Market Ready Stage

Applications have now closed for Stage 1 (Innovation) of the Open Up Challenge. We’ll be announcing our 20 winning teams soon.

Applications for Stage 2 (Market Ready) will open in January 2018. You don’t need to have participated in Stage 1 to enter Stage 2.

Below is our preliminary guidance for Stage 2 applicants, but check back toward the end of 2017 for the full details, or contact to discuss.

Prize Fund – Stage 2

Stage 2 participants will get a development grant from a pot of £500k for up to five teams, plus a share of a £2m pot if they are one of the final three Stage 2 prize winners.

Key Dates – Stage 2


  • January 2018: Applications open (NB: Stage 2 will be open to new entrants as well as those who participated in Stage 1).
  • March 2018: Applications close.
  • April 2018: Entrant interviews in London*.
  • April 2018: Stage 2 development grant winners notified.
  • July – September 2018: Stage 2 finalists due diligence.
  • September 2018: Stage 2 demo days in London.
  • September 2018: Stage 2 prize awards made.

* Reasonable travel stipends will be provided to teams of up to two people travelling long distances.

Eligibility Criteria – Stage 2

What you plan to build

In 2018, we’ll be looking for entries that can provide game-changing benefits to UK small businesses.

All entries should plan to use open banking data accessed via APIs to achieve this.

In terms of functionality, all entries must also at a minimum facilitate intelligent, tailored comparison of all of the following categories of product: Business Current Accounts, standard tariff overdrafts and unsecured small business loan products up to a value of £25,000. Comparison should extend beyond cost to other factors that may matter to small businesses – for example customer service, product features and others.

We are not prescriptive about how entrants fulfil these criteria and welcome innovative approaches. Entrants may ensure their solutions facilitate comparison through demonstrating integration or partnerships with third party services.

We envisage that many entrants’ products will offer a wider range of services to small businesses than comparison alone.

Your team

Stage 2 of the Challenge will be open to companies, organisations, partnerships and non-profits. Entrants must be legally constituted to apply for Stage 2.

The Open Up Challenge is open to teams from anywhere in the world; however teams must be able to demonstrate that their solutions are designed to benefit the UK’s small businesses and proposed services should be suitable for launch within the UK market and its regulatory framework.

Assessment Criteria – Stage 2

The guidance below is indicative only. We will release a full set of Stage 2 assessment criteria toward the end of 2017.

Prize grants and awards will be determined by our independent judging panel.

Benefits for UK small businesses

  • We’re looking for entries that support small businesses to make intelligent and informed decisions by giving them better data and data analytics. We’ll be impressed by ideas that help small businesses get real-time, easily digestible financial information and forecasts in ways that work for their business, and help them to take action as a result. We are looking for entries that are designed to reduce the hassle and time required for small businesses to get the best products given their unique circumstances.
  • We’re looking for products that provide data to the user that is unbiased, trustworthy, transparent and reliable – helping small businesses to understand what they are signing up for, including the lifetime costs of one service or another.
  • We’ll also be impressed by ideas that help small businesses create value for users through integrating with other tools, services and platforms used regularly by small businesses such as accounting software.
  • We’ll be looking for evidence that you understand your customer and their pain points, and can explain how your solution not only addresses their needs but will engage customers successfully.
  • We’re interested not only in the direct benefit for small business users of your service, but also the impact that your solution could have over time on market dynamics. For example, would your solution, delivered at scale, tend to increase or reduce competition and choice for small businesses? Does your solution facilitate other customer-focused innovations?


  • We’re looking for entries that create new kinds of value for small businesses, or address customer pain points in new ways. You’ll need to explain how your idea is radically better than what’s already out there.
  • We’ll be impressed by entries that are based on an underlying technological breakthrough to solve real problems for small business users.


  • We’re looking for entries that users will love. We’ll be impressed by a description of your product that doesn’t just explain to us that SMEs should use your product, but demonstrates that your UX, design and product vision will result in an experience that delights small business users.
  • If your product relies on sophisticated data analytics, we’ll want to understand how you will ensure the integrity of the analysis, what are the critical assumptions, and how you will communicate outputs to your customers.
  • We’ll look for entries that demonstrate why the tech stack for your product is appropriate and scaleable.
  • We’ll need to be reassured that entries that have a robust approach to security, and why your approach to security, privacy, and data protection will inspire confidence in customers.

Team / Track Record

  • We’re looking for capable teams with a strong existing commitment to this space or transferable skills. We’ll be impressed by entries that can demonstrate their track record and the requisite skills and experience to take the proposition to market and scale it.
  • We’re looking for teams that are focused on their entry. We’ll be impressed by teams that can can demonstrate going the furthest within the time, money and resources of the prize. We’re looking for clear and realistic understanding of your financing and resourcing requirements as part of this.
  • We’re looking for teams that have identified any significant legal and/or regulatory hurdles to developing or scaling the proposition, and whether the team is capable of and committed to navigating these hurdles.

Market / Business Model

  • We’re looking for products that tackle a large and relevant market. This could be the whole small business market or significant subset of it. We’ll generally prefer solutions that are not targeted at the customers of a specific bank.
  • We’re looking for entries that can articulate a credible business model behind their product and can map out a path to commercial sustainability.
  • We’re looking for entries with convincing strategies to acquire and retain users.
  • We’re looking to see that you understand your competition and can articulate why you’ll succeed.

Due Diligence and Conflicts of Interest

Due diligence

We will carry out due diligence (including background and media checks) on shortlisted entrants. Any associations or history which may threaten the integrity and reputation of the Challenge (such as criminal activity,an ongoing lawsuit or administrator’s investigation) must be declared to Nesta for consideration during the application process and may be considered grounds for exclusion from the Challenge.

Conflicts of interest

As part of the application process entrants must complete a conflicts of interest declaration to identify actual and potential conflicts of interest.

Potential sources of conflict include relationships (including financial relationships) with organisations or individuals involved in the funding or delivery of the Challenge. Investment from, investment in, or a significant commercial relationship with any of the following will need to be declared by applicants:

  • Nesta
  • Funding banks
  • Individuals and organisations involved in delivery of the Challenge
  • Prize Committee members
  • Judging panel members

Employees of the following groups may not apply to or participate in the Challenge:

  • Nesta employees
  • Employees of Challenge funding banks
  • Members of the Prize Committee or judging panel and their immediate families

Decision-making authority

Subject to the above Nesta will make the final decision as to whether actual or potential conflicts and information provided through due diligence constitute grounds for exclusion from the Challenge.

Terms & Conditions

A full set of Terms & Conditions will be released toward the end of 2017.