Innovations and Disruptions: BT, Cabinet Office search for SMEs with Augmented Intelligence Ideas


BT has launched a competition for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in partnership with the Cabinet Office and TechHub to find the latest innovations to boost digital public services, defence and retail.

The partners are on the hunt for SMEs with expertise in machine learning, robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Focusing on the theme of ‘Augmented Intelligence,’ this year’s judges want to see ideas that harness both the data processing powers of technology and the expertise of human manpower.

The initiative is the latest in a series of BT Infinity Lab competitions, with a £30,000 prize pot up for grabs for three winners.

There are three categories in this year’s competition, with a focus on the areas of defence, public services and retail. The judges are keen to see innovations that could help provide more insight to the military when planning an operation, humanitarian mission or disaster relief. They would also like to see how robotics could be used to make a retail experience more personalised, or improve a customers’ experience when they contact a public service.

In addition to £10,000, the winning start-ups will have the chance to develop their idea with the support of industry experts and tech gurus from BT for six months. They will also receive membership to TechHub’s global entrepreneur community, workspace and support programme.

To enter, the SMEs will need to submit a three minute video explaining why their solution could be the next big tech innovation to help transform public services, retail or defence.

This year’s judges include Co-Op CIO Simon Bourne, General Sir Chris Deverell, Commander, Joint Forces Command, Ministry of Defence, Alison Pritchard, COO, Government Digital Service, Elizabeth Varley, Founder and CEO of TechHub, as well as a range of executive public sector, retail and innovation experts from BT.

Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation, said: “The Government is committed to transforming public services, making them as efficient and effective as possible so that they deliver the best services for taxpayers.

“Small businesses play a vital role in helping us do this by harnessing the latest digital technologies. I am delighted that we are partnering with BT to highlight and support innovative small businesses in the tech sector.”

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “We want the UK to be the best place to grow a digital business and this partnership will give our dynamic, up-and-coming innovators the opportunity to develop the technology of tomorrow.
“I look forward to seeing these ideas become reality and help improve our public services so everyone can benefit from the technological revolution as we build a Britain fit for the future.”

General Sir Chris Deverell, Commander, Joint Forces Command, Ministry of Defence, said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to champion a Defence Challenge as part of the BT Infinity Awards. We are looking for innovative ways in which we can fully embrace digital capabilities, and thereby improve our effectiveness.

“There are a wealth of opportunities in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, including robotics, simulation and modelling. We are keen to learn from FinTech and apply similar technologies in the military sector to modernise Defence and create a MilTech ecosystem.

“We’re therefore reaching out to SMEs who can bring their innovations to this Defence challenge.”

Colm O’Neill, managing director of BT Business and Public Sector, said: “Last year, our research found that AI had divided the opinions of IT decision makers over whether it would replace or create jobs.

“With that in mind, we launched this year’s Infinity Labs competition with the theme ‘Augmented Intelligence,’ as we believe that there’s still work to do to demonstrate that automated technologies and business processes can play to the strengths of both people and machines.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all the entrants to this year’s Infinity Labs competition and to working together on the innovations that we could see transform defence, public sector services and retail businesses in years to come.”

Entries close on 12 March 2018. The winners will be announced after a judging event at the iconic BT Tower on the 24 April 2018.