The Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge

The Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge offers an opportunity for start-ups to work together with leading corporates and public organisations to tackle some of London’s most pressing problems.

This is a challenge for start-ups to develop innovative solutions to democratising planning, tackling congestion in the capital and countering violent extremism online.

About the Civic Innovation Challenge

The Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge not only delivers benefits to Londoners, but also offers a route to market for tech start-ups – a unique chance to access the insight, expertise, cutting-edge data and pilot sites of our partners.

  • Validate solutions: Test and validate your solutions directly with market leaders and get the opportunity to secure a £40,000 contract to deliver your project
  • Route to market: Connect with potential customers and work with Londoners to refine your product offering
  • Business support: Access the knowledge, expertise and insights of our partner networks, and attend a comprehensive training programme.
  • Raised profile: Increase your brand awareness and profile by taking part in the Civic Innovation Challenge - the Mayor’s flagship tech innovation policy programme.

Last year, we ran seven challenges spanning areas such as active travel, creating culturally representative dementia resources, electric vehicle charging, increasing uptake in physical exercise, and tackling loneliness.

The 2018 Challenge resulted in the creation of entirely new products based on direct learning from the market and has constituted the beginning of long-term relationships for several companies.

Many of London’s advances in the application of data and smart technologies are recognised around the world and I want London to become a global test-bed for civic innovation.

I’m delighted to be able to match the winners of the Civic Innovation Challenge with established public bodies and private companies, and I am confident they will go on to deliver exciting solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing Londoners every day.

The fact that our city’s tech community is home to some of the most creative businesses anywhere in the world is something of which we can be really proud. We want London to be the world’s smartest city and these dynamic companies have a crucial role to play.

- Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Challenge area: Democratising Planning

How we can use data and technology to democratise planning, and ensure we can tackle the housing crisis facing Londoners?

Challenge partner: Greater London Authority

There is a huge demand for housing in the capital. The Mayor has committed to significantly increasing housing delivery to address London’s housing crisis.

However, one of the key barriers to further development is public understanding of development proposals and the true impacts these might have.

Evidence suggests 45% of the UK's population are unable to read a plan. As a result, residents can often end up objecting to a development they would have been happy to support, if they had been better able to understand the development proposed.

Equally as important as improving people’s understanding of development proposals, is improving the user experience and opportunity to participate in the planning process.

Engaging with the planning process can also be onerous and time-consuming, biasing the system towards the best-resourced residents, groups and businesses. Improving the user experience and opportunity to participate in the process is key to creating a planning system that works for all Londoners.

The UK Planning system deals with approximately 45,000 planning applications a year. As interest grows in the potential impacts of these proposals, there is more demand now than ever for the data and innovation-driven products and services – enabled by artificial intelligence, big data and immersive reality – required to create a planning system fit for the 21st century.

The Mayor is looking for start-ups and SMEs to co-create a solution that will leverage and visualise city data to enable Londoners to understand and engage with development proposals and play their part in tackling London’s Housing Crisis.

Do you have an innovative solution to tackle this challenge? Apply now.


Challenge area: Countering Violent Extremism Online

How can we use technology to stop the spread of terrorist and violent extremist material online and make London safer?

Challenge Partner: Metropolitan Police Service

Terrorists and violent extremists have proved adept at using the Internet to encourage and legitimise violence. This includes examples of influential groomers using the Internet to manipulate and exploit vulnerable people towards extremism but also instances where violent extremist material created opportunities for self-radicalisation.

However, although terrorists have been skilled at using the Internet to promote their vile and hateful ideologies, technology and data innovation have a powerful role to play in responding to this threat by developing innovative solutions to keep vulnerable people safe from radicalisation online.

The Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) actively seek out terrorist material and support its removal from the Internet - but they can’t combat online violent extremism alone. The CTIRU relies upon members of the public to refer terrorist or violent extremist material to them through the public referral tool hosted on

Londoners are the eyes and ears of the police. They have a critical role to play in working with the authorities to contest and protect the areas of the Internet where extremists seek to operate. The Mayor of London’s Countering Violent Extremism Team recently undertook the most comprehensive city-wide engagement exercise in this policy area ever and found a strong willingness from Londoners to refer potentially illegal content to the authorities - with 38% saying that they would contact the police if they encountered such material. However, they also found a concerning awareness gap, with only 15% of Londoners knowing how to get online extremist material taken down. Increasing public awareness and reporting will make a vital difference in making the Internet and society a safer place.

The Mayor and the Metropolitan Police are looking for start-ups and SMEs to co-create a solution to ensure that all Londoners can play an effective role in stopping violent extremists from using the Internet to encourage and legitimise violence. This both protects vulnerable people from exploitation and keeps all of us safer from potential terrorist threats.

Do you have an innovative solution to tackle this challenge? Apply now

Challenge area: More Efficient Freight in London

How can innovation help to make the way goods and services move around London safer, cleaner and more efficient?

Challenge Partner: Transport for London

Freight and servicing underpins London’s economy. It keeps the shops and hospitals stocked and London’s businesses running.

However, London’s changing consumption patterns also have undesirable consequences for the city. For example, London has seen major growth in van traffic in recent years, with a 39 per cent increase in kilometres travelled by freight and servicing vehicles alone over the past 25 years. This has contributed to London’s poor air quality, congestion and road danger.

The Mayor's Freight and Servicing action plan outlines our vision to continue to support a vibrant economy, while also delivering a cleaner, safer and more efficient city. Our challenge is to reimagine how London’s finite space can be used accommodate sustainable modes of transport, whilst still enabling industry to meet the freight and servicing needs of London's growing population and economy. It also draws attention to the need for new ways to protect and create land for logistics and consolidation, as having depots in the right places reduces the miles travelled by freight vehicles and ensures that the trips made into London are more efficient.

We are looking for innovative solutions that think creatively about ways land or other assets could be used to reduce the adverse impacts of freight and servicing activity, with a focus on making trips more efficient.

Do you have an innovative solution to tackle this challenge? Apply now

Programme stages

Applications Open - November and December 2019

Challenges were announced on 11 November and you are invited to fill in a short application form telling us more about your team and your proposal. Applications will remain open until 12 December.

Together the Mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge team and the Challenge Partners jointly assess every application.

Open Innovation Stage - January and February 2020

Five weeks for at least 40 selected teams to attend workshops and training sessions with the Social Tech Trust and Microsoft, learn more about the problem with the Challenge Partner and gain access to their cutting-edge data, networks, expertise and pilot sites.

Demo day - March 2020

The open innovation phase culminates in a high-profile demo day where a selected crowd of investors, media and buyers will attend, and the winners of this year’s Civic Innovation Challenge are announced. 

Pre-Commercialisation Stage - March 2020 onwards

The winning company - or consortia - from each challenge will progress to the experimentation and validation phase. They will work closely with the Challenge Partner for two months to test, validate and roll-out their solution, receiving £40,000 to support delivery.

The Mayor of London’s Civic Innovation Challenge is a programme with:

Microsoft logo
Metropolitan Police Logo
Social Tech Trust logo

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