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Behold: Lightning Lab GovTech

Government. Bureaucratic. Slow to change. Anything but innovative.

Be honest: those are a few of the stereotypes you might have about how governments – regardless of political ideology or what nation they happen to be in – operate.

The folks at Lightning Lab are undoubtedly aware of this. Yet they also know there are plenty of people doing innovative, interesting things in the governmental space with a goal of making people’s lives better – and plenty of people out there who want to do these things, but aren’t elected officials or don’t know how to go about pushing for positive change. That’s why Lightning Lab GovTech is now a thing.

Digital innovators, budding entrepreneurs and public sector agencies in Wellington are encouraged to get involved in a three-month business acceleration programme aimed at creating digital solutions for “better, faster and stronger” government. Lightning Lab GovTech is the latest in Creative HQ’s stable of Lightning Lab business accelerator programmes, established in partnership with the Victoria Business School at Victoria University of Wellington, the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA), Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Applications in May for the programme, which starts in August. As part of the programme, participants will design, develop, test and validate new approaches and technologies to improve local and central government in New Zealand and abroad. Not necessarily new legislation, but to work alongside top entrepreneurs, mentors, academics and students to help turn ideas into projects and then “market-ready” products and services.

Victoria Business School Entrepreneurship Programmes director Professor Stephen Cummings says Lightning Lab GovTech will draw on the Victoria’s research capabilities around innovation, entrepreneurship and government. “This is one of the first entrepreneurial accelerators applied specifically to civic or government enterprise, so it’s great to be at the forefront of this world-leading venture with Creative HQ. The programme will contribute to upskilling, training and educating local entrepreneurial talent as well as providing researchers with the opportunity to contribute to international scholarship in this under-researched area.”

David Jones, WREDA’s general manager for Business Growth and Innovation, says: “As New Zealand’s tech capital, home to both government and the country’s most innovative digital businesses, Wellington is the ideal centre for driving the leading edge of GovTech forwards,” he says. “One of the newest and most wide-open fields of tech application, government represents a tremendous opportunity.”

Brett Holland, Creative HQ’s head of acceleration, expands on Jones’ words. “We’re building on a three-year legacy and experience with the R9 Accelerator where we worked with agencies like NZ Customs, Stats NZ, Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Education on solutions that make a difference to both NZ businesses and the lives of our citizens,” he says. “We will be working closely with government agencies to continue NZ’s GovTech success story and NZ’s digital government transformation.”

The Better for Business R9 Accelerator has been an advocate for bringing the public and private sectors together to improve interactions with government and develop new ways of working together. “During the three R9 Accelerator programmes, over 25 teams have developed some innovative solutions to problems identified by government agencies,” says Lisa Casagranda, director of Better for Business. “Creative HQ have been our delivery partner for the Accelerator programmes, bringing their deep experience with Lightning Lab into the GovTech space. The Better for Business programme will continue to identify opportunities to improve the business customer experience with government further.”

From the R9 accelerator, Creative HQ was invited to speak at the World Bank’s Global Innovation Forum, after being called one of GovTech’s most innovative programmes. The World Bank recognised the R9 Accelerator as a great example of public/private collaboration with an effective procurement practice and scalable and repeatable model across sectors.

Creative HQ head of acceleration Brett Holland says the programme has the potential to have an impact that extends beyond the Land of the Long White Cloud. “Governments around the world are struggling to keep up with the day-to-day challenges of digital transformation, citizen-centric government and participatory democracy. Lightning Lab GovTech will facilitate the rapid innovation needed in the public sector to help overcome some of those challenges.

“We see these innovations being beneficial to similar programmes and government agencies overseas, which in turn will allow Wellington, and by extension New Zealand, to become a global hub of government innovation.”

And if you’re still thinking “GovTech” sounds a bit wonky, or at least far too specialised to be of widespread interest, consider this: during a recent visit to Wellington, Silicon Valley-based venture capitalists Steve Mellor and Larry Howell estimated the global GovTech market to be worth about $400 billion at present. Yes – billion.

More information is available on the Lightning Lab GovTech website.

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