The DIACCESS project centers around the application of the innovation partnership model (IPM), a procurement model that is not that new (introduced in 2014) yet not widely used. The model is useful when a public authority wants to have an innovation that is not yet available on the market. It is different from “regular” procurement in the sense that the city does not purchase a well-defined and known product or service from a company; rather, it invites one of more companies to co-develop a solution for a broader defined problem or challenge. After a selection procedure, the authority signs a contract with a company (or consortium of companies), that includes an R&D phase and an implementation phase at the same time. During the development phase, the new solution is co-developed by the company and the authority. After this is done successfully, the company will become the city’s supplier and will start to make a revenue; the authority does not have to write out a new procurement procedure to implement the solution. In the case of Växjö, the city is not interested in owning the intellectual property rights (IPR) of the new solution, product or service: that will stay in the hands of the company. So, the company can in principle also sell this solution to other cities. This should make it attractive for companies to enter in this partnership. A broader client base for the innovators is also good for the municipality as the product will be more likely to thrive and develop.
In DIACCESS, the project proposal foresaw five cycles of IPM. In each one, companies would be invited to develop solutions for one or more urban challenges, to be gathered from the city or one of the city-owned companies. The project envisioned a learning curve, in which urban authorities learn how to use this type of procurement in a good way (and obtain better urban solutions that are useful for citizens, city staff and/or save taxpayer money), and in which companies also get used to this new way of dealing with city authorities and may develop new markets. It was hoped that this type of IPP will lead to more digital innovations in the public sector, and also helps companies to explore new markets and hence create economic development and job growth.
Alongside these IPM rounds, the DIACCESS project included the development of a Digital Lab, aimed to develop and prototype new urban innovations. The Lab works at the service of the city: departments can approach the Lab with challenges or problems, to have it explore if there is a possible solution. Another role of the Lab is to make prototypes that demonstrate how digital technology can work in practice. For municipal departments, it may take a lot of imagination to foresee how a solution might work, and in that case, a prototype or a proof of concept, even an imperfect one, can help to demonstrate in practice what can be achieved. The Digital Lab would also have a social function, by training unemployed people to obtain new skills that may help them to find a job. On a half-year rotation basis, four selected trainees, supervised by experienced IT experts, learned how to develop digital solutions.
Finally, the project set out to develop an urban IT platform to store, process and visualise the data that are generated by (and used by) the new digital innovations. The platform should provide its users with insights and information for better decisions and automated activities. The platform is to be open for all actors to provide and collect data with a built-in payment mechanism that will encourage private actors to deliver data on commercial terms.