Digital start-ups rise to the challenge



Four digital start-ups have won the chance to work alongside the Mayor of the West Midlands after winning a competition aimed at using technology to tackle social issues.

UrbanChallenge was organised by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Govtech venture firm PUBLIC.

It aims to find ways to use technology to take on key future challenges – housing, youth unemployment, digital citizenship and wellbeing – and to help make the West Midlands a better place to live.

Digital start-ups rise to the challenge

WMCA chief executive Deborah Cadman (fourth from left) and Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street (fourth from right) with the UrbanChallenge winners and speakers

The winners each receive a prize worth £20,000 and a three-month pilot with the WMCA.

The winners were:

  • Housing: DemoDev – a Birmingham-based start-up which has developed a way to unlock land for better affordable housing and which will explore the idea of matching digital fabrication and a ‘smart’ supply chain to make high-performance, stylish homes
  • Youth unemployment: Do-IT – a Cardiff-based start-up which has developed a system which helps identify the challenges and opportunities for young employed people and provides targeted support and guidance into work
  • Digital citizenship: novoville and apptivism – a London-based joint entry which uses an app to enable people to comment on local issues and access a range of council services – such as reporting problems and paying of bills – and also view events
  • Wellbeing: Elemental Software –based in Derry, Northern Ireland, this project aims to relieve the pressure on GPs by giving users the opportunity to improve their own health by linking to non-medical support within their communities

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I believe we have only just started to scratch the surface of what can be achieved in terms of using technology to help improve public services which is why I was so keen to launch UrbanChallenge and throw down the gauntlet to the digital business community.

“I was quite amazed by the reaction with more than 120 entries from eight countries, each with new and exciting ways to tackle some of the social challenges we face in the West Midlands.

“The four winners are all exceptional examples of how we might harness technology quickly and effectively to make people’s lives better.

“I look forward to working with each of them in the weeks and months ahead to try and apply these projects into real-life use. I look forward to reporting back on our progress.”

Watch each of the winners talk about their innovative ideas 

Housing (DemoDev) - https://youtu.be/X7qIghDO8zI

Youth Unemployment (Do-IT) - https://youtu.be/ueEhP5EkLp4

Digital Citizenship (novoville) - https://youtu.be/Q05JwadMBU0

Wellbeing (Elemental) - https://youtu.be/gtx7SVEB7DQ

Watch Deborah Cadman, chief executive of the WMCA, on why the UrbanChallenge can make a real difference to people's lives - https://youtu.be/DQ6uz_BPXcw

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