The government has provided an extra £250,000 in funding for the Legal Access Challenge to double the number of finalists in and winners of the competition.
The extra money from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s regulators pioneer fund – taking the total awarded to £950,000 – means that eight entries will now each receive a £50,000 development grant to build on their proposal over a six-month period.
At the end of this period, the final two winners will each receive an additional £50,000 prize.
The extra backing comes from a “reallocation of funds” within the regulators pioneer fund.
The challenge – which aims to support and accelerate ideas to use technology to improve access to justice – is the centrepiece of an 18-month programme run by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Nesta Challenges.
Figures released recently showed that Nesta is receiving £300,000 of the funding.
The pair also announced yesterday that 117 entries have come in from entrepreneurs, legal professionals, technologists, law schools and charities.
A number of entries were from individuals and organisations working together, “with some showing evidence that the challenge has led to collaboration that otherwise would not have happened” – which is one of the goals of the overall programme.
Anna Bradley, SRA chair, said: “We are pleased with the number and quality of entries, and that the challenge has helped bring different people, with different expertise, together.
“There are plenty of good ideas for how technology could help people better understand and resolve their legal problems. And now with more funding available, we will be able to support even more innovators to the benefit of the public and small businesses.”
Chris Gorst, head of better markets at Nesta Challenges, added: “Although the legal sector might have a reputation for being set in its ways, it’s clear from the strength and number of entrants that there is both an appetite for innovation and recognition that we need better legal services.” services.”
Entrants will find out if they have been selected to progress to the next stage in late September.
Meanwhile, the 2019 spending review announced yesterday by Sajid Javid including a 4.9% increase in real terms to the Ministry of Justice’s budget – having been one of the most severely cut departments this decade – taking it from £7.6bn in the current year to £8.1bn in 2020-21.
This will go towards beginning delivery of the government’s £2.5bn commitment to create an additional 10,000 prison places, £100m to increase security in prisons, £55m “across the criminal justice system to support the work of 20,000 additional police officers”, and additional funding to support the ongoing reform of the probation system.
The Law Officers’ Department will receive a 12.4% increase to £700m, including an additional £80m million for the Crown Prosecution Service.
Companies House is to receive an extra £8m “to deliver new policies relating to economic crime and anti-money laundering”.