Our brief: The aim of the Domestic Missions programme was to catalyse a market for Advanced Urban Services built around city collaborations with local SMEs. Such collaborations do not arise naturally due to a lack of relevant networks and procurement biases towards large suppliers.
What we did: Over the course of nine months we convened five UK City Authorities (Derry, Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff and Nottingham) to address twelve specific urban challenges We convened an online community called City Co-lab so that officials from different cities could compare their situations and find common cause. We addressed each challenge separately, looking for the right level of tech readiness and operational maturity in potential partners, while also keeping an open mind to potential solutions. We conducted a 100%Open Innovation Radar search to source SME solution providers and hosted a curated event for each city to enable knowledge transfer as well as Potential Pilot mapping. In Derry we participated in their flagship Enterprise Week but due to the Corona-19 pandemic we switched successfully to our Online Jam methodology for the other authorities, inviting equal numbers of start-ups and university researchers to each. Start-ups gave Give|Get presentations, based on the 100%Open tool, that clearly outlined their technology and partnership requirements.
What happened: We discovered a clear unmet need amongst Local Authorities to build and maintain SME networks as potential suppliers and lessen their dependence on the ‘usual suspects’. Innovate UK’s Innovate 2 Succeed programme team were enthused by the vision and offered follow on support for several SMEs after the programme. In spite of the difficulties presented to Local Authorities by Covid-19, all 5 remained engaged and are developing their SME networks. Derry is pursuing two innovation projects, a Whole System Heat DecarbonisationTool to accelerate the local transition to net-zero and a kerbside collection route optimisation technology that optimises the value of collected materials. Exeter is working with a local containerised waste-to-energy SME to provide energy services from food waste for the Exeter Chiefs, Exeter hospital, Exeter University as well as council sites.
The Domestic Missions project also laid the groundwork for two significant Innovate UK Sustainable Innovation Fund programmes in July 2020, the £10m SBRI 654 Phase 1 and the £55m UKRI 651 Round 1, both aimed at helping UK businesses and the public sector recover from COVID-19 in a sustainable manner.