Public sector picks digital childcare platform with Innovate UK's help

Toddlers at a table with their childminder, all wearing protective masks.

© Getty Images

A Bournemouth company has brought innovation to the public sector. It had help from Innovate UK EDGE to maximise the impact of Covid-19 Fast Response grant funding and landed its first county council customer to pilot a novel online childcare platform.

Famiio is currently finalising a second contract with an unnamed unitary authority, while a London borough is another good prospect. Eight other councils are taking a close interest in the first pilot.

Run by CEO Gary Todd and co-founder Carole Ward, Famiio offers local authorities a way of helping people in their communities to find essential childcare information all in one place.

When the pandemic struck, Innovate UK EDGE innovation and growth specialist Jayne Codling had already been helping Famiio to develop and refine its innovation strategy.

Covid-19 Fast Response funding

With grandparents and other extended family suddenly locked down and unable to provide regular childcare duties, local authorities were being flooded with requests for information on childcare provision in a fast-changing market, with supply in short measure.

A successful application for a £50,000 grant from Innovate UK’s Fast Response funding programme allowed Jayne to ‘wrap Innovate UK EDGE support’ around Famiio’s project to develop a childcare market management tool.

She also helped the company to show that it would benefit from a further £25,000 grant to extend the impact of the Fast Response funding. The total package allowed Famiio more leeway to recruit an experienced software developer and to engage local authorities to pilot the solution.

For families, it makes finding viable and flexible childcare quicker, easier and less stressful. For local authorities it yields savings in time and costs by bringing together up-to-date information, effective monitoring and reporting on a common digital platform. 

It also enables childcare providers to quickly and easily promote their services to parents, who have ready access through the platform to providers’ Ofsted information, up-to-date availability, prices and much more.

Public sector innovation

Gary said: “With funding from Innovate UK and guidance from Innovate UK EDGE, Famiio is helping the public sector explore innovation in a low-risk way that was previously not possible.

“Without that support we’d still be working out how to convince local authorities that innovation is the way forward.”

Supported by Innovate UK EDGE, they stressed to local councils the efficiencies to be gained in staff time, costs and resources and also in being in a ‘smart place’, serving their communities.

Both Gary and Carole had previous experience working with the Department for Education on national data projects and as frontline local authority managers.

Famiio is on the techUK Local Public Services Committee alongside companies such as Microsoft, AWS and PwC.