Funding competition Citizens Advice Scotland producing automated, accurate guidance: SBRI competition

Organisations can apply for £30,000, including VAT, to develop an automated solution that will help us write and update 3,500 pages of factual advice content.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition. The aim of the competition is to develop a solution that that automates parts of the process of horizon scanning (scanning forthcoming legislation and other trusted sources for information that would result in changes to our systems) and content development. It must scan vast amounts of data from various sources in short time periods to keep 3,500 pages of content up to date and accurate.

This competition is funded by the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund.

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. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to apply to take part in phase 2.

Phase 1: research and development contracts, feasibility study

The first phase involves research and development (R&D) contracts being awarded to demonstrate technical feasibility of the proposed solution. A total of up to £150,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1 of the competition.

It is anticipated that the feasibility study research and development (R&D) contracts will be in the region of up to £30,000 each, including VAT. This is for each project for up to 6 months. We expect to fund up to 5 projects. The assessors will consider fair value in making their evaluation.

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

Phase 2: research and development contracts, prototype development and testing

The second phase involves up to 2 R&D contracts being awarded to businesses chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £150,000, including VAT, will be allocated for each contract, in order to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 12 months.

Registration closes at 12:00pm midday 30 January 2019 and the competition closes at 12:00pm midday 6 February 2019.

Funding type


Project size

We expect projects to range in size up to total costs of £30,000, including VAT, for each organisation. Phase 1 projects must start on 1 May 2019, end by 31 October 2019 and last up to 6 months.

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 £30,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1. It is anticipated the feasibility study R&D contracts will be up to £30,000 including VAT, for each project for up to 6 months. 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

Your proposal

The Citizens Advice Scotland website has over 3,500 pages of content. It takes a lot of time to keep it up to date and accurate. This content is increasingly in demand by service users.

The current horizon scanning and content development processes are done manually. We are looking for a solution that:

  • automates parts of the process
  • can quickly scan a lot of data from various sources
  • checks the information is accurate

From an initial assessment we expect the solution would have 2 functional parts:

  1. Horizon scanning and information gathering: pulling content from trusted sources, scanning for future changes to legislation, and scheduling and programming content updates.
  2. Advice writing: we would like the solution to create first drafts using rules based procedures, which should be possible as it is mostly factual, informative content.

We believe that bringing these processes together to automate factual content generation would be a new development.

To achieve this your solution must:

  • horizon scan
  • schedule changes to Citizens Advice Scotland’s content areas
  • recognise trusted and legitimate sources of content
  • automate content production to produce factually accurate, objective advice in plain and accessible English
  • learn and adapt to produce better content
  • take less effort and time to manage than developing content manually
  • operate across reserved and devolved content areas (areas subject to both UK and Scottish legislation separately, so content would need to reflect these differences).
  • track content sources to provide an audit trail
  • allow for manual intervention when required
  • interface with a content management system (CMS) to display approved content to the end user

Specific themes

We are encouraging applications that:

  • consider how to automate pulling information from trusted sources
  • have elements of machine learning, so the solution improves over time and requires less manual intervention
  • considers how to generate advice content using natural language generation techniques

Project types

Phase 1: technical feasibility

Projects can last up to 6 months and be completed by 31 October 2019. They can range in size up to a total cost of £30,000, including VAT. The total funding available is up to £150,000, including VAT.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

Projects can last up to 12 months. They can range in size up to a total cost of £150,000, including VAT. The total funding available is up to £300,000, 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 front end content management system (CMS) solutions.
10 December 2018
Competition opens
9 January 2019
Edinburgh briefing event
30 January 2019 12:00pm
Registration closes
6 February 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
29 March 2019
Applicants notified
26 April 2019
Phase 1 contracts awarded.
26 April 2019

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. Use Microsoft Word for the application form or your application will be ineligible.

Background and further information

We believe that automating elements of the horizon scanning and production processes would deliver the following benefits for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS):

  • increased value for public funding
  • streamlined and faster production process
  • confidence that all changes to advice content are captured, logged and have action plans assigned
  • elimination of human error in production of advice
  • elimination of unconscious bias in content selection and development
  • an accurate audit trail of sources
  • automated initial stages of production, which would allow experts to focus on quality assurance, user experience design and future systems development, to ensure CAS can keep pace with change in the medium to long term

We believe that any organisation (public, private or third sector) which has to constantly manage and update large volumes of factual content from a range of sources could benefit from this solution, so the potential market for this is significant.

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.

Send questions about this competition 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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