An Post delivers new innovation challenge for start-ups

State-owned company unveiled details of collaborative programme at Futurescope

An Post CEO David McRedmond will be a keynote speaker at this year’s Futurescope, which takes place at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwell

An Post CEO David McRedmond will be a keynote speaker at this year’s Futurescope, which takes place at the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwell

 

An Post is looking to establish deeper ties with the start-up community through a new innovation challenge programme that will see the State-owned company collaborating with tech entrepreneurs to develop new services and solutions.

Chief executive David McRedmond revealed full details of the 12-week programme at the annual Futurescope event in Dublin on Thursday.

The company is seeking to encourage fintech firms as well as start-ups working across areas such as identity management, smart mapping, geolocation services and machine learning and artificial intelligence to apply for its innovation challenge competition, which carries a bursary.

The moves comes as the national postal service, which has a network of 1,000 post offices and about 10,000 employees, continues with a group-wide digital transformation programme meant to result in it becoming “the ecommerce backbone of Ireland”.

Commercial contracts

An Post has promised access to its internal IT architecture for successful programme participants, as well as the possibility of commercial contracts for companies who help it develop suitable solutions that can be rolled out.

“We want to try and tap into the innovation community, which we see as a really rich source of potential that can help us resolve significant business challenges,” Des Morley, An Post’s chief digital officer, told The Irish Times.

“We’re very much open to different commercial possibilities and there is a very strong commitment from us all for this to be successful,” he added.

We’re looking to see can we unlock emerging technology to help drive our retail proposition

An Post has identified two key challenges on which it is looking to collaborate with start-ups. The first of these is to exploit potential open banking opportunities which would enable An Post to shore up its position as a challenger bank.

The company, which recently announced plans to set up a mortgages joint venture, said while recent legislation had paved the way for open banking initiatives, there remain plenty of opportunities in the space, particularly in areas such as account-switching, which is particularly low in the Republic.

“We’re looking to see can we unlock emerging technology to help drive our retail proposition, which we think is strong already, but with which there are barriers to overcome,” said Mr Morley.

Flexible delivery options

The second challenge identified by An Post relates to route and parcel optimisation, with the organisation looking to use smart technologies to provide more flexible delivery options for customers.

“We have massive amounts of data from our delivery processes and we’re looking to harness that better, using newer technologies which could allow us to work smarter, see operational benefits and deliver a better customer experience” added Mr Morley.

Whoever is selected will get a huge amount of support from the IT functions in An Post

An Post, which has been engaged in a major restructuring programme under Mr McRedmond, is partnering with digital consultancy Strata3 and Futurescope organiser Dublin BIC for the innovation challenge programme.

John Mitchell, managing director of Strata3, said the competition would give participants a great opportunity to work closely with An Post.

“Whoever is selected will get a huge amount of support from the IT functions in An Post, and from everyone else, including senior executives in the organisation. This will be augmented by heavy involvement from ourselves and Dublin BIC,” said Mr Mitchell.

‘Holy grail’

The holy grail is that this is a success with a solution that comes out of this for participants,” he added.

Mr McRedmond was one of the keynote speakers at Futurescope, which is now in its sixth year. Other guest speakers included Vijay Raju, director of strategy at the World Economic Forum, Niels Eldering, technology transfer officer at the European Space Agency, Dr Ruth Freeman of Science Foundation Ireland, Cartrawler’s chief technology officer Bobby Healy and Genomics Medicine Ireland chief executive Anne Jones.

The annual event, which takes place at the Convention Centre in Dublin, seeks to promote collaboration between entrepreneurs and large enterprises. This year’s Futurescope covered topics including AI, data analytics, AR/VR, IoT, robotics , sportstech, fintech and 5G.