Funding competition SBRI: higher education open data, digital tools for prospective students

Organisations can apply to develop digital tools using graduate outcomes data to help prospective higher education students make decisions.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition.

Across the UK, prospective higher education students often make uninformed decisions about where and what to study.

The competition’s aim is to ensure prospective students have access to data about the outcomes of subjects and Higher Education providers. This is to help them make informed decisions about where and what to study.

The Department for Education (DfE) is looking for ideas for creating free, accessible, commercially sustainable and innovative digital tools to help prospective students make better decisions about their future. These must:

  • be based on graduate salary and employment outcomes
  • use the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) earnings data from 21 June 2018 and other relevant open data

This is phase 1 of a potential 2-phase competition.

Funding type


Project size

Projects can have total costs of up to £25,000, including VAT. They must start by 10 September 2018 and last up to one month.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with businesses, research organisations or third sector organisations

Funding and project details

This is phase 1 of a potential 2-phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to take part in phase 2.

The Department for Education (DfE) reserves the right to adjust the funding allocations between the phases. The total funding available for the competition may be subject to change.

Your proposal must demonstrate the ability to test with end users in Great Britain as part of their phase 1 proposal.

Phase 1

Phase 1 will award research and development contracts.

A total of up to £125,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1 of the competition. It is anticipated that phase 1 feasibility study contracts will be in the region of up to £25,000, including VAT, for projects lasting up to one month.

Phase 2

If it is decided to proceed to phase 2, it will award up to 2 research and development contracts to successful phase 1 applicants to develop and test a prototype.

A total fund of up to £300,000, including VAT, could be available for projects lasting up to 3 months.

Research and development requirements

Your application must have at least 50% of its contract value allocated directly and exclusively to research and development (R&D) services. R&D can cover solution exploration and design. It can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to improve prospective students’ access to valuable data on graduate employment outcomes.

In phase 1 research and development (R&D) contracts will be awarded to demonstrate the technical and commercial feasibility of the proposed project. Your project must conduct user needs assessments and market research to map out competition in the higher education (HE) information sector.

Your proposal to develop a digital tool for prospective students must include:

  • technical, commercial, financial and design specifications
  • plans for user discussions or testing to ensure the proposed solution meets prospective students’ needs
  • the use of graduate outcomes data

You must provide detailed specification documents outlining the technical design. These must explain how the proposed solution provides a more accessible, sustainable and innovative digital tool than existing HE digital tools.

In your financial and commercial business case explain what capital investment will be needed after the tool is designed. Give details of your preferred commercial model for launching the tool and supporting it over the long term.

We welcome bids from organisations that bring together a consortium of sector specialists.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund solutions that:

  • are not digital
  • are not designed and tested for end users in Great Britain
  • do not use graduate outcomes data

25 June 2018
Competition opens
18 July 2018
Innovation day. Recording. Slides (scroll to bottom).
8 August 2018 12:00pm
Registration closes
15 August 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
5 September 2018
Applicants notified.
7 September 2018
Phase 1 contracts awarded.
30 September 2018
Date feedback provided by.

Before you start

To apply:

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

A selected panel of experts will assess the quality of your application. Only use Microsoft Word for the application form. If the application form cannot be read in Microsoft Word your application will be ineligible.

Background and further information

About SBRI competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness. SBRI supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services. It does this through the public procurement of research and development (R&D). SBRI generates new business opportunities for companies and provides a route to market for their ideas. It also bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies.

Further help and information

You can find information on how to enter this competition in the invitation to tender document, which is available for download on our secure site after registration.

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

Questions on the scope of this competition should be addressed directly to

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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