O2's Future Fund - the first three councils rise to the challenge in digital innovation

After months of searching for the UK’s most innovative local authority IT teams, today we announce our three winners: Reading Borough Council, Merthyr Tydfil & Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Councils (joint bid), and Luton Borough Council.

Each will now benefit from a grant funding package which combines expert O2 consultancy with access to bespoke O2 services and technology so they can turn their project ideas into a practical reality – which put simply, means better services for their local communities.The Future Fund, which launched in April, is a unique initiative created by us at O2 especially to help local councils drive technology innovation, reduce costs and build closer social engagement within their local communities. It provides an opportunity for real blue sky thinking and to see what could be achieved with a little extra help. The initiative met with a fantastic response, with 40 councils submitting entries in a bid to win one of three funding packages worth up to the values of £125,000, £75,000 and £50,000.

Shortlisted from a final six, the winning three were selected following a presentation to a panel of expert judges who were unanimous in their final award, as the three winning bids clearly addressed the judging criteria and their ideas have the potential to inspire the wider local government community.

Reading Borough Council was awarded the top prize of £125,000 for their ‘from handset to mindset’ project, which demonstrated a clear way to help address the Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs) issue across West Berkshire.

Merthyr Tydfil and Vale of Glamorgan County Borough Councils took the second prize of £75,000 with their joint bid to develop an ‘e-community’ project designed to enhance their local authorities’ understanding of SMEs in a bid to encourage local economic growth.

Luton Borough Council picked up the £50,000 award with their Access Luton project, which is designed to redefine the council’s services to and relationships with their customers.

We’ve been truly amazed at the breadth of the projects proposed – both in building relationships with the people and businesses in the local area and also improving internal efficiencies to help cut costs create more joined-up councils. Perhaps reflective of the times we live in, many of the bids focused on fostering economic growth through engaging more effectively with the business community, whilst others concentrated on youth engagement and how digital technology can help connect with younger people in the local area. Others have looked into improving tourist engagement and the visitor experience, as well as bids prioritising health and wellbeing.

The bids have shone a light on local authorities and the challenges that they face – but also on the passion, commitment and the sheer innovation that they want to bring to their areas should they have the funds, expertise and resources available to them. Now the three local authorities have their funding, we will keep you posted on how the projects are progressing and hopefully the difference they make.

For more information visit: www.o2.co.uk/futurefund