Creation of an innovation fund for the Irish Public Service

The Public Service Innovation Fund provides public service bodies in Ireland with a means to fund innovative projects that may not otherwise get financed by their organisations. It was developed to help promote a greater culture of innovation and experimentation in the Irish Public Service, and to showcase the benefits of innovation to other public servants considering embarking on their own innovative project. This is Ireland's first public service-only innovation funding mechanism.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

We are living in a period of fast-paced global change and with an ever increasing succession of complex challenges facing Ireland and the Public Service. It is therefore crucial that our Public Service continues to prioritise innovation and that we enable our public servants across all sectors to effectively respond to these challenges.

In 2018, the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service examined Ireland’s Public Service innovation maturity level. This assessment indicated that innovation in Ireland’s Public Service was patchy and, while there are excellent ‘pockets’ of innovation in areas of the public service, a more systemic and strategic approach to innovation was required if Ireland is to become a world-leader in public service innovation.

In consultation with a wide public service stakeholder group, a variety of initiatives were developed and delivered to deepen an innovation culture in the Irish Public Service including the creation of the Public Service Innovation Fund.

The Public Service Innovation Fund, which launched as a pilot in May 2019, is a competitive fund that aims to support innovative ideas from across public service organisations In Ireland and turn them into a reality with funding available of up to €50,000. For exceptionally strong projects funding of up to €100,000 may be granted.

Innovative projects were sought that could be realised over a relatively short period of time. It was important that projects had a strong focus on outcomes and impact and also have an emphasis on scalability, transferability and learning within the Public Service. Collaboration between public service organisations and other actors in the ecosystem was also highly encouraged.

The fund sought to help finance projects that:
• could help add value to an organisation and make what they do better for the user/public;
• demonstrated new ways of working and helped deliver an organisation’s strategic outcomes;
• implemented approaches and ideas that could be spread elsewhere or help to create learnings for other public servants from experimentation;
• encouraged cross-organisational or cross-silo working and showed commitment from an organisation to innovation;
• used evidence, insights and data to drive innovation or sought to create evidence and data for future innovations.

The pilot fund was 14 times oversubscribed with nearly 140 applications from all sectors of the public service. The high level of interest in the fund demonstrates the willingness of Irish public bodies to reshape our work practices and how we deliver services.
Some applicants proposed new collaborations, others examined how new technologies could be applied to existing problems in their organisations. The common factor was a desire to add value to their organisations and create better services and outcomes for the public.

18 diverse projects were funded and include:

• A youth personal development programme in a secondary school;
• Innovative redesign of an occupational therapy rehabilitation facility;
• Development of an App to simplify capturing the impacts of climate events and trends;
• The development of a programme on mobility solutions across the four Dublin local authorities;
• Hackathons in An Garda Síochána (Irish Police Force) to look at organisational challenges and technology for policing;
• Sensors on ringbuoys to address the issues caused by lost or stolen buoys;
• A project to create child distraction spaces in the courts service;
• Online profiling tool for SMEs;
• Voice search project for citizens' information;
• Virtual Reality training for the Irish Defence Forces;
• Collaboration between an Irish university and a prison to address better reintegration in society through education; and
• Drone photogrammetry for emergency response mapping.

The pilot fund has been a fantastic success and with the result of a doubling of the budget for the 2020 call for projects to €1 million.

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Status:

  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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