What is Frontier Technology Livestreaming?

*Read about the programme in 5 minutes

New technologies are disrupting and reshaping individuals, societies and economies. This had led to a surge of interest in the potential of these technologies to contribute to positive change in global development and humanitarian contexts.

Frontier Technology Livestreaming is helping the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) apply frontier technologies to the biggest challenges in development.

The programme works with FCDO staff around the world to test and scale technology with the potential for positive social impact. We do this by providing:

(1) Support to work in new, agile ways

Our dedicated Frontier Technologies Hub combines innovation, governance, and programme management expertise. The Hub supports pilot and scale projects to apply methods like Lean start-up, Lean impact, and human-centred design.

We work with pilot teams in small sets of activities known as sprints, designed to test our most critical assumptions. This approach gives us the room to respond to evidence and learning in real-time and course-correct as we validate or invalidate our assumptions around a potential solution. We may start the pilot with an idea of what every sprint will look like but at the end of each sprint, we’ll review what’s happened and what we’ve learned before we plan the next one.

A key feature of our method involves working in “sprints”, inspired by Agile methods

We believe that emphasising learning and being flexible (rather than following a fixed plan) is the best way to approach frontier technology in complex environments.

Supporting our method is our Frontier Tech Playbook, which showcases some of the best activities, strategies, and methods pilot teams have used to overcome common challenges in implementing frontier technologies. From simulating technology to overcoming regulation, to top tips for successful investor interviews, to getting local students involved as a valuable source of skills.

“We knew clearly what we had to output and that we were allowed to fail. Being allowed to fail allowed us to be more bold in our innovation.” — Pilot partner

Our method also extends onto our own way of working. We test our assumptions, take stock of our strengths and weaknesses, and investigate our uncertainties. To do so, we have designed an adaptive learning system which enables us to gather feedback, analyse insights and iterate how we work on an ongoing basis through approaches like ‘rapid research cycles’, which provide timely evidence at key decision-making points.

(2) Funding to scale up or test new ideas

We provide funding to each selected tech idea (up to £100k), with the amount we provide kept purposefully small so that we don’t invest too much in something that might not work. We are also open to exiting quickly where tests haven’t met our initial beliefs. These exits have been some of the biggest successes and strongest learning opportunities of this programme, and they give us the flexibility to invest more where other ideas are showing real promise.

Our funding is also un-tied to any particular type of activity — our only criteria is that we spend money to learn as much as possible about the potential of frontier technologies to positively impact development outcomes and importantly to share the results.

We nudge this learning mindset by tying the delivery of funds to shared learning, as opposed to activities. We do this because we think that “learning out loud”, or sharing learnings as widely as possible, is crucial for the sector because it ensures that the implementers share real-time, first-hand experience that can help a frontier technology achieve scale more quickly. This is the essence of the Livestreaming programme and why we think our approach to funding is so different.

(3) Partnering FCDO staff with technology specialists and innovators

Our pilot teams have emerged from five calls for applications from FCDO staff globally, who have brought us ideas as to how frontier technologies might solve development challenges.

We believe that matching FCDO staff — with their deep expertise in development challenges — and technology experts — with their deep expertise in frontier technology — is a winning combination.

We do this by helping FCDO staff to identify implementing partners for their pilot ideas, and engaging technical experts to support the implementing teams.

If you are a person or organisation working with cutting-edge technologies and have a desire to apply it for global good, join 300+ others on our database!

The FTL portfolio

Over the last four years, we’ve worked with 38 pilot teams across 15 countries. Below you can see the list of current pilots.

The portfolio map of pilots we are currently supporting

Each team posts updates from their work regularly on our Medium page (that’s the “Livestreaming” part of the programme), where we have dedicated streams of content by technology type.

We also have a growing list of “graduated” pilots — those who have moved on to other opportunities.

Over time, we hope to both grow (with more ideas and scale-ups) and shrink (with more exits) our frontier technology portfolio.

More from the Hub

Apart from Frontier Technology Livestreaming, the Frontier Technologies Hub is home to a diverse range of other initiatives.

Futures is an online series that connects FCDO people with one another and the world of tech, equipping them to apply frontier technologies in their programmes.

Hub Research gathers and shares what we learn and dives deeper into areas where tech has the greatest potential for doing good.

COVIDaction is a project designed to build a technology and innovation pipeline to support action related to the COVID pandemic across key thematic areas, and explore questions about the role technology could play in the overall response to COVID-19.

Stay in touch!

Follow the Frontier Technologies Hub Medium page for a “live stream” of updates on our pilots, the programme, and our method. You can also find us on Twitter, @FrontierTechHub.

If you want to find out more, or have a question, drop us a line: FTLenquiries@imcworldwide.com

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