DD2185 Tech Challenge Programme Pilot 2018

Type of decision: 
Director's decision
Date signed: 
11 December 2017
Decision by: 
Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Executive Director of Development, Enterprise and Environment

Executive summary

This Decision seeks approval to pilot the Mayor’s Tech Challenge Programme (working title). The programme will identify the big strategic challenges facing London and Londoners – from inequality to climate change and an ageing population - and incentivise London’s high performing SMEs to provide solutions. The business support programme is funded through LEAP and will be delivered through the Growth Hub. A key element of support is proof of concept funding to enable firms to work directly with the market to test and co-develop their product or service. £75,000 of funding has been approved by LEAP, and up to £25,000 will be sought from private sector match to fund the delivery of the programme.


That the Executive Director for Development, Enterprise & Environment approves expenditure of up to £100,000 to pilot the Mayor’s Tech Challenge Programme.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

The Mayor’s draft Economic Development Strategy, to be published for consultation on 13th December 2017, prioritises supporting the growth and innovation of London’s tech and digital sectors and pledges to set strategic challenges for the tech community to help solve – to meet both London’s growth aspirations, and help to solve some of the pressing issues facing the city (from health inequality to air pollution and the challenges of an ageing population).

The Tech Challenge programme will incentivise London’s high performing SMEs to respond to these challenges, stimulating innovation, and will provide the business support firms need to access the market.

Objectives and expected outcomes

The Tech Challenge Programme is a mission-led business support programme, aimed at creating markets for innovative SMEs focussed on solving some of the big challenges facing London.

The objectives of the programme are:

• To provide targeted business support to high performing tech SMEs;
• To direct London’s tech SMEs towards solving the challenges facing London and Londoners;
• To stimulate the creation of new markets;
• To support the co-design and co-development of innovation with the market;
• To engage markets (public and private sectors) in the potential for disruptive technologies, business models and processes to meet their needs;
• To complement the wider business ecosystem in London, including existing Mayoral business support programmes such as the Investment Showcase (which provides funding to later stage SMEs);
• To pilot an approach which will feed into the development of a larger scale, annual Mayor’s Challenge programme.

These objectives will be achieved through:

Business development support to companies which have innovative, but which may lack competencies in other areas, such as:

• Sales and marketing,
• Protection and exploitation of intellectual property,
• Investment and finance-raising,
• Business and financial planning,
• Responding to public tender, and
• Business/tech ecosystem awareness.

Access to market by convening innovative SMEs with the market, the challenge will provide support to companies who have well developed innovations but who:

• Need to know more about the requirement of their end market and potential clients;
• Could convert their innovations into more market-ready products;
• Could move towards sales-based growth in the medium term;
• Would benefit from the experience of an integration and sales funnel with larger clients;
• Need to identify and address gaps in their own business capacity;
• Would benefit in terms of business credibility from a project of this kind with their end market.

Co-design and learning for tech SMEs and the market, through a LEAP-funded proof-of-concept (or pre-proof-of-concept – dependent upon the stage of the innovation). The programme will support the SME and the market to explore the integration of their solution into their existing business flow at reduced risk to both parties. This funding will be awarded on a competitive basis.

As well as providing business support to high performing SMEs, the programme will provide to the end market:
• Early awareness and adoption of technologies likely to disrupt their business models;
• An opportunity to integrate a new solution which could improve productivity or provide capabilities which were previously not possible.

Equality comments

Under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, as a public authority, the Mayor of London must have ‘due Regard’ of the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation as well as to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who have a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities are enshrined within the GLA’s programmes and activities according to the Mayor’s Framework for Equal Life Chances (June 2014) and the Mayor’s draft Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

The Tech Challenge programme will look to maximise its positive impact on equality for all Londoners through ensuring innovation is targeted at addressing some of the strategic inequality challenges facing Londoners. The programme will be promoted through a wide variety of channels to reach out to underrepresented groups, events will be accessible and communication channels will be used to showcase and celebrate innovation across a diverse SME base.

Other considerations

Key Risks and Issues

The main risk to the success of the pilot would be that not enough tech start-ups, or not enough of the right kind of start-ups, apply to the competition. This will be mitigated by ensuring a prominent announcement, maximising the use of existing networks and all communication channels available to the GLA, and channelling applications through a well-used platform in the tech start-up community. The programme will be delivered in partnership with key members of London’s innovation ecosystem. An expert steering panel will ensure that the companies chosen for support can deliver, and are at the right stage for exploitation of the opportunity.

Links to Mayoral Strategies and Priorities

The Objectives and outcomes of this programme are in line with the draft Economic Development Strategy, which prioritises supporting the growth and innovation of London’s tech and digital sectors and pledges to set strategic challenges for the tech community to help solve.

The programme also helps to meet the Mayor’s Manifesto pledge to “take tech to the next level” by removing barriers to growth. The Tech Challenge programme will support SMEs to access the market to test and co-design their innovation.

Financial comments

The total estimated cost of this programme is £100,000, of which £75,000 will be funded from ringfenced LEAP funds, specifically the LEAP Strategies budget for 2017-18, with the balance of up to £25,000 being sought from private sector match funding. It should be noted the match funding has not yet been confirmed and if this level of match funding is not secured, the programme will be reduced accordingly.

While delivery is expected to commence in 2017-18, the programme is expected to end during the 2018-19 financial-year and as a result part of the budget allocation will require re-profiling into 2018-19. This will form part of the Authority’s budget process for 2018-19, which is currently underway.

Activity table




13th December (soft launch)

Procurement of contract:        

January 2018 (tbc)

Delivery Start Date

February 2018 (tbc)

Delivery End Date:


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