UK’s Nesta drives small business fintech innovation forward

If your looking for the next wave of innovation in small business banking and possible investment opportunities, then Nesta’s Open Up Challenge is probably a good place to start.

Nesta – the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts – was established in the UK in 1998, with a mandate to take risks and back innovations over the long term, specifically projects that tackle the big challenges of our time. By doing this outside of short-term government funding cycles or shifts in political fashion, the organisation believes it can facilitate real economic impact.

And what could be a bigger challenge than figuring out how fintech startups can help small businesses take advantage of the upcoming Open Banking directive that will come into force in January of next year in the UK?

Stage 1 of the Open Up Challenge launched in January of this year, with 20 fintech startups granted a £50k up-front development grant in July. A prize pool of £1m will be shared amongst Stage 1 winners in December.

So who’s in contention for Nesta’s big prize?

Big names like Tide and Iwoca are featured, while up and comers like Teller, an api for your bank account and Coconut, a bank for freelancers, are certainly ones to watch. You can see the full list of 20 here.

Where to next? In January 2018 Nesta will launch Stage 2, aimed at ‘Market Ready’ fintechs in the SME space. In this round, 5 startups will share in a sizeable grant pot of £500k, with a further £2m up for grabs.

With other countries dragging their feet on open data, now looks like an exciting time to consider expanding to the UK, and front running your next wave of your product development there. And with money on the table and access to the epicentre of fintech – London – what more reason do you need to book your flight?

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business.

One comment

  1. An additional piece of context is that NESTA’s bank-funded prize was mandated by the Competition & Markets Authority (the UK’s competition regulator), which has concerns about the lack of switching of UK SME current accounts, and about the over-reliance on bank lending among UK SMEs.

    As a result, the criteria for Stage 2 entrants – of ‘Market Ready’ propositions – is far more specific than the current Stage 1: in Stage 2, entrants must “at a minimum facilitate intelligent, tailored comparison” of SME banking and credit.

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