The 2017 Gartner CIO Agenda has challenged its digital leaders to engage more with startups to help drive business innovation. (See also: Startups and diversity driving innovation -2017 CIO Agenda recommends new technology procurement strategy.) 

The ability to work with startups can mean taking a risk with the required support and guidance from CIOs.

However, as some startup businesses can help discover emerging talent, offer fresh ideas and provide access to new technologies - sometimes where established companies can often struggle.

The use of research from previous reports and start-up portfolios can help illustrate the areas CIOs need to address and ensure they meet company expectations. CIO UK speaks to eight leading UK CIOs and digital experts on how they are working with startup companies to develop new opportunities for the business. (Read next: How to find and implement emerging technology as a new CIO.)

"As a smaller organisation, we tend not to work with the bigger IT vendors, where we don’t have the need for the size and scale they provide, or the budgets to draw their attention. I like to work with smaller, more nimble vendors who can work at the pace we need, and can bring innovation and new ideas to us. I am also very clear that innovation tends not to come from our industry, so I work hard to build relationships and get ideas from organisations outside football."
Hywel Sloman, Arsenal FC’s CIO


"At the other end of the scale we have a real need to build a significant integration capability to enable our major programmes and give us a platform to innovate on. We selected an open source product WSO2 for the task, and have been working with a growing startup, Wheeve, which specialises in integration. When we first started working with them there were only three employees. They have scaled massively over the last 12 months and now have offshore delivery capabilities."
Neil Pearce, Travis Perkins’ CIO


"For our SME and start-up companies we look carefully at the product set, where it sits in the market and how important it will be to Oxfam in order to gain a true understanding of the risk in using or continuing to use a particular product. We also look at the importance of Oxfam to the SME and factor this into our risk evaluation – we do not want companies to be too dependent on us as a line of business."
Amber Burke, Oxfam’s CIO 


"We are working closely with some smaller companies around digital, including Futuregov for our digital strategy, our own internal Essex education service, which delivers Target Tracker to over 6,000 schools, and a range of local companies around app development, technology training and new digital channels development."
David Wilde, Essex Country Council’s CIO


"I constantly scan the marketplace to see if there are any smaller start-ups who could help both parties by exposing them to marketplaces and technologies where they perhaps don’t have a huge amount of demonstrable testimonials but are willing to work with a not-for-profit organisation and lower levels of budget. This approach has been successful to date, assisting us in overcoming some of the smaller snagging issues that occurred during our Exchange migration to Office 365."
Barry Ashcroft, Quarriers’ CIO


"Much of the digital work I have done has focused on start-ups around Manchester. Part of the success has been in working with partners like Manchester Digital and the Landing in order to start dialogue with these companies in our ecosystem. I’ve personally been out to meet them and taken technical architects to ensure they have a 101 of what the NHS technically looks like to ensure they don’t waste time and effort."
Rachel Dunscombe, Salford Royal’s NHS Foundation Trust’s CIO


"Based on the size of B&H, I traditionally use small business providers or start-ups. I find that they work harder for my organisation and the value they bring is superior to the larger organisations. However, we do use a lot of large IT company products (eg Microsoft). To get support and the best out of a product we go back to the small business market to procure the product or service. This allows us to get the personalised service and they act as the middleman to deal with the large corporations, which can be very time-consuming."
Seth Profit, B&H Worldwide’s CIO


"Finally, we are really starting to tap into the start-up community. We are working with many companies that didn’t exist five years ago, who typically have developed their products with only cloud, mobile and usability in mind. With the advances in cloud compute, this has enabled our business to tap into new approaches, such as deep learning for drug repositioning, machine learning for patient stratification, image recognition for digital pathology, advanced data compression for genomics, lightning-quick databases for mobile apps, smart wrangling tools for clinical data, new social channels for teams, influencer identification across social media and new IoT sensors alerting us to anomalies in our lab equipment before they break.

"There are many other areas and learning from approaches that our R&D colleagues have explored in the past few years, we are starting to explore opportunities to engage both inside and outside AstraZeneca using open innovation challenges."
David Smoley, AstraZeneca CIO