Supporting and strengthening Financial Services relationships with their SME clients

FinTech Scotland and Smart Data Foundry have joined forces to launch a UK Fintech innovation challenge which seeks to find innovative solutions that will support and strengthen the relationships between Financial Institutions and their SME clients. Successful applicants will be able to access a prize of up to £50,000 to help develop their ideas and support taking them to market.

This call is now closed for application

What is the challenge?

The recent systemic shocks of Covid and Brexit, coupled with the current challenging economic environment, presents a challenging outlook for small businesses.

One of the key recommendations of the Research and Innovation roadmap published by FinTech Scotland in 2022 was the opportunity to drive data-led innovation to support UK SMEs.

Banks hold vast amounts of data about their SME clients. There’s a recognition that unlocking the power of this data can help small businesses to become even more resilient and promote financial well-being, allowing them to flourish, grow and achieve sustainable and successful commercial futures.

Supported by NatWest Group and Virgin Money, this Fintech themed innovation call looks to attract creative and innovative ideas for data-led solutions to solve this multi-faceted challenge that will ultimately benefit SMEs across the UK.

Engagement across the SME sector and with Financial Services Institutions has highlighted many areas of opportunity that this challenge could focus on, for example:

Leveraging Open Finance opportunities

Optimising data insights to provide more meaningful interactions

Protection against fraudulent activities

Supporting the net zero agenda

Supporting business growth and scale

Supporting businesses through an uncertain economic environment

Understanding and optimising supply chains

Data is a key enabler

A common barrier to innovation is the availability of relevant and quality data to test ideas, build rapid prototypes, and develop new products and services. But this data can be hard to share due to privacy concerns and commercial sensitivities.

What’s unique about this innovation call is access to Smart Data Foundry’s SME synthetic dataset. Using their aizle synthetic data engine, they have developed SME synthetic data that contains valuable properties and data attributes to help accelerate innovation, including data on:

Business current account transactions

Credit card payments

Company Directors

Merchant payment transactions

Business agent cash-handling transactions

Payment networks

Support from industry

Supported from NatWest Group and Virgin Money will help unlock opportunities to engage with experts in the sector and will provide tremendous opportunities to learn from these organisations and leverage the power of their networks.

Judith Cruikshank, NatWest Managing Director for Commercial Mid-Market in Scotland added

“NatWest is delighted to support this industry-wide UK fintech innovation call, led by Fintech Scotland and Smart Data Foundry. The theme of the challenge, “Supporting and strengthening Financial Services relationships with their SME clients” is fully aligned with our purpose to “champion potential, helping people, families and businesses to thrive”. We’re committed to innovating for our customers and communities and we’re very much looking forward to seeing the ideas and new propositions which will be showcased by this challenge. We’re particularly excited to see how Fintechs leverage the specifically designed synthetic data asset from Smart Data Foundry in developing their proposals”.


Graeme Sands, Head of Digital Business Banking & CX at Virgin Money:

“We have a great track record of working with Fintechs and value the innovation they can bring to enriching customer service. As a signatory to the FinTech Pledge, and as a member of the Fintech Delivery Panel, we are delighted to work with FinTech Scotland and Smart Data Foundry to launch this innovation call. Finding new ways to unlock the power of data to drive innovation in the SME sector aligns perfectly with our purpose to make people happier about money and to build a brighter future by working together.”



Whether you’re a small start-up or a well-established enterprise, we’d love to hear from fintechs that have creative solutions to help us tackle this challenge.

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What you can expect

Stage one:  After the innovation call is launched on 27 July 2023, applications are welcomed ahead of an assessment panel on 1 September 2023 that will decide on which applicants have been successful for the second stage of the process.

Stage two:  A small cohort of applicants will get the opportunity to participate in workshops across a four-week period covering a number of topics, gaining knowledge and network opportunities.  Access to Smart Data Foundry’s SME synthetic dataset will also be made available to this cohort, helping to unlock the power of business data to test ideas, build proofs of concept and develop solutions to the challenge. Dates for he workshops are 11th September, 14th of September and 21st of September.

Stage three:  The final stage is the opportunity to pitch ideas and solutions to a panel made up from Smart Data Foundry, FinTech Scotland, NatWest Group and Virgin Money.


Note that those workshops will take place in person in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

How to apply?

Click on the apply button below and submit a short video (less than 5 minutes) introducing yourself and your business. Explain how your idea supports the challenge.

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About Smart DataFoundry

Smart Data Foundry is a mission-led organisation here to unlock the positive power of financial data to improve people’s lives. Bringing together companies, public bodies, charities and universities with a common goal – to use data in a safe & trusted way to deliver economical, societal and environmental benefits to everyone.

Bryn Coulthard, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Smart Data Foundry added

“one of our core missions is to use data to inspire and accelerate financial innovation.  The combination of funding from UKRI’s Strength in Places Grant, together with the unique SME synthetic data that we have made available for this initiative creates the ideal environment for Fintechs to embrace this challenge and to get involved.  Collaboration is a key ingredient for innovation and I’m delighted that we have partnered with FinTech Scotland and supported by NatWest Group and Virgin Money to provide sector expertise with the power of the combined networks to make this innovation challenge a huge success.”

A word from FinTech Scotland's CEO Nicola Anderson

“We are thrilled to launch the Fintech Scotland Innovation challenge, which presents a tremendous opportunity to support small businesses and drive innovation in the post-COVID business environment. By collaborating with industry leaders and leveraging synthetic data assets, we aim to empower entrepreneurs to develop ground-breaking solutions that will address the strategic needs of SMEs. We encourage innovators to join us on this exciting journey as we shape the future of the fintech landscape in Scotland and the UK.”

Nicola Anderson