Innovation Stage

Applications have now closed for Stage 1 (Innovation) of the Open Up Challenge. Congratulations to our 20 winning teams.

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 an overview of the prize fund at both Stage 1 and Stage 2. Check back here toward the end of 2017 for more details on the Stage 2 prize.

Prize Fund – Stage 1

  • Cash Awards
    • Each of our 20 Stage 1 participants has received a £50k up-front development grant, and are competing to share in a £1m reward pot if they’re one of up to ten successful Stage 1 prize winners.
  • Exclusive Early-Stage Access to Data
    • Stage 1 participants are developing their products with the support of a Data Sandbox, containing one of the largest anonymised UK banking transaction datasets ever released, and APIs aligned with the forthcoming Open Banking standard.
  • Expert Support
    • Our 20 Stage 1 participants have access to expert support provided by leading practitioners – covering legal and regulatory considerations (Kemp Little), user experience (Mint Digital) and investment readiness (FINTECH Circle) – to help them prepare for the 2018 open banking environment.

Key Dates – Stage 1


  • Applications for Stage 1 have now closed.
  • Grant winners have been notified.
  • The Open Up Data Sandbox has gone 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.

Assessment Criteria – Stage 1

The assessment criteria below were used to decide the Challenge’s 20 Stage 1 participants. The same criteria will be used to guide prize awards made in December 2017.

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.