There are plenty of innovative initiatives that never manage to reach the public sector, generating inequalities in access and quality in the provision of solutions. GovtechLab Madrid is the first open innovation Lab located inside of the Community of Madrid. The focus of the Lab is on reducing the barriers and accompanying both the supply and demand sides in finding solutions and opportunities to implement them.
Technological advances and socio-economic changes are accelerating the speed and responsiveness of public sector institutions. Unfortunately, several of these opportunities face unprecedented budgetary constraints and challenges. Upon this context is that the incorporation of innovative digital solutions become relevant and urgent, in particular those being developed in Govtech ecosystems, which rarely reach to the public sector customer, unlike other solutions from big technology firms.
The regulation of the public procurement is a major barrier to incorporate Govtech solutions. In particular, the limited access and identification of the public buyers, the lack of areas of interaction, and the different paces in the administrative processes make it difficult to access to spaces for piloting and experimenting new solutions.
In response to all the aforesaid challenges, Govtech emerges as the first Govtech Lab that connects Spain and Latin America. The goal of the Lab is to bring innovation generated by startups and scale-ups to the public administrations to promote the incorporation of new digital public services. The Lab promotes the transfer of technology and innovation to public administration by creating public innovation ecosystems where entrepreneurs and public teams meet. This includes too the private sector and the academia.
Thanks to an award granted by the Universities and Innovation Department from the Comunidad de Madrid (the regional government of Madrid), IE University launched this three-year program to design, test and implement leading Govtech solutions and open innovation in government. The Lab works in four key components:
- Govtech Challenge Lab: there are five editions of the challenge per year with the purpose of identifying, piloting and scaling new solutions in municipalities of the Community of Madrid (10 pilots in total). We have used open innovation methods, as well as have introduced new working disciplines such as design, user research, the use of data, and experimentation. All of these accompanied by training of public officers.
- Govtech Academy: comprises the development of training activities that complement the practical experience of the participants. They gain access to Govtech e-learning platforms, to bootcamps for startups and become part of knowledge dissemination webinars.
- Innovative ecosystem: considering the level of articulation of the ecosystem in Madrid, we have worked on the enrichment of the ecosystem by incorporating more than 70 new actors, and by bringing them closer to the Community of Madrid.
- Open work: we apply clear communication methods to all the participants and teams, as well as disseminate content on the relevant of Govtech in entrepreneurial events.
The work of this lab has inspired the continuity of a larger lab in the Community of Madrid, the creation and design of the Govtech LATAM of the Inter-American Development Bank, the Govtech Incubator of the European Commission, and many other initiatives.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The program has been carried out by a multidisciplinary team of Govtech experts with experience in public policy, service design, entrepreneurship and communication. The laboratory has been connected to international networks with which a close relationship has been maintained: Civictech Alliance, Govtech Hub, and international organizations working in this area (CAF, IDB, OECD, Segib, which have provided inspiration and feedback. Training has been provided for both public employees and startups. A pilot open innovation platform specialized in govtech has been created, with more than 50 startups registered. The project has been designed to work openly, leaving and sharing all the materials and processes for the development of the program independently, ensuring its sustainability.
Collaborations & Partnerships
We collaborated with entrepreneurship support institutions: accelerators, incubators, investors, universities and corporations, both nationally and internationally in the upscaling of every startup and in the strengthen of the whole Govtech ecosystem.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
We have worked with startups and public teams in areas such as participation, environment, waste, tourism or social services, impacting and measuring; not only the technological performance of the solution but also other impacts in the context of the specific public service to be delivered.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
- We have worked with 24 municipalities, and trained 60 public workers. We have received 170 applications from startups, of which 40 have participated in bootcamps.
- We have generated a network of more than 50 collaborating initiatives allowing us to generate a network of more than 500 govtech startups.
- We have held 10 national and international events and organized panels at South Summit, in Spain and Brazil, DigitALL of the European Commission and a workshop with Apolitical. More than 137 startups, 186 representatives of public institutions and 37 large companies have been involved in our activities.
- 70% of the startups that conducted pilots are in talks with local municipalities to scale up the collaboration initiated in the program.
Challenges and Failures
These programs push the adoption of more open, transparent and vulnerable cultures, which must be accompanied with investment in the development of empathy and security. The main challenges have been: 1) The difficulty of piloting: the contractual figure for piloting was non-existing, 2) The lower-dimensioning of the accompaniment in the evaluation of the pilots. It takes much more effort than we initially thought to document the process.
Conditions for Success
To begin with, explicit support from those responsible in the public administration is not only essential, but the most relevant requisite. Beyond the core teams involved in the project piloting and adoption, it is required to consider additional "supporting" teams, mostly with IT and tech foundations. Finally, carrying out relationship and activation activities with the actors of the govtech ecosystem will enrich the process and open opportunities for its continuity.
The success of the first edition and its format makes it very attractive to replicate and scale this innovation.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), with the help of the IE PublicTech Lab team, is replicating this same format in 10 cities in the region. https://www.govtechlatam.org/
The Community of Madrid itself, once this project has been completed, has launched a public tender to give it continuity and continue promoting the govtech ecosystem in a similar format.
The Provincial Council of Bizkaia, after a small pilot, has launched a large tender to develop activities to dynamize the govtech ecosystem and implement a govtech laboratory in the territory in the next 2.5 years. It is being carried out by Gobe, spin-off company of IE PublicTech Lab. https://web.bizkaia.eus/es/web/govtech
Madrid City Council has also launched a public tender for the development of a govtech lab in the city.
These types of programs are instruments of public transformation. Although conceptually simple, their implementation is rather complex because their impact on the culture, processes, capabilities, language and ways of working of both the public institutions and startups. The main learning is on the need to generate and incorporate spaces, which currently do not exist, to connect and bring together startups and municipalities, two worlds initially so far apart but with so much in common.
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
15 November 2022