Last week, BC Premier Christy Clark announced the BC Startup in Residence (STIR) pilot program, which is inviting startups to work with the government on public sector challenges.
Startups can choose from ten challenge areas put forward by participating ministries; for example, BC’s Ministry of Education is looking for a way to provide data securely to school districts across BC. During the 16-week summer residence, startups and ministries will work side-by-side to develop and launch their solution in the fall.
At the end of the residency, the companies will have the full rights to commercialize the solution and bring it to market. The government, for its part, is to give startups a greater understanding of working with and selling to government entities. The companies will also have the opportunity to contract with the province to support, licence, or maintain the solution they created.
“The province is leveling the playing field, giving startups a chance to grow.”
The call for challenge proposals is open until April 11, with the winning proposals being selected between May and June. After a demo day in November, a free trial period and potential negotiations for a phase 2 agreement will take place starting in November.
“Through this pilot, the province is levelling the playing field, giving startups a chance to grow, while also innovating how citizens are served,” said Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. “The Startup in Residence program has been successful in other jurisdictions, and we want this made-in-B.C. model to be mutually beneficial for both technology companies and government so we can continue to grow our technology sector in the province.”
With BC’s STIR, the province is an early partner in the growing international STIR network developed by the Mayor of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Innovation.
The STIR model, launched in 2014, has allowed San Francisco to become a key customer for tech companies — and this concept is spreading throughout Canada on all government levels.
Toronto recently launched its Civic Innovation Office, which has city divisions identifying major challenges that can be solved through innovative partnerships with external teams. At the provincial level, Clark announced an additional $87 million over three years towards the #BCTECH strategy, with emphasis on fostering tech talent through education. The province wants to increase the number of tech grads by 1,000 per year by 2022.
As a whole, the Canadian government is embracing innovation with a tech-focused 2017 budget — which includes encouraging government procurement of startup tech. The government announced $50 million towards its new Innovative Solutions Canada program, modeled off the US Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). In this program, money will be set aside for early-stage research and development and late-stage prototypes, with particular focus on procurement from companies led by women and other underrepresented groups.