Roger Jones: Actionable Insight

The brief was to create a digital community and map the key opinion makers to enhance the online reputation of digital Scotland. CivTech is now seen as a shining star for Scottish innovation and digital development.


Making the public sector more daring and innovative. Actionable Insight was asked by the government to engage the Scottish digital community and increase innovation in the public sector. This brief resulted in CivTech, a programme that creates opportunities for entrepreneurial companies to solve public sector problems and make Scotland a more prosperous society.


The initial task was to map the investment community, the start-up community and the media community within the digital sector. Roger’s team created personas around each of these groups to understand their values and motivations. By reaching out to the community, they found that these individuals progressed from awareness to engagement and ultimately loyalty.

Then, in January 2016, Alexander Holt (now Head of CivTech) persuaded the Scottish Government to create a procurement code for innovation. A few months later, CivTech hosted their first workshop to identify key challenges the government wanted to tackle. The successful challenges were placed in a groundbreaking accelerator programme and were developed for market.


The challenges were assessed against a criterion to make sure they met a certain set of ideals. They were then presented to an open community of entrepreneurs, start-ups, established businesses and SMEs through an exploration stage before being funded and ‘accelerated’ with help from challenge sponsours, innovation centres and public initiatives.

This process gave the digital community a chance to work with public sector clients and solve their challenges in exciting ways. The pilot challenges included flood forecasting and air quality monitoring for SEPA, data visualization and data accessibility for NHS NSS, and improving tourist destinations along the A9 and creating smart roads for Transport Scotland.

CivTech developed into a real hub for innovation. News spread through their Wiki page (they weren’t allowed to create a private website) and the team moved to CodeBase in Edinburgh. In November 2016, they started an inspiring series of fireside chats with influential entrepreneurs (including one with Gareth Williams on the same day that he sold Sky Scanner for £1.4bn).

Soon after, they hosted their first demo day to share their success with over 160 delegates. Paul Wheelhouse MSP Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy even made an appearance to give an amazing presentation and to celebrate CivTech’s incredible achievements in just 100 days. Ken Nicholson summed it up the outcome when he said, “This could transform Scotland.”


CivTech generated over 95 applications resulting in 2 weeks of exploration, 15 final pitches, 8 accelerator places, 36 workshops, 36 mentors, 37 national decision makers, 9 fireside chats and more than 500,000 lines of code. CivTech was such a success that a second version will launch in April 2017.