Future of News Pilot Fund

Apply to the Future of News Pilot Fund
We're looking for startups and SMEs ready to shape the future of public interest news.
BGV as part of Nesta's Future of News Pilot Fund is offering programme support for new ideas and solutions that reimagine engagement and could improve financial sustainability of public interest news. Successful applicants will also receive grant funding from Nesta.

Applications are now closed.
Meet the teams on BGV's track
Check out the teams taking part on BGV's track as part of this Pilot Fund.
Delivering news in a pandemic
Read up on all the efforts driven by the Future of News Pilot Fund grantees to deliver essential public interest news during COVID-19.
Meet all grantees
Check out all grantees of the Future of News Pilot Fund.
Public interest news covers facts and information that helps hold the powerful and elected to account and allow communities to campaign for the issues that matter to them.
The Future of News Pilot Fund is dedicated to a community of changemakers, open to any organisation in England with an idea to shape how public interest news could be generated, sustainably run and disseminated.

There are two tracks for this fund, with BGV running the accelerator track.

We're looking for early-stage businesses using technology to address how communities in England have access to reliable and accurate public interest news about the issues that matter most to them.
Our focus areas for the fund
This pilot fund is aimed at supporting brave new ideas that reimagine engagement and could improve financial sustainability of public interest news.
Reimagine engagement with public interest news
Ideas that reimagine engagement of people and communities in the generation and dissemination of public interest news.

This could include new technologies that create more effective and meaningful engagement with audiences, give people and communities the tools to produce, present and distribute public interest news by and for underserved communities.
Improve financial sustainability of public interest news
Ideas that could improve the financial sustainability of public interest news.

This could include technologies that make the generation, validation and dissemination of public interest news more efficient and effective and garner new types of business models.
What we're offering
Grant funding
Grant funding by Nesta of up to £100,000 is available to support ideas between February and June 2020. Funding cannot continue beyond this point.
Industry-specific learning
A tailored pre-programme, workshops, skills and training sessions and access to new research and insights with support for evaluation and impact measurement.
Three-month accelerator programme
A structured business-building programme for early-stage for-profit businesses using technology to shape the future of public interest news with this funding.
Support and mentoring
Valuable support from sector experts and fellow entrepreneurs and regular connections with our mentors and advisors.
Office space
A creative working environment and three months of free co-working space in London for up to two team members.
Ecosystem events
Community events with participants of both tracks and wider public interest news ecosystem to foster a community of changemakers.
There is also an Innovation Sprint track available delivered by Nesta that is open to any organisation in England. Please visit Nesta's website for more details.
Next steps for you
Before you go on to Gust, where you can submit your application for the Accelerator track of the Future of News Pilot Fund, we just want to make sure that:
You have a strong commitment to support the ecosystem of generation and delivery of public interest news with this funding.
You have an innovative idea using technology that focuses on public interest news in England and addresses the fund's focus areas.
Your idea must be designed to benefit people in England (noting that people elsewhere could also benefit).
Your idea, solution or business must have an intention of delivering measurable social impact and ambition to continue beyond the duration of this fund.
You must be a UK registered company.
You have the right to work in the UK. Unfortunately, you cannot take part in our programme on a tourist visa.
You make your team available to participate in the fund's activities.
You have read the fund's terms and conditions.
4th November 2019
Applications are open. Make sure to sign up for BGV's drop-in session if you'd like to chat about your idea.
28th November 2019
Come to our Q&A event in Manchester.
2nd December 2019
Come to our Q&A event in London.
8th December 2019
Applications close at 23.59 sharp.
20th December 2019
Shortlisted companies will be notified.
6th-10th January 2020
Interviews will be held in central London.
Mid-January 2020
All applicants will be notified and offers are made.
Start of the Industry-specific programme.
End of March
Start of the intensive three-month tech for good accelerator programme.
End of June
Showcase event celebrating all Future of News Pilot Fund participants.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between the Innovation Sprint Tracks and the Accelerator Track?
There are two separate tracks of support for the Future News Pilot Fund, recognising the different needs for different organisations. For example, for-profit start-up technology companies are likely to need broader fundraising and business-building support than teams who are prototyping new solutions within more established organisations or non-profits.

  • The Innovation Sprint will be run directly by Nesta. It is suitable for organisations who have a specific idea to be tested (from new or established organisations), to understand insights and impact the idea / solution has.
  • The Accelerator Programme will be run by Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) - that's us! It is designed for commercial for-profit organisations, building a tech-enabled business, who are likely to need more sustained support, office space and investment connections as well.

Can I apply for both the Innovation Sprint and Accelerator Programme?
No, you need to choose which track is best suited to your needs. Nesta or BGV may get in touch with you to discuss whether your application is better suited for a different track. Should that be the case, it will be at Nesta or BGV's discretion with your agreement.
What's the commitment required for the Accelerator Programme?
The Accelerator Programme will take place in London from mid-February until the end of June 2020. Contact days during the programme are roughly up to two days in a week.
What's the timeframe for the fund?
The Innovation Sprint will commence in February 2020 and finish at the end of June 2020.

The Accelerator Programme will commence in mid-February 2020 and finish at the end of June 2020. The Accelerator Programme time frame includes the Pre-Programme and the Core Accelerator Programme. The Pre-Programme offers industry-specific and sector-specific support during February and March and leads up to the Core Accelerator Programme from March to June.
What funding is available?
Funding of up to £100,000 is available to support ideas between February and June 2020. Funding cannot continue beyond this point.

Applicants must submit a budget that clearly justifies what any funding will be spent on, and when, during the course of the fund. Funding could be used for (but is not limited to) staff time, overheads for staff working directly on the idea, user engagement testing, modest travel to workshops and cohort events, costs relevant for solution deployment and measurement of the impact it makes. Please note capital expenditure is generally not permitted and can only be included under exceptional circumstances, subject to approval.

For the Innovation Sprint we are asking for applicants to indicate if their budget is within the £20,000–£49,999 band, or the £50,000–£100,000 band.

For the Accelerator Programme, applicants are asked to identify if they are applying for either:

  • £20,000
  • £50,000
  • £100,000
For both the Innovation Sprint and the Accelerator Programme we expect to support more applications under £50,000 than those in the £50,000–£100,000 bracket.
How many applications do you expect to fund?
The Innovation Sprint will aim to support approximately 8–12 applications.
The Accelerator Programme will aim to support up to eight applications. You can only apply through one track.
When will the programme commence?
The Innovation Sprint and Accelerator Programme will commence in February 2020.
How long does the programme last?
Both programme tracks end in June 2020.
What happens after the fund ends?
This pilot fund aims to build on a burgeoning community of trailblazers for public interest news in England.
What do you mean by public interest news?
Public interest journalism/news is:
  • About matters that concern society as a whole, including those who have been historically or systematically under-represented in society or by power
  • Produced by people and organisations that are editorially and functionally independent of political, corporate or other interests (even if they receive some funding or support from such sources)
  • Committed to the pursuit of truth, according to the abiding and emerging values and ethics of journalism, including accuracy, fairness and balance.
What do you mean by underserved communities?
Underserved communities face barriers to or deficits in accessing or receiving news, journalism or information that is relevant to their lives, which can threaten their ability to participate in their communities, and in democratic life more broadly. These communities can be based on geography, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, health status, among other parameters, and they can be physical or virtual.
Why is the fund restricted to England?
Funding for this programme is restricted to activities that primarily benefit people and organisations in England because the Departmental funding available is restricted to England only. Equivalent funds for the rest of the UK are controlled by devolved administrations.
My idea already receives funding from another source. Can I still apply?
There is no requirement to bring additional funding to apply. However, you are welcome to bring in additional funding from other sources to develop and test your solution.

Please identify in your application what funding will be matched, and what initiative costs will be met by the Future News Pilot Fund.
I'm a for-profit company. What do I need to be aware of?
As Nesta is providing the grants for this pilot fund, they can only fund applications that meet Nesta's charitable objects and provide public benefit. Therefore, there must be a clear commitment to supporting the public interest news ecosystem linked to the funding application.
Does the funding include state aid?
The funding received through the Future News Pilot Fund may contain state aid. State aid is generally unlawful unless certain exemptions apply. We therefore can only provide funding where we can determine that an exemption applies. We will ask you questions during the application process to help determine whether an exemption could apply. We expect that in most cases the de minimis exemption (Commission Regulation (EC) No 1407/2013) will apply. You can find information and guidance about state aid and exemptions at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/state-aid. Please be aware that Nesta or BGV cannot provide legal advice to you, including on state aid issues.
Can I apply with more than one idea?
You can submit as many as three proposals, but you will need to do so on separate application forms. You must however, only choose one track to apply through.
Are there any constraints around the type of public interest news that my solution aims to support?
Solutions must be directed to public interest news in England, and have the potential to improve the financial sustainability or increase public engagement, particularly for under-served communities in the UK.

Applicants need to take into account the public good considerations that are part of the criteria for this fund. This means that we are unable to support any ideas that are exclusively for private benefit or profit maximisation (i.e. solely to make money). An example of an idea with no public benefit might be public interest news that is behind paywall.

We are also unable to support ideas that are likely to increase inequality or exclusion, or otherwise have a harmful or detrimental effect on individuals (such as through the unethical use of private data). This would include business models that rely on personal data being gathered and sold to third parties without explicit permission from individuals involved.
What is the expectation regarding evaluation and evidence?
Understanding the potential impact of your idea and how you will track it, will be part of the process.

We will work with successful applicants to identify how to best gather learnings about what works and what doesn't, as well as measure impact within the time frame of the fund.

One of the conditions for funding will be that applicants put in place some time and resource to measure impact and share learnings and insights. We will support you in that.
I have commercially sensitive information. How will this be treated as part of the application process?
Information included in your application will be accessible to key personnel at Nesta, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, advisory panel members and professional support providers. The Terms and Conditions set out who the information provided in your application will be shared with.
What can the funds be used for?
  • Direct initiative costs.
  • Development costs.
  • Staff costs relevant to development and deployment of the idea during the timeframe of the programme (you can include overheads, pension costs, national insurance etc for the relevant staff for the timeframe of the programme.)
  • Cost of travel / accommodation to and from the Accelerator or cohort events / masterclasses (in case of Innovation Sprint).
What are the conditions that apply for receipt of funding?
Organisations must:

  • Be successfully accepted into the programme.
  • Comply with the Terms and Conditions, grant agreement, reporting and milestone requirements.
  • Participate in, and contribute to, learning and insights on impact and progress.
  • Share learning and insights about your idea and participation in the programme.
  • Acknowledge BGV's, Nesta's and the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport contributions.
  • Acknowledge public benefit conditions.
  • Acknowledge state aid requirements and report on any state aid received.
  • Inform Nesta (and Bethnal Green Ventures, in the case of Accelerator Programme) of any changes to your delivery plan or resourcing.
Will the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport or Nesta take any equity as a result of being funded?
Who will own IP of any solutions developed during the fund?
You will own any IP you developed using the grant.
However, as the grant comes from public funds and is being administered by a charity, Nesta, we have an obligation to ensure that the funds are used in a way that achieves public benefit and doesn't just benefit your organisation alone. Nesta shall be entitled to use any reports or materials you develop for research and evaluation purposes and to publicly share learnings. You may also be asked to grant rights to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to use IP or learnings derived from the grant for public-interest purposes.

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