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Pioneering project set to boost innovation in UK financial services

Smaller financial services firms will soon be able to benefit from an innovative national initiative being led by Bristol University, which aims to give them the same access to the latest technologies as their larger rivals.

The University of Bristol is among four universities leading a first-of-its-kind £1.8 million programme to accelerate innovation adoption in SMEs and mid-tier financial services firms to help boost their productivity and competitiveness.

Funded by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the innovation adoption accelerator, called Future Finance for All, will work closely with smaller financial services firms to understand the challenges they face and explore how technology and innovation can help overcome those issues and make a tangible difference to their businesses.

Jonathan Beaverstock, professor of international management and deputy dean at the University of Bristol Business School, who is leading the project team at Bristol, said: “The accelerator will mobilise social science knowledge and expertise in digital technology to support and enable SMEs and mid-tier firms to innovate their business models and assist in the delivery of technologically enabled financial services to business and individual customers in markets like payments, lending, savings, pensions and insurance, to become included in the fast-moving financial services, and financial technology, industry.”

Professor Sharon Collard, director of the Personal Finance Research Centre, said: “Having access to decent financial services is essential for participation in society.

“This is a potential ‘market making opportunity’ for new financial product and service innovation delivered by smaller firms that could help boost access and use of financial services for the millions of UK consumers – individuals, self-employed people, and SMEs – who remain underserved.”

The accelerator will be delivered in collaboration with SETsquared, leveraging extensive experience of providing world-class innovation programmes for SMEs across the UK, with broader insight being unlocked through the additional support of the University of the West of England Bristol, the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University, and FinTech West.

Marty Reid, executive director of the SETsquared Partnership, said: “New technologies are naturally challenging to implement in regulated markets like Financial Services which can stifle innovation. Future Finance for All is taking a fresh collaborative approach that we believe could have a transformative impact for the industry as a whole.”

Stuart Harrison, director at FinTech West, said: “This is an incredibly exciting and important project which we are delighted to be part of. We already work closely with universities on a number of initiatives and this will further deliver benefits to the sector through the close collaboration of academia and industry.”

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