The Ministry of Defence has recently launched its Startup in Residence program. As such, it hopes to invite new forms of innovation into its organization. At ImpactCity, we are delighted that the Startup in Residence program, which was started three years ago at the Municipality of The Hague, is also being rolled out to this Ministry. We checked in with Giel de Steur, who runs the Ministry’s Startup in Residence program, to get the scoop. “The Ministry of Defence is lining itself up for unique opportunities””
Startup in Residence Ministry of Defence is an innovative collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and startups. In line with the overall Startup in Residence program, the Ministry hopes to open up to startups and the fresh ideas and energy they bring.
The power of adaption
The Ministry has been on a mission to increase its adaptability. “We have been making an effort to design more flexibility into the way in which we organize, to invite innovation in from the outside, and to make smart use of the opportunities that the private sector offers,” Giel explains. “In line with this effort, Startup in Residence allows us to bring in external knowledge and expertise and to adapt our approaches.”
The first edition of Startup in Residence will run at the air force. “The program at the air force will function as a test case. It’s being followed closely at the highest levels of the air force,” Giel says. “At the end of the year, we hope to be able to show beautiful results that can in turn function as a convincing rationale to continue our efforts. If successful, Startup in Residence will potentially be expanded into other defence divisions.”
Shining a new light
“The market that the Ministry draws from is a fairly traditional one, including its long time partners. We look forward to shining a new light on this,” Giel de Steur explains. “The officials involved will now be exposed to altogether new forms of innovation strength that are invited in by the Startup in Residence program.”
“Rather than commissioning a predefined end product, staff members involved are encouraged to pinpoint the desired effect instead,” he emphasizes. “For our staff, this represents a new way of thinking that leaves more room for participating startups and allows our staff members to adopt new ways of problem solving.”
He adds, “We’re excited about the prospects of the program. It turns out that many people within our organization are more than willing to invest in forging connections with startups and other uncommon business partners, even if it requires significant time and energy.”
“It’s been invaluable to learn from the lessons of our predecessors in Amsterdam and The Hague,” Giel stresses. “We’ve learned a great deal from the Amsterdam program. Due to their willingness to communicate openly, and their eagerness to expand Startup in Residence to other organizations, we were able to copy the Amsterdam tender procedure and reuse their tender documents”.
He emphasizes the importance of guidance in the process, “We are relatively new to contracting startups, offering them a training program, and asking them to deliver an idea instead of an end product. That’s why external advice has been indispensable in getting started.”
He adds, “In the vein of the City of The Hague’s approach, we’ve made a point out of communicating with a wide variety of startups, stakeholders and lawyers early on in the process.”
“Also, we’ve prioritized getting department chairs involved. In this way, involvement and commitment in the organization grows more naturally. And expectation management is no small feat either. We’re trying to achieve altogether new things on many levels. Naturally, this takes time and it’s important to communicate this early and often enough,” he stresses lessons learned.
“The market that the Ministry draws from is a fairly traditional one, including its long time partners. We look forward to shining a new light on this”
– Giel de Steur, Startup in Residence Ministry of Defence
Co-organizing with the City of The Hague
A big chunk of the training programs offered to startups in this year’s Startup in Residence The Hague program will be merged with that of the Ministry of Defence. Giel says, “Since the timing of both programs is identical, we have agreed to fuse part our training programs. The more general skills training sessions will be co-organized with the City of The Hague.”
He adds, “We’re very much looking forward to deepening our collaboration with Startup in Residence The Hague and hope to continue to learn from the experience that it’s been building since 2016”.
Room for experimentation
When it comes to procurement, the Startup in Residence program presents the Ministry with a few obvious deviations from the procurement process it typically employs. “At the Ministry of Defence, we’re used to a narrow definition of procurement that closely follows the existing guidelines. For example, the procurement of ideas, and the delivery of a training program in return, is not something that we have done before. As a result, we’ve had to think outside of the box in order to come up with ways to organize it,” Giel explains.
“Nonetheless, we managed to jointly design a procurement process that allows room for the rather unusual outcomes that Startup in Residence will bring into our organization. The process we designed leaves room for experiment, which is fairly new to our organization. In itself, this is great progress. Also, it offered us the opportunity to collaborate closely with our procurement department,” Giel says.
“The Ministry is very much a results-oriented organization,” he adds. “So when we observe that promising initiatives are taking shape, people are willing to go out on a limb and mobilize support among their co-workers. This generates a ton of energy.”
When, what, and how
The first edition of Startup in Residence Ministry of Defence will run from July through December 2018. The program offers startups training and professional coaching. In addition, they will enjoy access to the Ministry’s otherwise fairly closed networks.
In the program, the Ministry has singled out six social challenges. They range from a focus on duty scheduling at Airbase Eindhoven to parking issues at the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s headquarters. Also, the program features a wildcard category for those applications, tools or technologies that don’t match one of the five predefined categories.
If participants come up with a successful solution to a regional challenge, the Ministry intends to act as a launching customer and thereby significantly kick-start the startup’s growth.
A courageous move
“By way of the Startup in Residence program, the Ministry of Defence is lining itself up for unique opportunities,” Giel concludes. “If you want to be a true pioneer, you have to be willing to take risks and to deviate from the norm. I think it’s a courageous move and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Do you have a new and interesting idea that you think the Ministry of Defence should know about? Take a look at their Startup in Residence program. Application deadline is on 24 April, so make sure to hurry over to the application guidelines.