October 13, 2021

January 6, 2022

Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge

A challenge programme to develop and test novel solutions that can support prison leavers as they re-enter society, and contribute to breaking the cycle of reoffending.

Open Innovation Programmes


The Prison Leaver Innovation Challenge aims to harness innovation from the tech sector to develop new technological tools and solutions that will help prison leavers stay on the straight and narrow, reducing the harms associated with crime. We want to capitalise on the expertise and new ideas SMEs and the technology industry can bring to the area. Working according to agile methodology, suppliers will generate multiple prototypes in a short period of time to allow multiple iterations to be developed. Developing new technology will explore new opportunities to support prison leavers.


The Prison Leavers Innovation Challenge was run as a two-phased Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition. 9 successful bidders were selected to participate in the shortlisting phase. Successful suppliers selected for the second phase will continue to develop their solutions and prepare for deployment, ready to enter a steady state pilot by the first week of March 2022.

The programme followed a six stage structure: i) in-depth challenge definition to help the client design a set of challenge statements, ii) open calls to technology providers, iii) selection of 10 innovative providers, iv) proof of concept’ development, v) further selection of 4 final providers, vi) piloting and vii) final evaluation.

The challenge definition phase happened over a two month period during which PUBLIC:

i) carried out a thorough literature review of MoJ policy and technical documentation,

ii) ran an assessment of MoJ technical systems and data and compliance requirements,

iii) ran workshops with over 40 end users, 

iv) interviewed 75 stakeholders in policy, digital and frontline delivery roles across five different UK central government departments -including DHSC, MHCLG and DWP, 

v) provided a comprehensive map of existing providers in the justice space, vi) produced a set of supplier guidelines  and other relevant challenge documentations. 

Following the research Phase we had a fantastic response to the program with over 500 people attending our series of supplier webinars and 57 fantastic applicants which we shortlisted to 9 successful shortlisted candidates who are currently developing their solution alongside PUBLIC and the MoJ


This is a live project and is undergoing continuous impact assessment. Suppliers are working closely with the MoJ evaluation team and PUBLIC to collect specific data sets that will feed into a year long impact measurement project run by TONIC and Kent. The overall goal of the project is to reduce reoffending and recidivism while also having a marked effect on the impact of crime on society.  Outside of this it is a fantastic opportunity to inject innovative digital solutions into the Justice system and increase collaboration system wide.


Photo by the author

Chiara Carlini

Deputy Director of Startup & Challenge Programmes

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