FAQs

When does the Digital Sandbox launch?

The digital sandbox application window will be open from 5 October until 30 October 2020. Successful applicants will be notified and able to access the full suite of digital sandbox tools and features for testing from 16 November.

How do I join? What is the application process?

Click the register button at the top of this page to register an account.This will require an email and password. Once you have registered an account you will be able to access the application portal. The portal sets out the eligibility criteria and an application form which you must complete and submit. The application form will ask a series of questions about what it is you want to test, how this represents a new innovation, how this will benefit consumers and/or financial services firms, and how you plan to use the features of the digital sandbox.The solution you are testing or developing should also aim to solve one of theprescribedwithin the themes ofand scams, supportingthe financial resilience of vulnerable consumers, or improving access tofinance for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

If your application is successful, you will be notified in early November once the application window closes, and your account will be upgraded to access the additional features and tools of the digital sandbox.

What are the features and aims of the pilot?

Our experiences and engagement with the industry indicates that developing a permanent digital testing environment will provide significant value to financial services. The Digital Sandbox Pilot is aimed at trialling this environment, by providing support to products and services which are at an early stage of development.

We are piloting the following features as the foundations of a digital sandbox:

  • Access to synthetic data assets to enable testing, training and validation of prototype technology solutions, for example transactional banking data sets, SME lending data and customer accounts.
  • An Application programming interface (API) market place where digital service providers list and provide access to services via APIs
  • Integrated development environment in which applicants can develop and test their solution
  • A collaboration platform – to facilitate an ecosystem of key organisations that will provide support and input to digital sandbox participants, such as incumbents, academia, government bodies, venture capital, and charities.
  • An observation deck – to enable regulators and other interested parties to observe in-flight testing at a technical level, to inform policy thinking in a safeguarded environment.

How will the success of the pilot be assessed?

The pilot will be assessed against 5 success criteria:

  1. Innovation – role played in encouraging innovation in financial services to the Covid-19-related challenges detailed in the use cases.
  2. Speed – role played in enabling quicker testing and development of proof of concepts.
  3. Collaboration – role played in fostering collaboration, facilitating diversity of thinking and creating an ecosystem of key organisations.
  4. Pilot features – the effectiveness of the key features of the pilot (see below) in stimulating and accelerating innovation.
  5. Sustainable future – role played in informing and assisting the design and future operating model of a permanent digital sandbox

Why is it a temporary pilot and not a permanent service?

Through the pilot, the FCA and City of London Corporation are trialling the effect that certain features of a digital testing environment can have on stimulating innovation within financial services. We want to work with the industry and wider market to understand what tools and features would truly deliver value in supporting innovation in order to inform future iterations of a digital testing environment.

How were the applications assessed?

Applications were jointly assessed by the FCA & City of London Corporation and an Advisory Panel consisting of the below organisations:

  • National Economic Crime Centre
  • UK Finance
  • City of London Police
  • Fair4
  • All Finance
  • StepChange
  • Citizens Advice
  • Innovate Finance
  • Confederation of British Industry
  • ScaleUp Institute

Applications were assessed against four primary criteria.

  • Genuine innovation – is the solution significantly different from what already exists in the market?
  • In scope – Will the solution benefit UK consumers of financial services firms by solving one of the use cases?
  • Need for a Digital Sandbox – The solution required digital sandbox features to be developed or improved.
  • Testing – You have clearly defined development objectives with a pathway to production.

Does being a successful applicant mean that my solution is endorsed by the FCA, City of London Corporation and Advisory Panel members?

No. Being a successful applicant means that your solution has been selected as meeting the criteria and having sufficient merit to be accepted into the digital sandbox pilot. This does not mean that the FCA, City of London Corporation or any Advisory Panel members are specifically endorsing your firm or solution.

What is the difference between the digital sandbox and the regulatory sandbox?

The two services provide different tools and features, aimed at different stages in the product/solution lifecycle. The digital sandbox pilot aims to support early stage Proof of Concept development through providing access to a digital testing environment, where firms can develop, collaborate, and test new products and solutions. The digital sandbox pilot is not intended for firms who want to test a product on live consumers or are seeking authorisations/permissions.

The regulatory sandbox, on the other hand, is suitable for firms that have a need to test their product in a live environment or on real consumers before potentially progressing towards a full authorisation. If you think your firm/product may be better suited for the regulatory sandbox you can find more information on the FCA Regulatory Sandbox webpage.

Can I apply for both the digital sandbox pilot and the FCA regulatory sandbox?

The digital sandbox and the regulatory sandbox provide different innovation services. You should decide which service is more appropriate for your needs.

If you think your firm/product may be better suited to the regulatory sandbox you can find more information on the on the FCA Regulatory Sandbox webpage.

Can I access other FCA services, such as Direct Support and the Advice Unit, while participating in the digital sandbox pilot?

Yes. You can apply separately for existing FCA support services as well as applying for the digital sandbox pilot. The Direct Support Team provides a dedicated contact for innovator businesses that are considering applying for authorisation or a variation of permission, need support when doing so, or do not need to be authorised but could benefit from our support. The Advice Unit provides regulatory feedback to firms developing automated models to deliver lower cost advice and guidance to consumers.

I‘m not a participating firm but I want to be involved. Can I take part?

Yes. A key feature of the pilot is the building of a community of interested stakeholders to interact with the teams and solutions as they are being developed in the testing environment, sharing knowledge, experience and expertise. If you register an account, by clicking the link at the top of the page, you will be able to access the showcase space, community directory and additional resources. You can also create a profile of yourself on the community directory, contact other members of the community and participants and observe what participants have published in their showcase space.

If you are interested in working with one of pilot participants, subject to their agreement you can be on-boarded onto their project team and be given access to the tools such as data, development environment, and API marketplace.

Can I observe a particular solutions under development without being a direct participant in that test?

Yes. Participating firms have access to a showcase platform where they can publish results of their test in their desired format, for example uploading a video demonstration, documentation of testing results, etc. If you register to be a part of the community you can view these showcase spaces as well as use the community directory to contact pilot participants.

Can I apply if my solution doesn’t address one of the use cases?

Applications to the digital sandbox should focus on solving the prescribed use cases for the three focus areas: preventing fraud and scams, supporting the financial resilience of vulnerable consumers, and improving access to finance for SMEs. If your proposed solution that you want to test does not contribute to solving one of these use cases, it will not be eligible for the digital sandbox.

As this is a pilot, we have created data assets relevant to these topics, and convened a community and advisory panel with the relevant expertise. Future iterations of the digital sandbox are likely to be open to a broader range of use case, but for the purpose of the pilot we have had to narrow this focus to amore limited range. The current use cases have been selected as pressing areas which have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

What happens for participants once the pilot is over?

The next steps for applicants following the conclusion of the pilot will largely depend on the success of the firm’s test. Potential outcomes could include partnering with a financial institution to further develop their solution or testing in the FCA Regulatory Sandbox or other existing services.

What happens to the synthetic data once the pilot is over?

The FCA and City of London Corporation will make the synthetic data sets publicly available as soon as possible following the conclusion of the pilot.

I don't have a specific idea or Proof of Concept I want to test, but I want to beinvolved. Can I take part?

Yes. If you register an account, by clicking the link at the top of the page, you will be able to access the showcase space, community directory and additional resources in November. You can also create a profile of yourself on the community directory, contact other members of the community and participants, and observe what participants have published in their showcase space.

If you are interested in working with one of the pilot participants, including after the application window has closed, subject to their agreement you can be on-boarded onto their project team and given access to the tools such as data, development environment, and API marketplace.

I want to apply in partnership with other organisations, how will this work?

You can submit an application either as an individual organisation, or one that is a collaboration orpartnership with multiple organisations. For example, a technology firm applying with a bank, or multiplestart-ups testing a joint venture. If applying as a group, you should designate a lead organisation for thepurposes of the test in the digital sandbox. This organisation should submit one application on behalf of thegroup. There is a section on the application form to detail which other organisations are part of the group. Ifthe application is successful, individuals at these organisations will be on-boarded.

If my application is successful, what can I say publicly about my participation in the pilot?

Successful applicants will be able to publicly state their participation in the pilot following notification by the FCA and City of London Corporation.

You must ensure your communications do not convey the impression that the FCA, City of London Corporation or any member of the Advisory Panel endorses any aspect of your firm or solution. If you intend to make any reference to the FCA, City of London Corporation or Advisory Panel member in public communications (such as social media, financial promotions and talking to media), other than stating that you are participating within the pilot or communicating details on the pilot from the FCA website, you must clear these communications with the FCA.

What happens for participants once the pilot is over?

The next steps for participants following the conclusion of the pilot will largely depend on the success of the firm’s test. Potential outcomes could include partnering with a financial institution to take the solution into production, receiving investment for further development, or testing with real consumers in the FCA Regulatory Sandbox.

What are the next steps following the conclusion of the pilot?

Grant Thornton have been commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the digital sandbox pilot. As well as assessing the effectiveness and utility of the features provided to participants in helping them develop and test their solutions, Grant Thornton will also make recommendations on the potential governance and operating model of future iterations of the digital sandbox. Grant Thornton will produce an evaluation report on the pilot in Q1 2021.

Register & Apply now

Complete the registration form and verify your email to create an account.

Once you have created an account you will able to access the application system, view the eligibility criteria and submit an application.

Questions? Read our FAQs here
Read the FCA press release here

We can be contacted at digital.sandbox@fca.org.uk 

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FCA Press Release

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