The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

We are initially seeking Expressions of Interest from organisations who are interested in working with our team in the Sandbox.

The team will review all EOIs, and those organisations proposing innovative projects which align with our current areas of focus will be invited to attend an engagement call to discuss the proposal in more detail.

The engagement phone call will seek additional information about the outlined proposal, including the public benefits associated with the innovation, and the specific areas or challenges the organisation would like ICO support on. We will also provide you with further information about how the Sandbox works, what you can expect from us and what we expect from you.

Following this call, a member of the team may invite you to submit a full application. Please note, a copy of the application form will only be made available to organisations following a successful engagement call.

We will assess final applications to the Sandbox in a fair and transparent way, evaluating each submission against the following criteria:

  • Does the proposal align with our key areas of focus (data sharing or the use and deployment of innovative technologies, such as privacy-enhancing technologies and distributed ledger technologies)?

This is outlined within ‘Our key areas of focus for the Regulatory Sandbox 2021-2022

  • How innovative is the product or service?

Innovation can be defined as

“[…] the application of new knowledge to the production of goods and services; it means improved product quality and enhanced process effectiveness.”

Although we recognise that a proposed product or service may be achieving an existing goal, we will consider applications where new knowledge is being applied to improve the effectiveness of an existing product or a service.

  • Will the product or service provide a potential demonstrable benefit to the public?

We will assess this in terms of both breadth (the amount of people benefiting) and/or depth (the extent to which they benefit), drawn from both qualitative and quantitative evidence provided by the organisation.

Please see our Sandbox assessment criteria for additional information about how final applications will be scored. Only applications that score a ‘1’ in either of the above criteria will be automatically declined.

We will also consider:

  • Can the ICO meet the resource and capabilities required?

We will not commit ourselves to collaborating in the development of a product or service which creates resource needs that we cannot feasibly meet.

  • How viable is the organisation’s proposed Sandbox plan?

We will ask you to specify what mechanisms (assistance) or support you expect to need in the Sandbox and detail around time frames, including when you expect to require this support. It could be that you are ready to commence working in the Sandbox within weeks or will not be ready to start for a few months. Where your organisation is not ready to participate for a number of weeks or months due to interdependencies internally or externally, we may agree a planned entry date with you. It is important that you are ready to participate on this agreed date. This is one area in particular we will explore with you in our engagement call.

Please note, we welcome shorter engagements (for example, eight weeks) as much as longer engagements. The maximum length of time allowed in the Sandbox is 12 months. We expect the length of engagement to vary depending on the particular challenges your organisation requires ICO support on, as well as the internal timeframes you are working to.

A condition of entry into the Sandbox is for each participant organisation to have an exit plan in place, in order to protect data subjects, should it be needed.

Frequently asked questions

What is meant by ‘public benefit’?

As a public authority, we consider it important that the organisations we work with in the Sandbox can demonstrate how the product or service may benefit the public.

We interpret this broadly to include any positive benefit to the public with no form of benefit being more valued than any other (e.g health and wellbeing or financial). We also consider public benefit to cover business benefit in terms of ‘back-office’ solutions; however, care needs to be taken to ensure that the ultimate benefit to the public is articulated (e.g. in efficiency savings).

In assessing public benefit, we will consider the potential depth (the amount of benefit experienced) and breadth (the volume of people benefiting) of your product or service, using the assessment criteria indicators provided as a threshold alongside the other criteria and factors listed.

This will not be a mechanistic assessment and products or services do not need to display lots of breadth and depth. Making a significant difference to a small number of individuals will be considered just as valuable as making a small difference to a lot. Only products with no obvious breadth or depth of public benefit will not be considered.

We will discuss the public benefits of your proposal further, if you are invited for an engagement call, following a submission of your Expression of Interest. We will also ask you to provide some further qualitative and quantitative evidence to demonstrate what potential benefits you foresee your product or service contributing to in the final application form. Please note, this application form will not be available to organisations until after the engagement call.