Funding competition SBRI: developing responsive rural community connections

Combatting loneliness with solutions that enable communities to help each other in digitally and transport deprived areas.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition with funding provided by the GovTech Catalyst.

Monmouthshire is a rural county in South East Wales with a population of 92,800. Isolation and loneliness significantly impact people’s health and well-being in the county. This is a big challenge in areas with poor digital technology and transport.

Effective transport provision can help, but public service budget cuts result in less subsidised transport services and more reliance on private cars. Rural residents have difficulty accessing car sharing. Older people can find it difficult to drive, and restricted transport provision reduces opportunities for young people.

Digital innovations and technology could connect isolated people, transform public services and support transport opportunities. We are looking for proposals that provide support to individuals of all ages and communities. The aim is to reduce loneliness and connect rural communities through low cost, co-designed, user-friendly technology.

Funding type


Project size

We expect projects in phase 1 to range in size up to total costs of £50,000, including VAT. Projects must start by 23 November 2018 and can last up to 3 months. We expect to fund up to 5 projects.

Who can apply

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, the research base or the third sector as subcontractors


A total of up to £250,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1.

Applications must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively for 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 challenge consists of 3 parts, which can be incremental:

  1. How can we reduce loneliness for older people, who are currently digitally excluded, using technology that is inclusive, accessible and intuitive?
  2. How can we co-ordinate transport more efficiently to increase citizens’ ability to travel in rural areas while reducing public subsidy?
  3. How do we better connect people in rural areas to improve well-being and reduce pressure on the health and social care systems while improving service efficiency?

Potential bidders can address one or more parts to be piloted with specific user groups through phase 1 R&D. We welcome opportunities that bring the 3 challenge areas together where the proposed solution allows.

Our priority user groups include but are not limited to:

  • older people
  • people with disabilities
  • volunteers with the desire and capacity to assist those in need in the community
  • young people trying to access work

Loneliness affects all generations. Your solution must be suitable for everyone.

Technology can offer cost-effective ways of providing wider services and support but remember there is often restricted broadband connectivity in rural areas. You should consider connectivity and digital skills in your proposal.

Specific themes

We would like to see applications that:

  • increase opportunities for young and older people to be part of their local and wider communities, reducing the impact of loneliness
  • reduce health service admissions, thus decreasing future service provision and public sector costs
  • improve isolated people’s access to digital technology, particularly in rural areas
  • increase transport opportunities for people of all ages
  • encourage co-operation between agencies by connecting existing transport resources
  • encourage transport providers to publish open data feeds, which will help with the future development of digital products that have a positive environmental impact
  • generate data to help public bodies understand need and target solutions
  • are adaptable, sustainable and scalable

Project types

The overall programme will be delivered over 2 phases. 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.

Phase 1: technical feasibility

This study should result in a technical and commercial specification and detailed design package for a digital solution.

The first phase involves feasibility study research and development (R&D) contracts being awarded up to £50,000, including VAT. This is for each project to demonstrate technical feasibility of the proposed solution.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

Phase 2 should result in a prototype installation to test functionality.

This second phase involves up to 2 R&D contracts being awarded to businesses chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £500,000, including VAT, will be allocated for each contract, in order to develop a prototype and undertake testing for up to 12 months.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects which do not:

  • meet the requirements outlined in the scope
  • have a technology aspect
  • comply with GDPR
  • have a community co-design element
  • consider future needs and opportunities in the region

16 July 2018
Briefing event. Watch the recording
16 July 2018
Competition opens
29 August 2018 12:00pm
Registration closes
5 September 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
26 October 2018
Applicants notified
23 November 2018
Phase 1 contracts awarded
23 November 2018

Before you start

To apply:

  • register online using the green button
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • consider attending one of the briefing events listed in ‘Dates’
  • complete and upload your online application to our secure server

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

A selected panel of experts will assess the quality your application. You must use Microsoft Word for the application form.

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.

Questions related to the particular requirements of this competition should be addressed directly to

Useful links are available on the Monmouthshire council website.

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

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

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