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Professional & Financial Services Data Access Innovation Lab: ESG

Fund Name

Professional & Financial Services Data Access Innovation Lab: ESG

Project Value

Up to £2m



Innovate UK and ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council), both part of UKRI (UK Research and Innovation), will invest up to £8 million to develop responsible data access methods in the professional (including legal and accountancy) and financial services sectors (including insurance, lending, advisory, and payment and transaction systems).

This is phase 1 of a 2-phase competition. In phase 1, individuals can apply to take part in a 3-day residential innovation lab on behalf of their organisation.

Check Your Eligibility

Fund details

The innovation lab will run from 10 to 12 October 2023. The participants will work together to develop collaborative proposals for research and innovation projects.

After the innovation lab, during phase 2 of the project, consortia will have 8 weeks to finalise their proposals before submitting them for assessment.

This competition aims to speed up the responsible adoption of AI and data technologies and solutions in the professional (including legal and accountancy) and financial services sectors (including insurance, lending, advisory, and payment and transaction systems) by enabling better access to data.

The process and activities within the innovation lab may be unconventional, challenging and unexpected. By applying, you are agreeing to take part fully, enthusiastically and constructively.

Project proposals submitted after the innovation lab must focus on solutions that:

  • address Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) needs and opportunities
  • identify and develop data access methods to enable application for one or more of the sectors in scope
  • address incentives, opportunities and ongoing business models to ensure a sustainable data access approach
  • consider broader, non-technical aspects of data access methods, including ethics, human behaviour, inclusion, bias and privacy

Your project proposal must:

  • quantify how the solution can be exploited
  • address regulatory issues and constraints
  • evidence potential for impact

Portfolio approach

Innovate UK and ESRC want innovation lab attendees to come from a variety of different areas: Professional and Financial Services (PFS), businesses, technology suppliers, research and technology organisations, and public bodies.

They intend to fund a variety of projects in phase 2 across the different professional and financial service sectors, technologies and varying technological maturities.

Specific themes

In phase 2, following the innovation lab, Innovate UK and ESRC are particularly encouraging applications that:

  • cover more than one of the listed sectors in professional and financial services
  • address sector-wide needs
  • are from consortia that include all relevant stakeholders, for example, regulators, users, service providers and technology providers
  • are multi-disciplinary and include social sciences as well as science and engineering
  • develop solutions benefiting underserved communities and businesses
  • are ethically appropriate and have evidenced their approaches to ensuring this

Specific themes:

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)

Projects must focus on ESG under this theme.

Projects may explore:

  • increasing visibility and exploitation of new and emerging data sources in ESG
  • solutions that tackle market fragmentation around ESG reporting
  • scalable solutions for companies around non-financial reporting
  • other societal and governance opportunities

This list is not exhaustive.

Following the innovation lab, Innovate UK and ESRC will fund business-led industrial research projects and experimental development projects, as defined in the general guidance.

Projects they will not fund:

  • fundamental research
  • feasibility studies
  • projects outside of the scope
  • projects not led by an innovation lab attendee



To apply to attend the innovation lab, you must:

  • commit to attending and staying overnight for all 3 days (2 nights) at the UK location, which will be announced in the next few weeks
  • show you can work collaboratively and have the relevant skills, expertise and experience to represent your organisation
  • describe the data, finances and other resources your organisation can commit
  • be nominated to act as a representative on behalf of your organisation
  • attend on behalf of a UK-based business, regulatory body, academic organisation, research and technology organisation (RTO) or charity
  • have the technical or sector expertise necessary to collaborate with other participants on developing solutions to the challenge

In the two weeks before the innovation lab, Innovate UK and ESRC will have an online webinar to start the process of introductions and background material so that they can make the best use of the limited time in the lab. Details will be released closer to the time.

They are looking for a broad range of expertise, disciplines and backgrounds, bringing together people who would not normally work collectively. The aim is to ensure diversity of thinking, experience and expertise.

Your application to attend will be considered by a range of assessors, which will include an occupational psychologist.

The assessment will look for evidence that you have:

  • an open, engaging, flexible, imaginative and creative outlook
  • the ability to develop innovative ideas
  • the ability to work constructively with people from diverse disciplines
  • the enthusiasm needed to work with strangers intensively over 3 days away from home

Project team

Consortia created at the innovation lab will submit their collaborative project proposals through phase 2 of this competition on the Innovation Funding Service.

The lead applicant organisation must be a UK-based business and must have attended the innovation lab.

To be eligible to submit a final project proposal after the innovation lab each of the organisations in your project team must:

  • be a UK-based business, regulatory body, academic organisation, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from the UK

If selected, your phase 2 project must start by 1 April 2024 and be completed by 31 March 2026.


For phase 2, Innovate UK and ESRC have allocated up to £8 million to fund innovation projects developed based on innovation lab proposals. Each project can claim a maximum grant of up to £2 million.

Any research organisations collaborating as part of a consortium may share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

Talk to us today if you would like to apply for this opportunity.

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