The 19th July was quite a milestone for us – our first trip to Downing Street! This came about through our participation in the Cabinet Office’s Innovation Launch Pad (see this post) which culminated in a “Product Surgery” at the Department for Business Innovation & Skills. 9 companies presented at this, selected from the original 351 which had submitted ideas to the ILP web site. AdInfa was there to show government how we could save them £220 million per year on their data centre energy bills through deployment of our InSite software.
The audience for the event comprised around 100 top-level civil service commercial and procurement executives representing probably the largest collective buying power in Europe. After all, total public spending is around £700 billion per year! The purpose of the Product Surgery was to demonstrate just what great value and innovation SMEs can offer to public sector buyers. Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office was the keynote speaker. He emphasised his desire for government to engage with SMEs because he can see that tremendous value that can be delivered that way. He said that the approach to government procurement needs to change to focus on the “what” not the “how” – procurement needs to makes decisions based on the outcomes desired, not the inputs to the process of buying. Pre-qualification to be able to bid should not simply be about the size of your balance sheet and the decades you have been in business – it should be about ability to deliver the best quality services at the most economic rate thereby delivering better outcomes.
The Rt Hon Francis Maude believes that government can work with SMEs and access more innovative solutions to problems and receive much greater benefits all while spending less overall. Speaking to civil servants afterwards, I was told that he is serious about delivering on this and that they feel positive about it. Following on, Sherry Coutu talked about a goal of increasing government spend with SMEs from 17% of total budget to 25% and what a huge difference that would make given that SMEs are the engine of job creation in the UK. It would deliver much better value for taxpayers than today. Sherry has been a great driver for the initiative and is determined that the Innovation Launch Pad results in contracts and soon. This sentiment was shared by the other private sector mentors in attendance – people such as Jon Moulton, Andy Phillipps and Sara Murray.
Our pitch was about how we can help govt save up to £220 million from its data centre operating and energy costs and help the government achieve its goal of becoming the greenest government ever. The panel’s questioning was effective and the individuals are smart people who have done their homework on the propositions they were listening to; they were no pushovers which is exactly as it should be. In my case, the panel comprised Mike Lynch (Autonomy), Simon Parkes (Dept for Education), Geoff Sykes (Ministry of Justice) and Simon Lydiard (Dept of Transport). The feedback we received was positive and data centres is an area that is definitely getting attention as part of the new ICT Strategy. Interestingly, I was also asked if our InSite software could be applied to other areas, for example hospitals and other “intelligent building” environments – and the answer is “yes”, we focus on data centres as a target market, not because our technology is restricted to that environment.
Our experience of participating in ILP has been very good so far. We have met some very smart people – both in private and public sector – who have helped with feedback and suggestions on our proposition. We have spoken to top executives within government including David Smith (DWP), Joe Harley (Government CIO), Geoff Sykes (MoJ) and so on – people we are unlikely to have got any access to otherwise. We can see real opportunities.
I got a sense of a genuine interest in what we are proposing and a strong desire to take action and to work with us. However, I do not underestimate the perseverance and effort that will be required to keep us front of mind with the buyers and to get the contract stage. Very positively, I have already been contacted by people I met at the event who said they are identifying potential projects to discuss with us – an excellent result. Our goal is to be working on a project within 3 months – that will be proof of the government’s intention to take this seriously.