The Prize

The Open Up Challenge is a £5m prize fund to reward next-generation services, apps and tools that create game-changing value for UK small businesses.

We’re looking for 20 winning entries from teams anywhere in the world that will use open banking APIs – newly available from early 2018 – to transform how UK’s five million small businesses discover, access and use business critical financial products, including bank accounts, loans and overdrafts.

The Challenge has two stages:

  • Stage 1 (Innovation) is aimed at ideas that deliver the most benefit to small businesses, and entries can be at an early stage or even just an idea. This stage will take place July – December 2017.
  • At Stage 2 (Market Ready) we’ll focus on entries that are market-ready. This stage will take place March – September 2018.

For more about what we’re looking for, how to apply, key dates and our eligibility criteria, see Apply.

An independent judging panel, combining a diverse range of relevant expertise, will select winning entrants and determine prize awards.

Winners receive:

  • Cash Awards
    • In the Innovation Stage you’ll get a £50k development grant up-front, and then share in a £1m reward pot if you’re one of up to ten successful Stage 1 prize winners.
    • If you successfully enter the Market Ready Stage you’ll get a development grant from a pot of £500k for up to five teams, plus a share of a £2m pot if you are one of the final three Stage 2 prize winners.
  • Exclusive Early-Stage Access to Data
    • You’ll get access to our Data Sandbox, containing one of the largest anonymised UK banking transaction datasets ever released, and APIs aligned with the forthcoming Open Banking standard.
    • Use the Data Sandbox to securely build and test your product so you can hit the ground running in 2018.
  • Technical Support
    • You’ll be able to access technical support provided by leading practitioners – covering legal and regulatory considerations, data, user experience and more – to help you get market ready.

Applications close 31 May 2017, and key dates are set out below.


Key Dates

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Stage 1: Innovation

  • 23 March 2017: Applications open.
  • 31 May 2017: Applications close.
  • 5 July 2017: Stage 1 development grant winners notified.
  • 10 July 2017: Open Up Data Sandbox goes live.
  • 9 – 30 November 2017: Window for Stage 1 finalists due diligence, including interviews.
  • 7 December: Pitching day in London.
  • 15 December: Stage 1 prize awards made.

Stage 2: Market Ready

  • 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.

Successful teams receive cash awards, technical support and exclusive access to our Open Up Data Sandbox.


Cash Awards

There are two types of cash awards for finalists of the Open Up Challenge – development grants (to support you as you build your product) and prize awards (for the best prototypes or products submitted for prizes), both with minimal strings attached. This is a challenge prize, we don’t ask for equity and you keep all your IP.

Stage 1: Innovation

Applications open 23 March 2017 and close 31 May 2017:

  • Approximately 20 finalists will be selected in early July 2017 to be awarded £50k each as a development grant to help build their product.
  • Approximately 10 winners will be allocated cash prize awards from a £1m prize pot in December 2017.

Stage 2: Market Ready

Applications open in January 2018 and close in March 2018. You can apply to the Market Ready stage even if you did not apply to the Innovation Stage.

  • Up to five entrants will be selected by May 2018 to be awarded development grants from a pot of £500k to help build their product.
  • Up to three winners will be allocated cash prize awards from a £2m prize pot by October 2018.

Technical & Business Support

Open banking will present you with some specific challenges, on top of all the issues you’d expect building any tech product or business. We’ve teamed up with leading practitioners to provide you with free, on-demand support covering legal and regulatory considerations, user experience, data analysis and security.

We’re designing a support package that is:

  • targeted: the support will focus on the specific challenges involved in creating value from open banking for UK small businesses;
  • optional: we’re sure you’ll find the support useful, but there’s no obligation to use it;
  • varied: we’re teaming up with experts in law & regulation, user experience, data analysis, investment readiness and more;
  • accessible: our partners will offer a mix of 1:1s, drop-ins, workshops and webinars; and
  • responsive: no to generic sessions that read like blog post titles (’10 tips for GREAT user experience!’), yes to support built around the problems you’re actually facing.

You can meet the partners we’ve signed up so far below.

Legal & Regulatory – Kemp Little

As a specialist technology law firm with a fintech focus, our range of experience, our skillsets and our approach are extremely well suited to advising you. Having always focused on technology, we have developed a specialisation in working with start-ups at all different stages of their growth cycle. Our firm has been built up around exactly the areas where you are likely to need advice – IP, data protection, data licensing, commercial contracting, and of course financial regulatory. We have the experience and ability to separate the essentials from the nice-to-haves and focus on the issues that really matter to a growing business, helping you to attain a balance between legal protection and commercial viability.

We’ll adapt quickly to give you different styles of advice based on your commercial needs. You’ll be able to draw down a pot of funding for individual advice, giving you the freedom to choose where you want support, just as our regular clients do. We’ll provide you with a briefing document, written in clear English, covering the General Data Protection Regulation, PSD2 and existing IP law. And we’ll convene small workshops with you and other participants facing similar legal challenges. Finally, you’ll also get free access to our award-winning FlightDeck service, a repository of legal documents and guidance notes designed specifically for start-ups.

We look forward to working with you.

Chris Hill
Partner, Kemp Little

User Experience – Mint Digital

Mint is delighted to be involved in a breakthrough moment for financial services. As user experience partners, we’ll offer Open Up Challenge participants a flexible program of UX support to help you turn your ideas into products that are easy and convenient for SMEs to use.

As a digital consultancy with a record of startup success, we’ll use our knowledge of product development to help you act on user-centred design principles and test your  iterations effectively. One particular challenge we’ll help you navigate is delivering a good user experience while also communicating the security protocols people expect from financial products.

We look forward to working with the best and brightest of the fintech community to take the first step towards open banking in the UK.

Stuart Waterman
Strategist, Mint Digital

Investment Readiness – FINTECH Circle

FINTECH Circle – as a global community of more than 70,000 fintech entrepreneurs, investors, financial services experts and tech visionaries globally – strongly believes that collaboration via open APIs will determine the future of banking. That’s why the Open Up Challenge is so strategic and valuable. We’ll be supporting you in three ways:

First, our Investment Readiness Programme will help startups and established companies identify, prepare for and ultimately win seed stage and expansion capital.

Second, our Strategic Partnership Programme will prompt you to think more deeply about those relationships – with investors, marketing partners, advisors and others – that will boost your business’ growth. We’ll open doors where we can. And we’ll convene a high-impact networking event where you can pitch in front of an influential network.

Finally, we’ll support your online strategy and amplify your press releases and success stories by sharing them with our 70,000 members and followers on Social Media.

We can’t wait to meet you in person. In the meantime please join us on Twitter.

Susanne Chishti,
CEO, FINTECH Circle & Co-Editor of The FINTECH Book

Nicole Anderson
CEO, FINTECH Circle Innovate


Exclusive Access to Data and APIs

Our Open Up Data Sandbox provides access via API to real anonymised transaction data and other kinds of data to help you design and test your propositions.

We have a close working relationship with Open Banking Limited – the body responsible for building the final public Open Banking APIs – and the Sandbox will, so far as possible, reflect the environment awaiting you in 2018 when the APIs go live.

The Sandbox is being developed by Capco, our technical partner, with input from the fintech and data science community. Check out the information below and get in touch with your feedback (open a live chat here or email openupchallenge@nesta.org.uk).

The Sandbox will go live on 10 July 2017.


Data Available in the Sandbox

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Through the Sandbox we expect you to be able to access:

  • real anonymised account and transaction data;
  • product and other reference data provided by UK banks; and
  • service quality and other supplementary data provided by Business Banking Insight and other third party data providers.

You can see a data dictionary for the Sandbox here. Discussions with the banks who will be providing anonymised data for the Sandbox are still ongoing, meaning we can’t guarantee this will be the final outcome, but we’re not expecting any major changes.

Small Business Data

  • a full list of business current accounts, including flags for promotional rates;
  • a full list of unsecured loans below £25,000 that they currently have, current interest rates paid and whether they have insurance for the accounts;
  • features of the accounts they currently hold, such as the presence of internet banking and relationship managers;
  • transaction data going back several years (number of years to be defined), including the types and amounts of each transaction, along with some information on the counterparties
  • end-of-day account balances;
  • overdraft limit changes to the account;
  • a breakdown of monthly fees that have been incurred by the account, listing the type of fee and the number of events triggering it;
  • an indicative credit rating; and
  • background information including age, location and SIC code and anoymised to a suitable level.

Bank Data

  • branch data, including: locations of fixed branches, routes of mobile branches, opening hours, services provided in each branch, types of customer eligible for using the branch, and notices of any planned closures;
  • ATM data, including locations with both postal address and coordinates, environment and access restrictions, services and languages supported, and currencies and denomination of notes available;
  • data on business current accounts offered by the bank, including: eligibility criteria, fees and services, pricing structure and promotional terms;
  • data on small business loans offered by the bank, including: eligibility criteria, fees, terms, minimum and maximum loan amounts and an indication of pricing based on tiers;
  • data on commercial credit cards offered by the bank, including: eligibility criteria, fees, types of card, features, credit limits and balance and cash advance rates.

Functional View of the Sandbox

Below is a description of the functional view of the Sandbox.

You’ll draw on three sets of APIs:

  • Reference APIs: expose reference data (ATMs, branches, personal account offerings, business account offerings, loan offerings and credit card offerings) from each bank.
  • SME APIs: expose information about the small business users you create (location, SIC code, bank accounts, transactions).
  • Portal APIs: provide the business logic for accessing the Portal Interface.

There are two ways you can interact with the Sandbox: via a Portal Interface or via an application you’ve created (you may want to get up and running with the Portal Interface before interacting with your Sandbox via your application). You’ll be able to:

  • self-register to get access to the Sandbox;
  • authenticate and retrieve an API key to call the dashboard, reference, and transaction APIs;
  • create small business user profiles linked to anonymised real world data (including bank accounts, transaction data, location, SIC code and turnover) – then log in as the user to retrieve their information;
  • log in as small business users to retrieve
  • oversee analytics on the number of endpoints you are calling;
  • view the throttling restriction on the number of calls you can make to the sandbox;
  • view interactive API documentation detailing all the endpoints and their fields;
  • view which APIs are up to date with Open Banking Limited’s latest specifications for the real-world APIs coming in 2018, which APIs are not yet aligned, and which APIs are unique to the Sandbox (we’ll add some APIs to simulate accessing data you’ll get from small business users when you go live); and
  • view information about the Open Up Challenge, including events, important dates, T&Cs, contact information and other updates.

Technical View of the Sandbox

Below is a description of the technical view of the Sandbox.

  • Users are able to register for an API key by visiting the Sandbox portal in their browser.
  • On the portal users can additionally view API documentation and dev notes.
  • Once users have created their account they can use the API key to begin consuming the APIs.
  • Each API is mapped to a distinct business functionality.
  • The service attempts to access the data via secure connections.
  • Banks upload flat files with the data to the cloud file system.
  • Anonymised small business and Business Current Account data can be loaded from flat files straight into the database.

Authorisation Journey

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Accessing Data

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API Specification

Below is a high-level API specification based on the Reference and SME APIs. All APIs will be RESTful.

Note that the API specification is still under development. Sign up to our mailing list to receive updates.

You’ll need to register for the Sandbox portal to get your API key.

Reference APIs

  • /atms;
  • /branches;
  • /business-current-accounts;
  • /unsecured-sme-loans; and
  • /commercial-credit-cards.

SME APIs

  • /transactions – get transactions and other information;
  • /business-current-accounts – get small businesses’ current accounts;
  • /loans – get small business loan data;
  • /creditcards – get small business credit card data; and
  • /sme/login – log in as a small business user.

Alignment with Open Banking Limited

Through our relationship with Open Banking Limited, the body responsible for building the 2018 APIs and standards, the Open Up Data Sandbox is aligned, as far as possible, with:

  • the APIs and standards that will go live from 2018; and
  • the data that UK banks will be required to make available from 2018 through open banking APIs (our Sandbox contains real-world, anonymised banking transaction data provided by five of the UK’s largest providers of SME banking).

If you’re accepted onto the Challenge, you’ll be kept updated throughout about the alignment between our Sandbox APIs and Open Banking Limited’s progress.

On 27 April 2017, Open Banking Limited and the Financial Conduct Authority joined the Open Up Challenge and Capco to discuss the progress toward the 2018 open banking API deadline and alignment with the Open Up Data Sandbox. You can see the slides from that presentation here.


Data Throttling

You’ll be able to access a maximum number of records over the 20 weeks that the sandbox will be live, and we expect this limit to be approximately 10,000 records.

The flow rate of access will be flexible, with a larger amount available earlier in the process so that you can explore what the data looks like and test your propositions.

In line with our security commitments, we’re preventing bulk downloads of data.


Data Security

The Sandbox has been designed with security in mind. Contact us (webchat or email openupchallenge@nesta.org.uk) to discuss our data security measures and your responsibilities should you be accepted onto the Challenge.

  • All connections to the APIs will be encrypted (HTTPS).
  • All internet facing APIs will have both token based authentication (JWT) as well as an API key.
  • All services will run within a Virtual Private Cloud, providing network segregation and security.
  • Secure access to the servers using security groups & network access control lists.
  • Multi factor authentication will be used.
  • Data will be stored encrypted.
  • Security auditing and logging of all user actions will occur.
  • A dedicated Key Management Service will be used for the management of cryptographic keys, e.g. database encryption.
  • Two penetration (pen) tests will be completed during the build of the Sandbox.

Backend Technologies & Languages

The backend stack for the Sandbox uses latest technologies:


Sandbox Terms & Conditions

If you are accepted onto the prize as one of our 20 partipants, you’ll need to sign an Agreement with Capco, the technical partner responsible for building and maintaining the Open Up Data Sandbox.

The Agreement will outline ways of working and mutual responsibilities. T&Cs for using the Sandbox will including (among other things):

  • Access to the Sandbox is only granted for the purposes of the Open Up Challenge.
  • Capco will ensure the security of the Sandbox and your data.
  • All Intellectual Property Rights in any material (including software) you provide to Capco will remain yours.
  • Capco will ensure the confidentiality of your information, including information relating to your products, prototypes, strategies, plans, and your history of activity using the Sandbox.
  • You’ll need to implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to prevent (without limitation) unauthorised or unlawful processing, accidental loss, destruction, damage, alteration or disclosure of data in the Sandbox.
  • You’ll be subject to liability associated with data leaks or breaches due to use or misuse of the Sandbox and/or its data. Your liability will be capped at an appropriate level.
  • You’ll need to agree to delete data obtained from the Sandbox at the end of the Challenge.
  • You’ll need to abide by any restrictions required by the banks who have provided data to the Sandbox.
  • You may not share data obtained from the Sandbox with third parties are more generally you’ll not allow the data to be used in any ways incompatible with the purpose of the Challenge.
  • Your access to the Sandbox will be controlled and throttled in order to limit the total amount of data you can access over the course of the Challenge.
  • Capco warrant that the Sandbox will function throughout the Challenge – in case of interruptions, Capco will use reasonable endeavours to keep the Sandbox operational.
  • Capco will treat the 20 participants fairly and equally and will ensure all participants have the same access to the Sandbox.