Open Up Challenge: A prize to shape the future of small business banking


London, 15 February 2017 - Nesta, the innovation foundation, is today launching the Open Up Challenge, a new £5m prize fund to inspire the creation of next-generation services, apps and tools designed for the UK’s 5 million small businesses. The Challenge is looking for 20 winning entries from anywhere in the world that will use Open Banking APIs – newly available from early 2018 – to transform the way small businesses discover, access and use core financial products.

 Winners will receive:

  • Cash awards – a £50k grant up-front each and a share of a further £3.5m if successful during the Challenge;
  • Exclusive access to the Open Up Data Sandbox containing one of the largest anonymised UK banking transaction datasets ever made available;
  • Fully funded technical and business support provided by leading practitioners, ranging from user experience to specialised legal and regulatory guidance.

The Open Up Challenge capitalises on the UK’s world-leading role in FinTech and Open Banking to support customer-focussed innovations that will help UK small businesses thrive in a connected digital economy. These could include tools that help small businesses:

  • Compare loan offers based on their specific needs and financial history;
  • Analyse their transaction history to provide insights that save them time or money;
  • Move their money around automatically to where it can earn the best return or minimise charges;
  • Help them predict and manage their cashflow proactively.

Chris Gorst, Open Up Challenge Prize Lead at Nesta, commented: “Open Banking has the potential to transform small business banking, leading to a step change in innovation and offering busy customers unprecedented transparency, convenience and control. The Open Up Challenge aims to make this a reality, by supporting innovators building next generation services centred around small businesses’ needs.

“The Challenge offers entrants a gateway to innovation through up-front grants and prizes from a £5m fund, business support from key influencers in the industry and exclusive access to our Open Up Data Sandbox with the largest dataset of its kind ever released by UK banks.”

The Open Up Challenge is part of a package of retail banking reforms which are recommended by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and aims to transform the way small businesses manage their finances. The Challenge is managed by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, who deliver innovation through Challenge Prizes including the Longitude Prize and the Inclusive Technology Prize. It is open to developer teams, start-ups, or established companies from anywhere in the world whose concept may be at idea stage or could be more advanced. Applications will be open between 23 March and 31 May 2017

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Lawrence Wintermeyer, CEO, Innovate Finance, said:

“The Open Up Challenge has the opportunity to revolutionise the UK's SME finance market. The challenge will leverage the expertise of FinTech innovators globally to ensure the UK is the world leader in open banking and small business finance.”

Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, added:

“We have consistently pushed for greater competition and choice in the small business financial market and believe that this is an issue that still needs resolving. I am delighted to be working with Nesta and the FSB will play a part to ensure the chosen option is clear, user-friendly and is inclusive of the smallest businesses that need the most help.”



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Notes to Editors:

About Open Up Challenge: (

The Open Up Challenge is a new £5m prize fund to inspire next generation services, apps and tools designed for the UK’s 5 million small businesses. The Prize offers successful entrants development grants, cash prizes, technical and business support and exclusive access to a unique data set provided by UK banks.

The Open Up Challenge is backed by the Competition and Markets Authority with funding from eight of the UK’s largest providers of SME banking (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Santander, AIB Group (UK) plc., Bank of Ireland UK and Danske Bank).The Open Up Challenge is run by Nesta's Challenge Prize Centre (through its wholly owned subsidiary Nesta Enterprises Limited).

About Nesta: (

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. Our mission is to spark and shape new ideas to improve how the world works for everyone. We use our knowledge, networks, funding and skills to take on big challenges, working in partnership with others to make change happen. We are a UK charity and our work is enabled by a financial endowment. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

About the CMA Remedies:

The Open Up Challenge is part of a package of retail banking reforms which are recommended by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).