Unlocking private sector collaboration: the untapped opportunity

Andrew Roughan

By Andrew Roughan, managing director, Plexal

The government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy made it clear that regaining technological advantage is a top priority, and that unlocking startup innovation at home is in the national interest.

The truth is that it’s extremely difficult for startups and SMEs to sell to the public sector because of the complex procurement processes and timeframes involved.

But we don’t want to be in a situation where the technology that shapes so much of our lives is created in a vacuum without any direction from the government.

At the same time, the research and development budgets of large enterprises have been creeping up. There is a huge untapped opportunity for large enterprises to partner with smaller companies and adapt or build new solutions with them.  Solutions that are aligned to the technology challenges the government is prioritising.

Startups are a powerful source of creativity, agility and bleeding-edge technology. We need to pair that with the budgets, scale and existing technology of a large enterprise. 

At Plexal, we’ve developed a method of enabling this to happen – and quickly.

What we achieved with IBM and Pimloc in eight weeks is hugely exciting and it’s a model we look forward to using to help more enterprises partner with startups.

We worked with IBM to select challenge areas, identify the right startup to partner with, develop a proof of concept and lay the groundwork for both parties to use that proof of concept as a new business development tool.

In this pre-competitive environment, the interests of both parties were represented and everyone was clear about their intellectual property rights.

An element of our project that Plexal’s particularly proud of is the fact that we designed a contracting structure that’s enabling all the startups taking part in IBM’s challenges to be paid for their work.

Too often startups get exploited and end up burning through cash when they embark on innovation programmes with enterprises. We believe in respecting everyone involved – both the enterprise and the startup.

To respond to the big challenges of our day, we need collaboration. Collaboration between the public and private sectors and collaboration between big and small companies. If you agree, jump on board.