Government announces the winners of the Safety Tech Challenge Fund

The Government has today (17 November) announced the five projects that have been selected as the winners of the 2021 Safety Tech Challenge Fund. The selected projects will improve the response to child sexual exploitation and abuse online combining innovative approaches developed by safety tech companies, academics and third sector organisations. 

Winners of the Safety Tech Challenge Fund: 

Children today continue to face a sustained threat of sexual exploitation and abuse online. COVID-19 has only exacerbated this risk, creating a perfect storm of conditions that have fuelled an increase in volume and complexity of online child sexual abuse cases across the globe. The UK and other governments can no longer afford to stall on tackling this epidemic. Moving quickly to scale up and speed up the development of vital online safety technology solutions to actively prevent abuse and reduce the proliferation of child sexual abuse material on digital platforms is crucial. 

This vision rests on the collaboration between governments, private sector companies, NGOs, and academics to develop innovative, responsible technologies to tackle harmful and illegal behaviours taking place on social media and other online platforms. The Safety Tech Challenge Fund was established to execute this task, whilst ensuring end-to-end encryption is not compromised. 

The announcement of the Fund’s five winning projects marks a major milestone for the UK as a leader in moving child sexual exploitation and abuse online up the agenda and making online safety technology more accessible and advanced than ever. 

Following careful assessment of the selected projects, where skills and experience of the project team, adherence to technical principles and projected impact of the solution were amongst some of the criteria, each of the winners will receive £85,000 to further develop their solutions and enhance government and safety tech collaboration in addressing how responsible innovation can put children’s safety at the centre of technology design and deployment.

HMG is today announcing a further ‘stretch funding’ prize pot of £129,500. The winning Challenge Fund projects will be able to bid into this to develop functionality over and above that detailed in their original proposals. This additional pot brings the total Challenge Funding prize amount to £555k.

The Fund will now move forward to provide suppliers with a five-month prototype building phase, where they will receive mentorship and support from DCMS, Home Office, GCHQ, and delivery partner, PUBLIC. Each supplier will work closely with the ICO to ensure that user privacy is built into each solution. 

The selected technologies will thereafter be evaluated by the independent academic institution, REPHRAIN, to measure effectiveness and privacy safeguards and ensure that learnings are shared. 

As a survivor of online grooming, Rhiannon-Faye McDonald from The Marie Collins Foundation has shared her story in a video that you can watch below. The foundation helps children who have suffered abuse online.

Rhiannon-Faye, The Marie Collins Foundation shares her story

Read the DCMS shorthand stories blogpost for further information on the winning projects.

Articles you might like