Project Spark! Wave 2: the finalists face the Dragons!

On 25 October, this year’s three finalists pitched their innovative ideas in the Project Spark Dragons Den!

The Dragons and the finalists pose together for Project Spark.
The Dragons and the finalists.

Project Spark is the Government Communication Service’s (GCS) Dragon’s Den-style opportunity open to all members, and this year it builds on the success of Wave 1 which launched in the Spring of 2022.

This year, Project Spark received 10 innovative ideas from 8 organisations spanning government communications, including:

  • The Department for Work & Pensions
  • Equalities Office
  • National Cyber Security Centre
  • Met Office
  • Department for Business & Trade
  • Department for Education
  • Department for Health & Social Care
  • Department for Science, Innovation & Technology
  • Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office.  

Meet the finalists

The three finalists who made it through to the Den were:

  • The Met Office – ‘Accessible by default – why 20% really matters!’
    Emma Lawrence and Dave Britton pitched an ambition for government communications to be Accessible for all. From joining up with those doing great work in this space both inside and outside of government, through to exploiting existing tools to harnessing the rapid technological changes
  • Department for Business and Trade (DBT) – ‘Making HMG look amazing! A new approach to shared visuals for GCS, and all Civil Servants’
    Kevin Partridge and Jacob Brookman pitched an innovative ‘Government Visual Search’ platform for communicators to rapidly access Crown copyright images from across government, and to develop a business case for a single cross-government Digital Asset Management platform to power this
  • The Department for Science, Innovation & Technology and the GCS Applied Data & Insights team – ‘Disinformation Debunked: How Communications Can Stay Ahead of the Curve’
    This collaborative pitch from Tommy Shane and Robert Midgley focused on investing in new capabilities for the existing Counter-Disinformation Data Platform (CDDP) developed by DSIT. This would be to support communications teams to better understand narratives that may be proliferating across digital platforms.

The prize the three finalists pitched for was the opportunity to have their innovative idea be taken on by the central GCS Innovation Lab, to rapidly develop, test, and scale it across government communications.

The challenge

Their challenge was to win over a majority of the Dragons, which this year included:

  • Gemma Swinglehurst, Industry Manager for Government, Google
  • Rozzi Merrington, Head of Innovation, Wavemaker
  • Simon Baugh, Chief Executive, Government Communication Service 
  • Amanda Svensson, Deputy Director, GCS Applied Data & Insights 
  • Conrad Bird, Director, Cross-Government Campaigns & Marketing.

Each team had just 5 minutes to pitch their idea before facing a grilling from the Dragons!

The Dragons were blown away by the passion and energy with which all the teams presented and were very impressed with how each team articulately addressed each of their tough questions in the white heat of the Den! 

The winning idea

On the day, it was the pitch from the Met Office that won the unanimous support of the Dragons, and it will be taken on by the GCS Innovation Lab! Congratulations to Ross Middleham, Emma Lawrence, Dave Britton from the Met Office, and Peter Serjent from the central GCS team who sponsored their idea!

Of the three pitches, the Dragons judged that their pitch demonstrated the clearest sense of the problem they were tackling, and the potential benefits and value of their proposals if scaled across government communications. The strength of their pitch was emphasised further by Emma and Dave standing in to present proposals initially developed by their colleague Ross, who was unfortunately unable to present on the day.

In the pitching teams own words: “1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability that affects internet and social media use. So in Dragon’s terms, we’re asking for a 20% investment, and that has to be non-negotiable! A focus on accessibility can help everybody, not just those with disabilities, and can drive trust in brands which are seen to be Accessible for everyone”.

The Dragon’s did challenge the team to be more ambitious, and work with the GCS Innovation Lab to focus on tangible tools and training which can lower the barriers to the adoption of Accessible practices and approaches in government communications. Furthermore, the Dragons encouraged the team to focus on the needs of users who may not already be as engaged on Accessibility as others. The Dragons also recommended the team explore the advances in generative AI, and the opportunities for these to drive Accessibility in digital communications.

The project has now been taken on by the central GCS Innovation Lab and you will be able to follow the team’s progress over the coming weeks on the GCS website and through GCS Connect.

Congratulations again to the Met Office team for winning over the Dragons, and to the teams from the Department for Business & Trade, and Department for Science, Innovation & Technology who embraced the opportunity to pitch their idea through Project Spark!

Finally, check out the video below to hear directly from two of this year’s Dragons about what makes a great pitch, and how big ambitions often start with small steps!