for startups that are working on solutions for the public sector and social challenges. The incubator is currently at the design stage and will become fully operational by the end of 2020. The incubator will provide free expert consultations on business development, public procurement, product development, marketing and other topics. The incubator will assist startups with finding relevant clients in the public sector both in Lithuania and abroad.
Finally, the Lab works on spreading the knowledge about GovTech and building networks of innovators both within and outside the public sector. It has been organising "GovTech Forum", a series of workshops, to public sector officials about the potential application of emerging technology in government. Topics so far have ranged from encouraging a culture of innovation in the organization to exploring the intricacies of machine learning. GovTech Lab also runs the "Innovators' Club", which connects the network of the key innovation-related decision-makers from different public sector institutions to enable the transfer of knowledge across different government institutions and to facilitate cross-institutional innovative technology projects. The Lab’s “Digital Lithuania Meetup” series encourages all people from society to come and engage with government officials in person. Finally, held annually in Vilnius, the GovTech Baltic Leaders conference brings together the best and brightest minds in GovTech in the region, to share knowledge, discover new opportunities and celebrate the innovation that works for everyone and is created by everyone.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Lithuania’s GovTech Lab creates a way of solving the biggest challenges facing public sector institutions that is innovative, on a national and international level. It creates a space for public sector agencies to experiment and find alternative ways of solving the most pressing challenges. It takes a radically different approach to procurement and public sector innovation by proactively surveying the ideas from the startup community and encouraging piloting and testing of innovative solutions.
Overall, the GovTech Lab offers a new, holistic approach to emerging technology in Lithuania. On the one hand, the Lab uses a bottom-up approach and seeks to educate public sector servants. Simultaneously, the Lab uses a top-down approach by sending its team members as a taskforce to consult government leaders on methods to foster innovation.
At the end of 2019, GovTech Lab Lithuania was awarded by the Innovation in Politics Institute as the best European innovation promoting prosperity.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The GovTech Lab started as an initiative from Create Lithuania programme and the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The Lab design stage started in March 2019, while the pilot GovTech Challenge Series was started in July 2019. The final stage of the pilot GovTech Challenge Series happened in February 2020, where the first prototype for the first challenge was presented. Successful design and the start of the pilot initiatives led to received funding for the Lab.
Therefore currently, the GovTech Lab is being implemented at the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology. It is a three-year pilot to test the need for a permanent structure of the GovTech Lab.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Elijus Civilis (Viceminister of Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania) - responsible for allocating support for the initiative from other key stakeholders.
Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology - ensures funding for the initiative.
Oracle - sposored the first GovTech Pitch Day by establishing a 3000 euro prize for the best ideas.
Create Lithuania - the programme through which the Lab was initiated.
Microsoft - sposnsored the first attempts to communicate about GovTech.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Bank of Lithuania, Igitis Group, Kaunas 2020 European Capital of Culture, Travel Lithuania – pilot GovTech Challenge Series owners.
Lithuanian start-up community – now has a government that is open to implement technological innovations from SMEs.
Public servants – receiving additional new education on technological innovation and how it can impact their lives and their work.
101 organisations - were consulted while creating the GovTech Lab.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
-9 Digital Lithuania meetups: these regularly occurring meetups have created a culture of innovation knowledge sharing that brings together people from academia, private and public sectors.
-4 GovTech Forum events: These events have transformed knowledge sharing within Lithuania’s public sector. Discussions on innovative topics such as artificial intelligence and open data have increased the technical competencies of all involved public servants. More Forum events with targeted work streams are planned for the future.
- Pilot GovTech Challenge Series: 3 institutions presented the GovTech Challenges. 1 challenge proceeded to full implementation, 12 teams suggested solutions.
- 1 GovTech Baltic Leaders conference.
From April 2020, the Lab will continue running the GovTech Challenges, aiming to run two series and solving 10 challenges a year. Over the next three years, the Lab aims to incubate and consult 50 startups and SMEs.
Challenges and Failures
The team initiating the GovTech Lab in Lithuania was faced with a large number of challenges from the beginning. Firstly, the term “GovTech” was not in the vocabulary of the Lithuanian public. To combat this, the team initiated a media marketing campaign, with an intro video, website, and Facebook page all aimed at creating accessible information that educates as many people about the concept of GovTech as possible. Another hurdle was the lack of initial interest from public sector institutions to participate in the challenge series. The idea was met with some resistance, especially from institutions that were more closed off to innovation. After trial and error, the GovTech Lab team was able to identify a pitch strategy that would garner greater interest from public sector institutions. Thirdly, one of the key challenges was finding a sustainable funding source for the Lab, however, with a help of the key decision maker, the funding was confirmed.
Conditions for Success
-Supporting infrastructure and services: the GovTech Lab is made possible due to the existing infrastructure for innovation already in place in Lithuania. This includes the Create Lithuania initiative, which brought together the initiators of the innovation, and the Agency for Science and Innovation, which has the infrastructure in place for financing these kinds of innovations.
-Leadership and guidance: leadership was a strong force, as the GovTech Lab had direct support from the highest levels of office in the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. The guidance these leaders were able to provide ensures the success of the initiative.
-Human and financial resources: human resources were a big catalyst for the success of the initiative. The Lab was started by a team of people whose sole purpose was ensuring the successful initiation of the project over a period of six months. This endeavor is not something that would have been possible with only a part-time time investment.
The inherent nature of the GovTech Challenge Series ensures that innovation can and will be replicated in the future. The current series is a pilot run, meant to test the bandwidth of the public sectors ability to implement technology innovations from private sector companies. The pilot run presented the team with areas of improvement, as well as provided insight into the processes that enable effective cooperation between the private and public sectors. This knowledge and best practices is transferred into subsequent challenge series. Subsequently, any institution itself will be able to replicate the Challenge Series, without the help of the GovTech lab team. The initiation of GovTech events like the Digital Lithuania Meetup and GovTech Forum is also something that is inherently replicable.
One of the biggest challenges when creating innovation in the public sector is the creation of a culture surrounding your idea. Many times public sector institutions are slow to change and some public sector servants may feel unmotivated to pursue innovation, as they see barriers to in in the system. It is crucial to work towards changing this mindset. This can be done by cultivating a culture of innovation within the public sector. The GovTech Lab team was able to do this by orchestrating events that communicated out the benefits of tech in the public sector, and over time this resulted in a growing community of like-minded individuals. Through this community, GovTech has been able to grow in Lithuania, with active engagement from start-ups, big IT companies, NGOs, citizens, public servants, and other interested parties. The community engages in discussion with the GovTech Lab team and provides feedback that helps improve internal processes. Without this community, the GovTech Lab and similar innovations would have a difficult time providing relevant services to citizens.
Another important aspect that led to the success of the GovTech Lab was leadership. Convincing Lithuania’s leaders that a GovTech Lab would not only be beneficial but essential to the growth of the innovation ecosystem was no easy task. The GovTech Lab team used a top-down approach for this: first promoting the idea to the C-level officials and working down the ladder to general specialists. Each level presented a different set of challenges, but this approach helped the team adapt to questions and critique from a wide range of individuals. The best way of doing this is old-fashioned “boots in the trenches” work, with face-to-face working sessions with all key stakeholders. Of course, initiatives such as this would not get any traction if high-level leadership were not on board. Ensuring that the initiative was a priority for the Minister of Economy and Innovation helped sell the concept.
The GovTech Lab Lithuania team is happy to share best practices and lessons learned from the innovation with anyone interested. International collaboration is a core value of the GovTech team and an opportunity to do so would be greatly appreciated. This knowledge transfer is vital in creating a global GovTech ecosystem that ensures maximum social good. Lithuania seeks to be a beacon in the adoption of GovTech and other innovative government initiatives. Having partnerships with other nations either regional or intercontinental is something that would bring great value to all involved.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
9 September 2019