Our innovation services

We promote innovation in financial services by offering a range of market facing tools and services for innovative firms. Find out more about the support we offer. 

Innovation can be a driving force for effective competition. When competition works well, consumers benefit from lower costs and prices, higher service standards and quality, and increased access to financial services. 

We want UK firms to feel that both established businesses and start-ups can bring new ideas to market. It’s vital that we understand how and when our regulation can impede innovation, so that it evolves with financial services, rather than holding them back. 

Our objectives 

We aim to:

  • create room for the brightest and most innovative companies to enter the sector 
  • support positive innovation to come to market in a controlled and sustainable way
  • support innovation that has genuine potential to improve the lives of consumers across all areas of financial services 
  • support innovation delivered by a diverse range of participants, both in terms of the type of firm, and the people behind the developments

Our background

1

2014

Project Innovate launches (subsequently delivered by Direct Support)

2

2016

Advice Unit launches

3

2016

Regulatory Sandbox cohorts launches

4

2016

TechSprint pilot on consumer access

5

2018

Green FinTech Challenge pilot

6

2020

Digital Sandbox pilot

7

2021

Regulatory Sandbox is always open for applications

8

2022

Innovation Pathways launches combining Direct Support and Advice Unit

Our services

Our innovation services are designed to support firms at any stage of maturity, from collaboration, initial idea and proof of concept, to obtaining authorisation and scaling up in the market. 

Read more about our services to find out how we can support you. 

Regulatory Sandbox

The Regulatory Sandbox allows firms to test their business models in the live market with real consumers. We welcome applications from innovative firms, both incumbents and new entrants, who are trying to do something different in financial services. These could be authorised firms, unauthorised firms that need authorisation, or technology firms that may not need authorisation but instead want to support the UK financial services market.

The Regulatory Sandbox looks to provide firms with:

  • the ability to test products and services in a controlled environment
  • an understanding of how a particular technology works in the market
  • support in identifying consumer protection safeguards to build into new products and services 
  • an opportunity to find out whether a business model is attractive to consumers
  • reduced time-to market at potentially lower cost

The Regulatory Sandbox provides a dedicated FCA case manager to help with your test.

You can apply for the Regulatory Sandbox at any time, but you must meet our eligibility criteria to be accepted. Find out how to apply.

Innovation Pathways

Innovation Pathways helps innovative firms to understand our regulation and navigate our regulatory regime. We can help both new and established businesses, and can support firms doing regulated or unregulated business.

Our support may include: 

  • how a business model fits within the regulatory framework
  • how our rules work with a product or service that didn’t exist when the rules were drafted
  • how our rules apply to automated models delivering advice and guidance to consumer
  • whether or not a new business model requires authorisation and, if so, what type of authorisation
  • how to go about applying for authorisation or a variation in existing permissions

Innovation Pathways provides a dedicated FCA case manager to help you understand our regulatory regime. When an Innovation Pathways firm applies for authorisation, they will benefit from faster allocation of a case officer and post-authorisation support in the form of a named supervisory contact.

You can apply for Innovation Pathways support at any time, but you must meet our eligibility criteria before being accepted. Find out how to apply.

Direct Support and Advice Unit

We launched Innovation Pathways to improve our ability to support firms and to simplify the application process for firms by incorporating the Advice Unit and Direct Support into one team. Innovation Pathways will continue to help businesses understand our regulatory regime, as well as supporting new models serving gaps in the advice market identified by the Financial Advice Market Review. We will continue to provide regulatory feedback to firms developing automated models to deliver lower cost advice and guidance to consumers. 

Digital Sandbox

The Digital Sandbox provides successful applicants with access to a range of online tools and high-quality synthetic data assets to test and develop their propositions. It was launched to support products and services at earlier stages of development, namely ‘proofs of concept’ (POC).  

It also provides a focused ecosystem to accelerate early-stage development, through access to a range of industry mentors and demonstration opportunities. 

The Digital Sandbox currently operates as a cohort model. The pilot cohort focused on 3 use cases that had been exacerbated by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic:

  • preventing fraud and scams
  • consumer vulnerability
  • access to finance for small businesses

Our second cohort focussed on improving the use of environmental, social and governance (ESG) data to tackle specific regulatory problems around sustainability and ESG reporting.

Find out more about the Digital Sandbox and how you can apply for future cohorts.

Tech Challenges

Tech Challenges allow us to play a more active role in driving innovation in an area where we see clear benefit to UK consumers and markets.

We identify areas where financial services markets could benefit most from innovation and actively encourage the development of creative, market-led solutions in that space.

In 2018/19, we ran a pilot Green FinTech Challenge to support firms developing innovative solutions to assist in the UK’s transition to a greener economy.

Building on the success of the pilot, we launched a second Green FinTech Challenge in 2021 to support development and live market testing of new products and services that will aid the transition to a net zero economy.

Applications for the Green FinTech Challenge are now closed, but we expect to launch more Tech Challenges in the future. 

TechSprints

TechSprints, also known as ‘hackathons’, are events that allow us to gather participants from across the financial services industry and beyond to develop technology-based ideas and discuss specific industry challenges. 
Participants include large financial services institutions, RegTechs, FinTechs, academics, cross-sector regulators, technologists and innovators. 

TechSprints help the acceleration and development of new solutions through collaboration, resulting in new partnerships and pilots. For example, our machine readable and executable regulation TechSprint led to a pilot between us, the Bank of England and 7 banks that developed the Digital Regulatory Reporting (DRR) work programme. 

We run our TechSprint programme roughly twice a year. You can find full details, including upcoming events, on our TechSprint page

Industry events

We continue to explore ways to enhance our approach to regulation, to allow innovative firms of all sizes to scale and grow for the benefit of markets, firms and consumers. 

We organise industry engagement events, such as roundtables and workshops, to help develop thinking on priority fintech areas and the ways in which practical and productive collaboration can take place at scale.  

We are also invited to events hosted by other organisations that support innovation in financial services, including workshops, roadshows, roundtables, conferences and panel sessions. If you would like to invite us to your event, please contact [email protected].

If you would like to invite us to speak at your event, please fill in our speaker request form. Please make sure you mention the innovation team on the form.