UK and US launch privacy technology innovation prize competitions to tackle financial crime and public health emergencies

Today, the UK and US governments have launched a series of challenges to unlock the potential of privacy-protecting technologies (PET) to tackle global societal challenges. Announced at last year’s Democracy Summit, innovators from academia, industry and the general public will also have the opportunity to participate in two separate tracks (improving the detection of financial crime and predicting the risk of infection of an individual during a pandemic) as an option for designing a generalized solution that works for both scenarios for broader applicability.

Competing for cash prizes from a combined UK-US prize pool of $1.6m (£1.3m), the innovators will develop privacy-preserving federated learning solutions that allow AI models to be trained on sensitive data without organizations having to reveal, share or combine their raw data. The winning solutions to the challenge will be showcased at the second Democracy Summit, which President Biden plans to convene in the first half of 2023.

The first component, which aims to transform financial crime prevention, will stimulate technological innovation to meet the challenge of international money laundering. According to United Nations (UN) estimates, money laundering costs up to $2 trillion every year, undermining economic prosperity and funding organized crime. PETs can be leveraged to facilitate the sharing of financial information and privacy-preserving collaborative analysis, helping to identify abnormal payments without compromising the privacy of individuals.

The innovators will work with synthetic global transaction data created by SWIFT, the global provider of secure financial messaging services. Participants registered for the challenge will have access to realistic, but artificial data, and therefore are not at risk of revealing private information.

In order to provide an important regulatory context to understand the potential of these maturing technologies to combat illicit financial activities, the Prize Challenges will offer innovators the opportunity to engage with regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, including the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The innovators will also collaborate with the UK National Economic Crime Centre.

The second tier of challenges – aimed at building pandemic response capabilities – will strengthen global preparedness for ongoing and future public health emergencies by developing privacy-preserving solutions that can predict an individual’s risk of infection. . Innovators will have access to a synthetic dataset created by the Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia, which represents a digital twin of a regional population. As with the financial dataset, the pandemic response dataset is synthetic and will not reveal private information. Challenge participants will be able to engage with staff from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NHS England and the UK Research and Innovation program DARE UK (Data and Analytics Research Environments UK).

Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

I am delighted that today we are launching joint UK-US prize competitions to accelerate the adoption of privacy protective technologies (PET). These advanced technologies can help us harness the power of data to address global challenges such as international money laundering and to plan for subsequent public health emergencies, while respecting citizens’ rights. This partnership demonstrates the commitment of the UK and the US to working together to tackle transnational challenges, as well as to ensuring that our vision for the technological revolution – an open and democratic vision – prevails.

Dr. Alondra Nelson, chief of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said:

These challenges will catalyze talent and ingenuity on both sides of the Atlantic to advance privacy-enhancing technology solutions and unlock their potential to address global challenges such as those of cross-border financial crime and pandemic response. .

This important initiative reflects our shared goal of developing technology and driving innovation in a way that reinforces our commitment to and expression of democratic values ​​and the fundamental right to privacy.

Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), said:

Building on decades of NSF research investment in the field, these challenges will accelerate the translation of breakthrough privacy-enhancing technologies. In this way, these prize competitions – supported by NSF’s Computing and Information Science and Engineering Directorate and the new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate – exemplify the synergy of fundamental research and translational activities to translate research into practice. By harnessing innovation across national borders and strengthening a transatlantic community of innovation, the US-UK Prize Challenges will demonstrate the value of international collaboration to develop technologies in a way that respects our common values.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said:

We’re on the verge of solving some of the world’s most intractable problems and improving our quality of life through the power of artificial intelligence, but we must do so responsibly by upholding our shared privacy values. ,

I am delighted that we are launching these joint UK-US privacy technology challenges and motivating our best researchers in industry and academia to innovate in privacy protection technologies. of privacy so that we can all reap the benefits.

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, said:

Bringing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to the start of these competitions ensures that privacy and people’s trust are at the heart of the design process. People can trust the power of personal data to save lives and stop financial crime.

Privacy technologies enable great innovation when used in the right way. We look forward to supporting these solutions and the end results that will ultimately help the public.

Challenge planning is led by the UK Center for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) and Innovate UK, and the US Office for Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House, the US National Institute Standards and Technology (NIST), and the US National Science Foundation (NSF). The US Challenge is funded and administered by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US National Science Foundation.


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Notes to editors:

  • The multi-stage competition includes white paper submission, prototype development, and a red team phase. Innovators have until Monday, September 19 to enter the competition. More information about the prize challenges can be found at

  • The UK-US collaboration on the Prize Challenges was first announced at the inaugural Democracy Summit in December 2021.

  • PETs enable the sharing and/or analysis of sensitive personal or business data, while protecting the privacy and proprietary information of individuals. PETs include mature technologies, such as privacy-preserving federated learning, which allows machine learning models to be trained on high-quality distributed datasets, without having to share the raw data.

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