Ignite Public promotes collaborations to support innovation

Kista Science City is one of the initiators of the Ignite Public project, which aims to help innovative startups do business with the public sector as a customer. In this interview published by Sveriges Offentliga Inköpare (the public purchasers association of Sweden), its project manager Karin Bengtsson talked about this project.

- We want municipalities and other governmental organizations to take part in the Swedish innovation system to a greater extent than they do today. The purpose of Ignite Public is to initiate collaboration and contribute to business between startups and the public sector. In a short period of time, five municipalities and one state-owned company have already joined Ignite Public. The municipality of Södertälje is the first to launch a pilot project together with three startups from different sectors. The municipalities of Järfälla, Umeå, Norrköping, and Uppsala, as well as Stockholms Hamnar, are also part of the project.

- In 2017, only 14% of the small companies in Sweden stated that they participated in a public procurement, a market of SEK 642 billion. One reason is that many small businesses and startups experience difficulties reaching the requirements of the procurements. As a public company, conducting external monitoring, being open to alternative solutions for its operations and thinking of how procurement can be used to drive innovation can be both time-consuming and complicated. Ignite Public will partly contribute to a new mindset but also implement concrete collaboration projects. We want more startups to get the public sector as a customer, but also that more municipalities realize the potential of these collaborations and how startups can contribute with new approaches and solutions to the challenges that the public sector is facing, which could be anything from how to promote the use of organic food in t.ex. school food to how to communicate better with its citizens. In this way, our project contributes to solving some of the challenges of our society from a sustainability perspective.

- The project is on pilot stage. We are a small organization and we have received very good feedback, says Karin. There are smart cities and municipalities that need help thinking in new paths and finding new ways to collaborate with companies that offer smart solutions. The collaboration is based on a large network through Ignite Sweden and Swedish Incubators & Science Parks

- If the market for smart solutions is not attractive enough for innovative companies in Sweden, there is a risk that they will instead focus on foreign markets, which means that Sweden will lose both smart solutions and competitiveness. Therefore, it is important to help them come into our market and develop methods for collaborations between innovative startups and the public sector.

Ignite Public is a collaboration with Ignite Sweden and is based on the model that the national initiative has developed for collaborations between startups and large companies. The project is partly financed Tillväxtverket, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth.

How Ignite Public works

- We focus on three to five areas according to the organization needs to shape different potential projects. For each of these areas, we perform a needs assessment to generate at least one matching opportunity. Ignite Public organizes an in-depth workshop, which clarifies what challenges the organization is facing and what they want to achieve. They meet startups that present their solutions and initiate collaboration with one or more startups.

- The program requires commitment from all of the parties - from us, from the startups and from the public organization. The participants in the program put together a project group, which ensures that the work is driven forward. One of the goals of Ignite Public is that the participants should initiate a pilot project together with a startup.

- Every organization has different needs. Ideally, the project group consists of people with both business and technical competence. The roles involved in the project team may include buyers, procurement manager, project manager and product manager. In order to achieve successful results, we believe in a mutual relationship, where the startups and the public organization are interested in their respective perspectives.

- An important part of our project is also to show results and experiences so that other public actors will be inspired and interested in working with startups. The project will work with the exchange of experience, where other organizations that are not part of the project yet will be invited.

If your municipality or public organization will be part of Ignite Public, contact Karin Bengtsson on karin.bengtsson@kista.com or 070 092 07 13.

Article published on http://www.soi.se/aktuellt/2019/september/ignite

Maite Bellon