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Open innovation, which focuses on posing a question or a problem and inviting companies to solve it, is a growing trend, mainly embraced so far by large companies but increasingly by smaller ones too. But progress of its use has been slow by the public sector, especially by the military or the police — although the health sector has been forced to be more open to innovation partnerships since Covid.

Public sector organisations are used to a very different mode of procurement, says sifted.eu. They specify exactly what they want to buy and then tender for companies to provide it. Open innovation focuses instead on posing a question or a problem and inviting companies to solve it in any way they can. The concept is developed, trialled and then scaled, in a new way of working with the market.

Read this example of how Transport for London has run four innovation challenges so far, helping focus startups and small companies on the London transport problems it wants to solve.

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