Innovate UK Seeks Blockchain Pitches in £8 Million Startup Competition

A U.K. government agency is reaching out to blockchain startups in a competition that is focused on digital health solutions.

In a notice from Innovate UK, a nondepartmental public office that is designed to promote innovation through grants and investments, it is offering up to £8 million for U.K. businesses to work on innovation projects that tackle the biggest healthcare challenges.

The competition is being run through the digital health technology catalyst, which is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. It’s designed to support the creation of digital health products that meet the requirements of the NHS. This is part of a new £35 million funding programme over four years.

According to Innovate UK, ‘digital health promises to have a profound impact on the approach, delivery and administration of healthcare, for the benefit of patients.’

In its notice, it said:

“The types of digital health projects we will fund include (but are not limited to) … emerging digital health technologies with a demonstrated healthcare benefit, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, blockchain and the Internet of Things.”

The competition opens today (31st July) and runs until the 11th October at 12 p.m.; however, the deadline for registrations is the 4th October, 2017. Applicants will be notified on the 17th October.

It’s only open to U.K.-based firms and projects must start by the 1st February, 2018.

Innovate UK stipulate that feasibility projects must range in size from total project costs of £50,000 to £75,000 and need to be completed within one year.

Whereas industrial research and experimental development projects must range in size from total project costs of £500,000 to £1 million and need to be completed within three years.

According to the government agency,

“[Projects] must have the potential to achieve one or more of the following:

  • improve patient outcomes

  • transform healthcare delivery

  • enable more efficient delivery of healthcare.”

It adds:

“In this competition we won’t fund projects that:

  • don’t have digital technology as the project core

  • focus on developing medical devices (unless enabled using digital technology as a core component)

  • seek to discover or develop medicines

  • seek only to develop data or record-keeping systems.”

The aim of the competition is to speed up the development of innovative digital solutions that can be utilised for healthcare challenges, thus helping the sector to grow.

Funding Projects through Innovate UK

This isn’t the first time that Innovate UK has funded projects in the past.

In 2016, the government agency awarded £248,000 to a startup that was building a cross-border payments tool using the ethereum technology.

According to a report from CoinDesk, the money was awarded to London-based Tramonex where the money was reported to be used to further the development of its cross-border blockchain tool.

At the time, Tramonex co-founder and CEO Amine Berraoui said:

“We are quite advanced in our prototype already, it’s more about looking for different approaches to handle the technology. Then to develop the commercial clients.”

Once completed the prototype will be submitted to the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for approval.

Last September, Innovate UK launched a new blockchain project in a £15 million competition. In the government’s Emerging and Enabling Technologies Programme, Innovate UK were seeking to ‘identify and speed up’ technology by providing funds worth up to £15 million.

According to the competition description, it reads:

“Our aim is to inspire the new products, processes and services of tomorrow; those with the potential to unlock billions of pounds of value to industry and disrupt existing markets.”

The aim of this competition is to help businesses broaden out innovation activities, to find new sources of revenue from new products, processes or services.

Just through these competitions and projects it shows how important new technologies such as the blockchain is to Innovate UK and how much they want the country to harness its potentials.

Competitions Provide Boost to Innovative Solutions

There are several competitions taking place that are aiming to find the next big thing in the blockchain space.

In Hong Kong, a technology programme is hoping to unearth the next fintech blockbuster. In a report from the South China Morning Post, 10 technology startups have been selected for a 12-week mentorship programme that is backed by 18 major financial establishments.

These include companies from Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and the United States, who are aiming to implement innovation that could aid financial institutions within the Asia-Pacific.

Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific is who picked the 10 technology startups.

Evangelos Kotsovinos, the Asia head of infrastructure and China chief information officer for Morgan Stanley, said:

“Asia provides unique challenges and opportunities that are driving true fintech innovation here.”

“Working with labs such as Accenture’s is a great way for Morgan Stanley to identify technologies that can help us grow and evolve our business, but also to give back to the community by advising start-ups on how to commercialise their technology to meet the demands of a global financial services firm.”

According to the SCMP, some of the technology startups include Block, a South Korean blockchain infrastructure provider; CoverGo, a Hong Kong-based company that automates manual insurance processes; KapitalWise, a U.S. startup, that provides a micro-investment platform; and microUmbrella.com, which delivers a micro-insurance buying and claims platform.

Piyush Singh, Accenture’s senior managing director of financial services for Asia-Pacific, said:

“The financial institutions in the FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific select start-ups who are trying to address, in a practical manner, current real-world fintech challenges facing the industry.”

Now more than ever, financial firms need to maintain pace with the rate at which the technological world is developing. For it to ensure this, it must embrace fintech, but the only way for that to be achieved is for the finance sector to research new methods of doing things. To do so, means a more efficient system that is free from errors and cuts down on costs.

As the former CEO of Barclays once said, the financial services sector needs to open itself to fintech if it wishes to remain relevant.

Speaking at a Money 20/20 fintech conference in Copenhagen in June, Anthony Jenkins said:

“Banks can avoid [becoming irrelevant], but they have to act now, and what they really need to do is think about innovation, but also transformation, doing something radically different.”

Featured image from Shutterstock.