Innovation foundation Nesta is launching a £5 million prize fund to inspire the creation of apps and tools to help small businesses compete in the digital economy. The Open Up Challenge will give cash awards to 20 winners, as well as access to a unique data trove of anonymised UK banking transactions. The challenge, which launches today, is designed to encourage fintech firms to explore the opportunities provided by the new banking data being made available from 2018. The Open APIs for UK banking will give third parties access to anonymised transaction data in the same way Transport for London, for example, gives businesses such as Citymapper access to its passenger information.

Barclays, Lloyds, Santander, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and three Northern Irish banks have put up the money for the prize, which is run independently by Nesta. To give successful applicants a chance to test their ideas using real data, the five big British banks have also pooled anonymised current account data to make what Nesta says is “one of the largest anonymised UK banking transaction datasets ever made available.”