Topic detection on the phone

The Innovation Exchange programme is working alongside a large UK company. This business is looking to engage innovators and innovative companies that can help them solve a significant challenge they are trying to overcome in relation to a key security issue. They will engage with the suppliers of innovation to support developments if they need to be made to suit the application better. The organisation’s facilities are situated throughout the UK and activities take place across the world. As part of its operations the business conducts a large number of meetings and one-to-one conversations using Voice Over Internet Protocol systems. To minimise the risk of security breaches the Challenge Owner is looking for an automated system to flag potentially sensitive topics of conversation.


Challenge opens


Challenge closes




As part of daily operations, organisational staff are involved in a large number of remote meetings via phone, Skype or similar, always within the broader Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). These daily operations may involve a range of sensitive topics which should not be discussed during such calls or meetings. At the moment the organisation is reliant on individuals’ discretion to ensure this is adhered to.  

As such, the organisation is looking for a system that is able to identify key topics. Once identified they require a warning to alert those on the call, and also a way of saving data to highlight that a particular topic has been discussed. 

It will not always be as simple as identifying single, key words. Sometimes a discussion may talk around a topic to such an extent that the conversation becomes sensitive. In the first instance it is assumed that the language being used will be English. 


  1. Reduced risk of breaching security
  2. Greater governance control
  3. Help mitigate risks of increased remote-working

The challenge owner is actively looking for solutions that will;

  1. Detect when a sensitive topic has been raised
  2. Alert those on the call to the breach
  3. Store a record of the breach for governance and training purposes

Whilst not limiting the technologies from solution providers, it is expected that solutions would consider innovations from some of the following areas:  

  • Computational linguistics specialists
  • Academic voice experts
  • Voice-to-text
  • Natural language processing experts
  • Speech-recognition software
  • Call centre solutions providers
  • Security service solution providers
  • Smart/listening device manufacturers
  • Education or exam systems creators
  • Machine learning innovators
  • AI software providers
  • Chatbot developers

Rewards and benefits

Successful applicants will be given an opportunity to pitch to the Challenger. The package may also include:

  • Support from the Catapult networks and the KTN
  • Support in the development of a prototype or pilot 
  • Technical support
  • Invitation to attend or present at KTN or Catapult events
  • A potential business collaboration
  • Investor introductions (if investment is required)
  • Support if any Innovate UK or similar competitions are relevant.

Functional requirements

  • An automated topic detection package to work with VoIP
  • Able to work with multiple people on the call
  • Able to deal with regional accents 
  • Potential to work for (or be developed for) languages other than English

Technical characteristics

  • Must work in the background remotely across VoIP platforms
  • Able to recognise specific topics, even when keywords are not mentioned
  • Must comply with both US and UK regulations

Operating conditions

  • Multiple environment types - office, engineering, live operational situations
  • Capable of being operated remotely across multiple locations and platforms 
  • The client can provide a background database if required

Deployment timescale

  • Launch of the Competition: 11th of May 2020
  • Deadline for applications: 10th of July 2020 
  • Selection and notification of finalists: 24th July 2020
  • There is need for this solution as soon as possible, however, for the right solution or offering they are happy to work with an early stage innovator or concept stage demonstrator

Cost requirement and market opportunity

  • Costs will be proportional to deployability
  • For the right product, the solution could be used across the clients portfolio and wider
  • This challenge offers a multi year development opportunity for the right solution

Eligibility and assessment criteria

Entrants to this competition must be:

  • Established businesses, startups, SMEs or individual entrepreneurs
  • UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base

Applications will be assessed on:

  • Relevance to the topic
  • Innovative nature of the subject
  • Coherence of the proposed business model
  • Feasibility/ economic viability
  • Development potential
  • Maturity of project/solution
  • Ability to launch project quickly/Ease of implementation
  • Price/quality ratio
  • Suitability for the UK and European Market

IP and potential commercial route

  • Existing background IP associated with a potential solution will remain with Solution Provider(s). Where any new IP generation is envisaged, it will be subject to the mutual IP agreement of the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Any commercial deployment of transferred solution or newly developed solution, through licensing, joint venture, partnership or direct investment, will be subject to the commercial agreement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger.
  • Where necessary, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may be signed to uphold confidentiality in the engagement between the Solution Provider(s) and Innovation Challenger. (This would be expected to be after company selection, it is suggested that details of IP be not disclosed, Focus on the outcomes of the technology proposed).
  • Innovate UK and KTN do not take any share of IP ownership or enter into commercial venture through the iX programme.

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