Voice based query

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 requires maintenance and repair of complex machinery to be undertaken in remote locations. These operations can be hampered by the need to carry bulky documentation or laptop computers and the Challenge Owner wishes to investigate solutions that permit hands-free access to technical information.


Challenge opens


Challenge closes




As part of operational activities, engineers and other staff are required to access technical information such as manuals, operating procedures, safety standards, group policies and technical guidance.

Currently this information will be held on a laptop on which an individual will be able to search for the information on the company's systems. As engineers usually have a tool or device in their hands this results in a high percentage of non value-added time on particular jobs.

Therefore the Challenge Owner is looking for a system with which an individual can verbally ask a question and be provided with a spoken or visual response.   In the first instance it is assumed that the working language will be English however the Challenge Owner is interested in solutions that can be used in a variety of languages.


  1. Reduced health and safety risks associated with carrying and using laptops in certain situations
  2. Reduced time to access critical information
  3. Information available not restricted to that which the individual is already familiar with

The challenge owner is actively looking for solutions that will;

  1. Detect when a query is raised
  2. Interact with organisational systems to search for the answer or relevant information
  3. Relay the relevant information back to the person
  4. Interpret natural language, although a format for question structure would be acceptable
  5. Require minimal set up or pre-population

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

  • Speech recognition software
  • Voice-to-text 
  • Linguistic specialists
  • Academic voice experts
  • Call centre solutions providers
  • Security service solution providers
  • Education or exam systems creators
  • Machine learning innovators
  • AI software providers
  • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality solution providers

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 or similar competitions are relevant.

Functional requirements

  • A hand held, headset mounted, or mobile, automated voice based query system
  • Ability to recognise technical queries
  • Light and portable to provide benefit over carrying existing laptops
  • Compliant with the Challenge Owner’s strict cyber security protocols

Technical characteristics

  • Must work in the background remotely
  • Able to recognise specific topics and interpret natural language
  • Able to learn from documents
  • Able to self learn without having to program results

Operating conditions

  • Multiple environment types - office, engineering, live operational situations
  • Capable of being operated remotely across multiple locations
  • The client can provide a background database of topics and questions if required but would like a system with the ability to learn and enhance this through use

Deployment timescale

  • Launch of the Competition: 11th of May 2020
  • Deadline for applications: 10th of July 2020
  • Selection and notification of finalists: 24th of 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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