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London works with start-ups to counter online extremism

More than 125 entrants were whittled down to the eight finalists in the second round of mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Civic Innovation Challenge.

The challenge brings together London's public and private sector with tech companies
The challenge brings together London's public and private sector with tech companies

Eight London tech start-ups have been shortlisted for funding from the UK capital’s Civic Innovation Challenge.


This year’s challenge, delivered in partnership with Microsoft and the Social Tech Trust, was to come up with solutions to help make the planning system more accessible and to counter violent extremism online.


Key challenges


More than 125 entrants were whittled down to the eight finalists in the second round of mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Civic Innovation Challenge. They will now work with City Hall and the Metropolitan Police Service to develop their proposals to help tackle these key challenges facing the city.


Two winners – one per category – will each be awarded a contract worth £40,000.


“For the last three weeks, we’ve been working closely with some incredible ventures to co-develop their innovations and ensure that they’ll improve the lives of Londoners.”


In addition, another 20 companies will work with Transport for London (TfL) and pitch to the Mayor’s Office of Los Angeles – one of London’s “Innovator Cities” partners – to try to secure funding and support for developing their ideas.


“The Civic Innovation Challenge is a unique opportunity for tech companies to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing our capital,” said Theo Blackwell, chief digital officer for London.

“I’m really impressed with the calibre of entrants this year and the standard of competition means I’m sure we’ll see some really exciting projects taken to the next level."

He continued: “In important areas such as planning and countering extremism online, it’s only through the public and private sector working together that we’ll come up with the best ideas we need for the future.”

The eight start-ups which have been shortlisted in two categories are:

Making a more accessible planning system:

  • 3D Repo – bringing down the barriers to collaboration for construction professionals
  • Agile Datum – specialising in delivering cost-effective AI solutions for the public and private sectors
  • LandHawk – helping developers identify land which positively impacts the environment and enhances communities
  • The Future Fox – a platform helping planners collaborate with communities on urban schemes.

Countering violent extremism online:

  • Data Language – experts in data-driven product innovation and mission-critical AI platforms
  • Faculty – developed and tested a new AI algorithm designed to detect and flag terrorist propaganda videos
  • Logically – a social enterprise using artificial intelligence to improve how we consume and interact with information online
  • Raven Science – an intelligent software using machine learning to find, classify and analyse extremist videos.

A spokesperson for the London Mayor’s Office told SmartCitiesWorld that participants have been asked to use the guidance on material of interest to the Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit.

This would include:

  • Articles, images, speeches or videos that promote terrorism or encourage violence
  • Content encouraging people to commit acts of terrorism
  • Websites made by terrorist or extremist organisations
  • Videos of terrorist attacks

They commented: "Participants have been given a clear instruction that the technological innovation must relate to public referrals rather than any kind of surveillance or machine-searching activity (i.e. referrals are not automated)."


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