Economic and Social Research Council
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New programme to transform UK professional and financial services

Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council are investing £26.5 million in the Next Generation Professional and Financial Services programme.

Looking directly up at the skyline of the financial district in central London

Credit: Nikolay Pandev, E+ via Getty Images

The programme is bringing together businesses and the social sciences.

It will help professional service sectors, including accounting and law, and the financial service sectors, including insurance, lending, advisory and payment services, develop and use digital technologies.

Future economy

These key service sectors are critical to the future economy and this new programme will:

  • drive economic growth
  • secure UK capability
  • underpin economic and societal resilience

Digital technologies (artificial intelligence (AI), and digital and advanced computing) can transform the professional and financial services sectors, increase productivity, competitiveness, resilience and access, particularly for the excluded and underserved.

While fintech has flourished in daily banking, other areas such as savings, pensions and investments, loans, legal and advisory services need addressing.

Supporting professional services

This programme builds on the £20 million UK Research and Innovation Next Generation Services Challenge Fund which ended in March 2022 and demonstrated the importance of supporting professional services.

The programme leveraged up to £28 million in additional and follow-on research and development (R&D) expenditure and has increased business R&D by an average of six times.

Businesses supported in the programme were found to be three times more likely to have secured further investment.

Five activity strands

This new Next Generation Professional and Financial Services programme has five strands of activity:

  • support for adoption in demand side firms
  • collaborative R&D innovation support programme for lawtech, accountech, fintech and insurtech
  • data access in cross sectoral areas of professional and financial services
  • connecting, disseminating learning and building community through the AI for Services network
  • support to develop and expand into new domestic and international markets

As part of this programme a first round of collaborative R&D support has been funded with £7 million awarded across 31 projects.

Innovation Adoption Accelerators

Two new social science-led Innovation Adoption Accelerators will support businesses in these sectors.

The accelerators will design and deliver a targeted and ambitious innovation adoption programme that will work with and support firms directly, enabling collaborative working.

The two accelerators are:

  • University of Bristol: ‘Future Finance 4 All’, led by Professor Jonathan Beaverstock. This hub will take a mission led approach to accelerate innovation adoption in mid-tier organisations, and small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK financial services sector
  • Lancaster University: ‘Accelerating Innovation Adoption in Next Generation Professional Service Firms’ will be led by Professor Martin Spring. It will promote the adoption of innovative technologies to augment the delivery of higher quality, higher value services in accounting and law firms

Innovation lab

The Enabling Data Access Innovation Lab funding opportunity will be launched in summer 2023 inviting sector experts from industry and academia to take part in a three-day residential innovation lab.

Participants will develop projects that will deliver data technologies and solutions in the professional and financial sectors.

Those solutions will speed up the responsible adoption of AI and enable better access to data.


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