Funding competition SBRI: developing a data enabled public sector audit approach

Organisations can apply for a share of £1.25 million, including VAT, to develop a data enabled public sector audit approach.

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.

The competition is sponsored by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO), working in collaboration with Audit Scotland and the Wales Audit Office.

The NIAO is responsible for the audit of public sector bodies and undertakes financial and value for money audit.

The NIAO plans to develop a data enabled public sector audit approach which makes use of analytics techniques and machine learning. The aim is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of audit by increasing coverage and adding value to clients.

The competition looks at 2 main areas:

  1. Financial audit analytics, which is analysing and automating audit testing of whole populations and identifying anomalies.
  2. Value for money analytics, which is analysing data to inform a thematic report.

This is a first phase of a 2 phase competition.

Funding type


Project size

We expect projects to range in size total costs of up to £50,000, including VAT, for each organisation. Projects are expected to start by 29 April 2019, end by 22 July and last up to 12 weeks.

Who can apply

To lead a project, you can:

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

Applicants must:

  • provide details of their proposed idea, solution or technologies to meet the challenge
  • be prepared to adopt a valid technical approach
  • be innovative and be prepared to develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools or techniques
  • outline a clear plan for establishing technical and commercial feasibility and the development of a working prototype
  • outline the skills, capabilities and experience they have to deliver the project
  • confirm that the budget is realistic and is justified in terms of the aims and methods proposed
  • have a plan to deliver a marketable product and demonstrate how that product would have a competitive advantage over existing or alternative technologies
  • demonstrate a willingness to work with the competition owner (NIAO) and spend time on-site in Northern Ireland throughout the challenge


A total of up to £250,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1. It is anticipated the feasibility study research and development (R&D) contracts can apply for up to £50,000 including VAT and can be up to 12 weeks long. We expect to fund up to 5 projects.

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

A total of £1,000,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 2. This will fund 2 projects up to £500,000 including VAT each. Funding will be used to develop a prototype for 2 of the solutions identified during phase 1 over 12 months.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to develop a holistic data enabled audit approach capable of capturing, extracting, cleansing, formatting, interpreting, analysing and presenting data from a range of sources.

In phase 1 you must address at least one of the 2 points below:

  1. Financial audit analytics. This involves analysing and audit testing whole financial transaction populations and identifying high risk transactions, anomalies and potential irregularities for further human investigation, possibly using machine learning. A solution could include the use of visualisations and automation. It could also explore the possibility of comparing data over time with other organisations and publically available data to identify trends and anomalies. All applicants must demonstrate that their final solutions will be capable of extracting, cleansing and validating information from different financial management systems.
  2. Value for money analytics, which is analysing management information and publicly available data to provide evidence to support findings and recommendations in a wide variety of thematic reports. A selection of these studies and the range of topics they cover can be viewed on the Northern Ireland Audit office website.

In phase 1 testing will focus on Northern Ireland data.

If you reach phase 2 you will further develop the R&D undertaken during phase 1 with a view to producing a prototype. You will also use data supplied from other sources including our partner UK audit agencies.

Specific themes

We are particularly encouraging applications that:
  • address part 1 of the challenge, financial audit analytics, although we also welcome bids for part 2, value for money analytics
  • develop a transparent solution that can perform audit tests or analyse data to identify high-risk transactions (the methodology must be understood and comply with professional auditing standards)
  • deliver a product that is user-friendly and accessible, even by those with limited previous experience of data analytics
  • are cost-effective and affordable
  • can be replicated across other UK public sector audit agencies
  • comply with GDPR legislation and auditing standards

Project types

The programme will be delivered in 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. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will participate in phase 2.

Phase 1: technical feasibility

Projects should last up to 12 weeks and be completed by 22 July 2019. They can range in size up to a total cost of £50,000, including VAT. The total funding available is up to £250,000, including VAT.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

Projects should last up to 12 months. They can range in size up to a total cost of £500,000, including VAT. The total funding available is up to £1,000,000, including VAT.

In phase 1 the supplier will work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution. The outcome of this project will be a prototype of the solution.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that are delivering something that is already available for purchase in the marketplace.

19 November 2018
Competition opens
22 November 2018
Slides and information from briefing event.
9 January 2019 12:00pm
Registration closes
16 January 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
22 February 2019
8 March 2019
Applicants notified
5 April 2019
Phase 1 contracts awarded
5 April 2019
Feedback available

Before you start

To apply:

  • register online using the green button
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • consider attending the briefing event listed in the Dates tab
  • 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 or 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.

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

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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