Funding competition UK Privacy Enhancing Technologies Challenge Prize

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £700,000 to develop innovative privacy solutions to two real world challenge use cases.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) to run a Privacy Enhancing Technologies Challenge. This is part of an aligned programme with the US National Science Foundation, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The aim of this Challenge is to accelerate the development and adoption of privacy-preserving federated learning approaches, and build trust in their adoption.

To achieve this, participants are asked to develop approaches that:

  • leverage a combination of input and outputs privacy techniques
  • deliver strong privacy guarantees against a set of common threats and privacy attacks
  • develop privacy technologies that are capable of supporting machine learning tasks in one or two predefined use cases in the financial crime and public health sectors

The challenge is split into 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: Your approach. You will develop a technical white paper which will describe your proposed approach
  • Phase 2: Solution development. If successful in phase 1, you will be invited to develop your solution
  • Phase 3: Testing. The top solutions will be tested by dedicated Red Teams

Up to £700,000 is available in funding across the three phases of the competition.

Applicants successful in Phase 1 and invited to Phase 2 will be able to apply for up to £50,000 to develop their solutions in Phase 2. Up to 10 awards of £10,000 will also be given tothe highest scoring projects from phase 1. The £10,000 can only be used to support with the growth of your business and the costs associated with this must be evidenced.

This application process represents the UK side of the challenge. US applicants must apply to the US competition. Each organisation can only apply once into either the UK or US competition. This includes if your organisation is linked in anyway.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

£10,000 awards will be awarded to up to 10 of the highest scoring applicants from phase 1 to help grow their organisation. Your phase 2 project’s total costs can be up to £50,000 and will help you to develop your solution.

Who can apply

Your Project

If successful and invited, your phase 2 project must:

  • have total costs of up to £50,000
  • start by 25 October 2022
  • end by 24 January 2023
  • last up to 3 months
  • carry out the majority of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

You can only claim for eligible project costs for your phase 2 projects.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian source.

If your total project’s costs or duration falls outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your application has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible. Your application will then not be sent for assessment.

Lead organisation

Your organisation must be UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Our funding rules will give you more information on organisation types.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

You must include all other organisations you wish to work with on your project as subcontractors in your project costs and in your answer to question 6.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

Your organisation can lead on one proposal in each theme only. You can only receive funding for one successful proposal.

Previous applications

Given the specific nature of this challenge a previously submitted application cannot be used to apply for this competition(though participants are welcome to reuse relevant background details from previous applications).

We will not award you funding if you have:

Eligibility Tree

Please find attached the Eligibility Tree regarding this competition.

Minimal Financial Assistance (and De minimis where applicable)

Grant funding in this competition is awarded as Minimal Financial assistance (MFA). This allows public bodies to award up to £315,000 to an enterprise in a 3-year rolling financial period.

In your application, you will be asked to declare previous funding received by you. This will form part of the financial checks ahead of Innovate UK making a formal grant offer.

To establish your eligibility, we need to check that our support added to the amount you have previously received does not exceed the limit of £315,000 in the ‘applicable period’.

The applicable period is made up of:

(a) the elapsed part of the current financial year, and

(b) the two financial years immediately preceding the current financial year.

You must include any funding which you have received during the applicable period under:

You do not need to include aid or subsidies which have been granted on a different basis (such as an aid award granted under the General Block Exemption Regulation).

Further information about the UK subsidy control requirements can be found in:

EU Commission rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK’s International Obligations to Subsidy Control or the De minimis rules, you should take independent legal advice. We cannot advise on individual eligibility or your legal obligations.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


Up to £700,000 has been allocated to fund innovation projects.

Up to 10 £10,000 awards will be awarded for the best solutions from phase 1 to help grow their organisation.

If you are invited to phase 2 you can request up to £50,000 to develop your solution against a synthetic dataset provided by the organisers.

If you would like access to synthetic datasets referenced in the technical brief, you must request this by emailing with your application number once you have started your application.

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the Company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under European Commission De minimis.

If you are applying for an award funded under European Commission Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Your proposal

Please note that minor updates have been made to the technical brief PDFs on 18th Aug, as per the email sent to all participants who had registered by then. We've become aware that due to a broken link, some participants may have downloaded old versions since then. Please check that you're looking at the latest ones - v1.1. The changes between v1.0 and v1.1 are relatively minor, and listed in Annex B in the PDFs.

The aim of this competition is to develop innovative privacy-preserving solutions that address one or both of the specific challenge use cases in financial crime or public health.

You must develop privacy-preserving federated learning solutions that:

  • use a combination of input and output privacy techniques
  • demonstrate the ability to protect privacy against a set of defined attacks and threat models
  • effectively accomplish a set of analytical or predictive tasks specified in the use case provided

You must determine the set of privacy technologies used in your solutions.

For example:

  • any de-identification techniques
  • differential privacy
  • cryptographic techniques
  • combinations that could be a part of the end-to-end solutions

We encourage projects that:

  • display a high degree of novel innovation
  • rigorously describe how their solution will provide guarantees of privacy appropriate to the use case
  • consider how their solution, or a future version of it, could be applied in a production environment

We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

Your project must address one or both of the pre-defined, high-impact use cases.

You must specify the use case in your application, and can submit technical solutions for both use cases. The technical evaluation of these will be treated separately.

A full technical briefing is attached to each use case, providing details of the datasets, analytical tasks, and evaluation criteria that will be used during the challenge. The briefings will also outline the requirements for what should be included in the white paper.

Use case 1: Financial Crime Prevention

This use case is focused on enhancing cross-organisation and cross-border data access, supporting efforts to combat money laundering and other financial crime.

You will utilise synthetic datasets representing data held by the SWIFT payments network and datasets held by partner banks.

This is a high-impact use case for novel privacy enhancing technologies. Successful solutions will allow for effective detection of illegal financial activity while addressing the challenges arising between enabling sufficient access to data and successfully limiting the identifiability of innocent individuals and possibility of inference of their sensitive information from that data.

The scale of the problem is vast: the UN estimates that US$800-2000bn is laundered each year, representing 2-5% of global GDP.

A full technical briefing for this use case can be found here.

Use case 2: Pandemic response and forecasting

This use case is focused on enabling privacy-preserving access to health and mobility data in order to improve forecasting related to public health emergencies, and there by bolster response capabilities for future emergencies, including pandemics.

You will utilise synthetic datasets representing data held by the University of Virginia. This use case is an opportunity to prepare for future epidemics and public health emergencies.

A full technical briefing for this use case can be found here.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • projects that involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • projects that involve primary production in agriculture
  • projects not allowed under De minimis regulation restrictions
  • projects not allowed under Minimal Financial Assistance
  • activities relating to the purchase of road freight transport
  • projects dependent on export performance
  • projects that are dependent on domestic inputs usage

20 July 2022
Competition opens
4 August 2022
Online briefing event: Register to attend
21 September 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
24 October 2022
Applicants notified
25 October 2022
Phase 2 opens
24 January 2023
Phase 2 closes
7 February 2023
Phase 2 applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions (including technical white paper).
  3. Finances.

Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

You must complete an Equality Diversity and Inclusion survey. You must complete your survey to submit the application.

Application details

You must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will tell you the reason why.

Your answer can be up to 100 words long.

Application questions

Text update 4 August 2022: Appendix guidance added to question 9.

The assessors will score all your answers apart from questions 1 to 3 which are not scored. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess.

The white paper score in question 4 will constitute 80% of the final score. All other questions will constitute a further 20%.

You must answer all questions. Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation and any subcontractors working on your project. We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all applicants.

Question 2. Minimal Financial Assistance declaration (not scored)

You must download the declaration template. You must complete this, declaring any funding received under Minimal Financial Assistance (previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights) or De minimis awards, (from any source of public funding) in the applicable period.

You must complete all the fields on your form before uploading.

You must write “declaration attached” in the text box.

You must upload the completed declaration as an appendix. It must be a PDF and no larger than 10 MB.

You must keep all documentation relating to Minimal Financial Assistance (previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights) and other De minimis awards for a period of 6 years and be prepared to release it to any public funding body which requests it.

Question 3. Specific themes (not scored)

Select one of the themes from the ‘specific themes’ in the ‘Scope’ section of this competition for your project.

  1. Financial Crime Prevention only
  2. Pandemic response and forecasting only
  3. Both

Question 4. White paper 80%
You must upload your white paper providing the technical details of your approach and select ‘yes’ once you have done this.

80% of the overall score will be assessed based on your whitepaper. Full details of the requirements for this, and the criteria that it is assessed against, are provided in the technical briefs for financial crime and public health use cases.

You must upload your white paper as an appendix. It must be a PDF and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 5. Innovation Portfolio

How does your projects activities fit within your innovation portfolio?


  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • (if your application includes a commercial organisation) how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • (if your application includes a commercial organisation) how it will make you more competitive
  • (if your application includes a research organisation) how it will progress the state of the art of research in this area

Question 6. Team and resources

Who is in your phase 2 project team and what are their roles?


  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

Question 7. Costs and value for money

How much will your phase 2 project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer? How do you plan to use the innovation generated beyond the challenge itself?

In terms of your project goals, explain:

  • your total project costs
  • the grant you are requesting
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • any subcontractor costs and why they are critical to your project

Question 8. Project outcomes

How are you going to grow your business and increase long term productivity as a result of your phase 2 project?


If there is any commercial organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • who are your target customers or end users
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the target markets you have identified during or after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 9. Project management

How will you manage your phase 2 project effectively?


  • the main work packages of your project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones, taking into account the possible impact of further COVID-19 restrictions

You can submit a Gantt Chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10. Added value

How will this public funding help you to accelerate or enhance your approach to developing your project towards commercialisation? What impact would this award have on the organisations involved?


  • what advantages would public funding offer your project, for example, appeal to investors, more partners, reduced risk or a faster route to market, (this list is not exhaustive)
  • the likely impact of the project outcomes on the organisations involved
  • what other routes of investment have you already approached
  • what your project would look like without public funding
  • how this project would change the R&D activities of all the organisations involved

3. Finances

You must complete your own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.

You must enter £10,000 into the other costs section of IFS to be considered for the additional £10,000 award. The £10,000 can only be used to support with the growth of your business and the costs associated with this must be evidenced.

You must also enter your total project costs, up to £50,000 for phase 2 in the labour costs section.

For applicants unsuccessful in being awarded the £10,000, this cost will be removed from your total project costs.

Background and further information

This competition forms part of challenges run jointly by the UK and US governments, as announced by the Secretary of State for DCMS at the White House Summit for Democracy in late 2021.Challenge solutions will be showcased at the second Summit for Democracy, to be convened by President Joe Biden, in early 2023.

As you develop your solutions, there will be opportunities to engage with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), NHS England, and the UKRI-funded Data and Analytics Research Environments UK (DARE UK).

We are keen to attract a wide range of applications to this challenge competition. If you are unsure about any part of the application, please contact us so that we can help you.

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (each an “agency”).

Your submitted application and any other information you provide at the application stage can be submitted to each agency on an individual basis for its storage, processing and use. Any relevant information produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other and also the dedicated Red teams, for their individual storage, processing and use.

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and vice versa.

Innovate UK and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) are directly accountable to you for their holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information Data is held in accordance with their own policies Accordingly, Innovate UK, and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

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