Five tips for cities to attract innovative startups to urban challenges

Opening up data doesn’t automatically lead to a better public service delivery. Cities should know that, when looking at public service innovation, there are several benefits to applying a challenge-driven approach. Rather than simply opening up public data, a well-defined city challenge can mobilise and guide solution providers to develop data-driven products that are more aligned with city ambitions, recent examples of which are described in more detail in this previous insight.

by Judith Schuermans, Simone Ploemacher & Sebastiaan van Herk

Once the specifics of the urban challenges are clearly set out, there are several ways the challenges and their corresponding data sets can be presented to the market. One possible next step is to promote them via an open call to which solution providers like start-ups can apply. Bax & Company has gathered the best practices and lessons learnt from both cities and solution providers through European projects like SCIFI and BE-GOOD. Having worked with cities on a variety of challenges meant we were able to see what does and doesn’t work. From clearly defining the challenge to making sure you’re reaching the right audience, it became clear that some cities had a better strategy to launch the call. Learning from them and following up with both successful and unsuccessful solution providers, we were able to compile a list of lessons. This knowledge can prove especially useful since small- and medium-sized cities often lack the resources (whether that be manpower, expertise and/or money) to promote their open call. 

Here are five of the key lessons we’ve learned so far:


In June 2019, the second SCIFI open call will take place, in which these best practices and lessons learned will be implemented. We will continuously reflect on the whole process of an open call to continue developing the methodology.

If you want to find out more about challenge-driven innovation and improving the liveability of cities with open data, get in touch. We build on our experience from challenge-driven data-innovation projects we created such as BE-GOOD with Rijkswaterstaat, SCIFI with the University of Southampton, and SCORE with the City of Amsterdam.

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