Apply to the BFI National Lottery Innovation Challenge Call 2

This guide gives you advice and recommendations on how to write an application that can be considered for the Innovation Challenge Fund Challenge Call 2 – AI in screen and moving image archives.

1. Overview 

The Innovation Challenge Fund seeks to support new solutions to the UK screen sector’s most critical challenges. Between 2024 and 2026, up to £1.8 million from the BFI’s National Lottery Funding allocation will be distributed to help not-for-profits to innovate, developing new approaches to persistent problems, whilst gaining insights that benefit the whole screen sector. 

Our second Innovation Challenge call will explore Artificial Intelligence (AI), and its potential uses in screen and moving image archives.

The advent of AI has changed the way we use, share and search for information. Inevitably, this means changes for archives, and their vital role in the screen sector. Although AI’s full range of impacts are not yet understood, it clearly has the potential to drastically impact the ways in which we document, explore and understand moving image in the coming years.

This call seeks to support moving image archives to develop skills and AI literacy across the sector by experimenting with new AI-based approaches and disseminating the learning from this. 


2. Challenge call 2 – Supporting test and learn approaches to AI in moving image archives

There are a range of exciting possibilities for the use of AI in moving image and screen archives. The potential benefits of this new technology include: 

  • using AI to generate metadata tagging, improving the quality of metadata and freeing up staff capacity from manual data entry
  • improving front-end user experience to make collections more engaging and accessible, for example with the use of chatbots
  • making information easier to find by improving search and discovery tools
  • improving accessibility, for example by generating captioning or audio description for collections
  • supporting data collection, restoration and conservation
  • scanning whole collections to analyse content and highlight gaps, for example identifying areas of under-representation

However, there are also significant risks and challenges presented to working with this technology. These could include:

  • having the capacity, resource and in-house expertise to support the additional work that experimenting with AI requires
  • identifying and addressing bias created by AI, which learns from the datasets it is trained on
  • rights infringement issues, created when AI replicates, uses or imitates existing content without permission
  • issues around job security or potential role changes for existing staff
  • issues around data security and how to share and store information safely
  • issues around the energy intensity and carbon impact of using AI

At the moment, in a context which is changing rapidly, it is difficult for archives to get an accurate picture of where developments in AI are most relevant, applicable and practical, and what the best next (or first) steps would be. Capacity issues also make connection and collaboration across organisations exploring the same issues difficult.

This challenge call seeks to support moving image archives in the UK to access the benefits and address some of the challenges and opportunities listed above.

How this challenge addresses the issues

Our consultation has shown that there is an optimism around AI and its potential for moving image archives, but there is a lack of clarity about what is possible and limited capacity to explore this further. Therefore, the proposed challenge call aims to build the capacity to explore these new technologies and experiment with AI. It will do this by supporting the application which is most likely to:

  • bring together a diverse cohort of moving image archives with an interest in experimenting with AI to share insight and improve connectivity
  • test new processes and ideas, developing innovative approaches to complex challenges
  • share learning about the results of this experimentation to build AI literacy and understanding across the archive and screen sectors

We heard frequently through our consultation that a lack of funding, resource and capacity were barriers for archives looking to engage with AI and test its potential in their context. We intend for this opportunity to create the right conditions for innovation in this space.

What a successful proposal should include

We are particularly interested in applications which:

  • prioritise collaboration and network building
  • propose partnerships that include a range of moving image archives across a range of scales, including organisations based outside of London and the South East of England
  • will generate useful insights around AI for the wider archival and screen sectors, helping accelerate understanding of what works and what does not
  • take an innovative approach to tackling the challenges and opportunities presented by AI
  • plan to support multiple partners to trial new AI-based approaches or technologies

For this challenge call, the funding amount available is a maximum of £175,000, and we anticipate making one award. If, however, no single application is sufficiently strong to succeed, we may ask applicants to modify their proposals to enable us to fund two or more applications to deliver separate outcomes (within the same total amount), or we may elect not to make any award.

Deliverables and reporting 

We are inviting submissions from eligible applicants (see section 4 below) seeking to meet this challenge, as outlined above. In your application you will need to identify the specific activity you will deliver (your ‘deliverables’) using the funding. Your deliverables should include: 

  • the programme activity and outputs as outlined in your application
  • at least one public output which shares any insights gained from developing and delivering this innovation (this could include toolkits, workshops, presentations, blogs or webinars)

In order to monitor progress and delivery of the challenge you will be required to submit: 

  • 8-weekly reports summarising progress, learnings, outputs and impacts at the stage of the report, as well as highlighting any instances of the funded innovation having use or impact in the wider sector
    • the update reports will include a narrative update that includes detail on any changes to plans in comparison to those previously approved by BFI, and an update on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • a quarterly cost report detailing progression against budget
  • a final challenge report due no more than two months after the award term. This should incorporate a final cost report (not to be shared publicly), a narrative report, including details on development and delivery, the legacy of the work and evidenced impacts for the wider sector and confirmation of the deliverables have been met.  We will require the right to publish elements of the final challenge report in order to share learnings with the industry and public

3. Delivering against the BFI’s National Lottery Strategy 

 The BFI National Lottery strategy 2023-2033 is underpinned by a series of principles and outcomes, which our funds contribute to achieving. 

Critically, applications to the Innovation Challenge Fund must be: 

  • designed to benefit the intended sector (UK screen sector and moving image archives in this case) 
  • identifiably for public benefit. 

Strategic priorities

Every successful application, irrespective of the challenge, must contribute significantly to one or more of the priorities of our strategic framework listed below.

Creativity and storytelling 

Anyone can create original screen work, from first-time creators to world-class professionals:

  • creative talent is supported and nurtured, as they emerge and throughout their careers 
  • people are better enabled to innovate and experiment creatively 

Success in a changing landscape 

Independents and cultural organisations can adapt and thrive in a changing landscape:

  • better support available for small and medium-sized enterprises and independents to develop their businesses 
  • evidence-based insight and analysis of the screen sector is readily available to all, supporting organisations and driving policymaking 
  • screen organisations have significantly reduced their carbon footprint 

National Lottery funding principles

In addition, all of the activity this fund supports must contribute towards delivering the BFI’s three principles for National Lottery funding.

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI

We champion everyday inclusion at the BFI. At least one challenge issued through this fund will focus on EDI – for example, increasing industry access for an under-represented group. In addition, the fund as a whole will be evaluated on its overall impact on helping the sector achieve better inclusion. Applicants to this fund will be asked to consider how their proposal meaningfully tackles under-representation in relation to disability, gender, race, age, sexual orientation and socio-economic status, while also considering the interactions of these identities and any other barriers to opportunity. 


Applications to the fund are sought from applicants based across the UK. The nature of each challenge will indicate whether project proposals can offer UK-wide benefit in terms of their intended impact, or whether on occasion their impact may be more specialised or localised in scope. Some challenges, for example, may be specifically designed to benefit parts of the UK screen sector outside of London and the South East of England. Across the life of the fund we aim to make awards to organisations based, and with benefit reaching, across the UK

Environmental sustainability 

All organisations awarded funding through the Innovation Challenge Fund are asked to consider what it means to apply the principle of environmental sustainability (ES), to the funded activity or their activity more generally. This could be good environmental practice for the project (e.g. travel, events), as an organisation more broadly, and/or exploring environmental themes as part of the work.

Awardees can make use of the wider resources and support provided by our designated partner, Julie’s Bicycle, notably through the Sustainable Screen Hub, as well as an initial consultation on applying the ES principle.

Awardees will be asked to submit environmental impact data, where feasible, and report on how they have applied the ES principle, by the end of their funding, via Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Tools.

We may also connect organisations whose projects relate to production activity with BAFTA albert. 

Awardees will be sent further information once the award is confirmed.

Key Performance Indicators 

KPIs help us measure the success of funded innovations. They will be specific to the challenge, and set in collaboration with you, if you are successful. There are also Innovation Challenge Fund-level KPIs that all awardees will need to meet, as follows:

  • demonstrate the development, user testing and launch of an innovative new process or output (for example a new application of technology, process methodology, delivery model, network or tool). As with all innovation funding, we anticipate that there may be unexpected outcomes as part of this process, which should be captured and shared with the sector. In the case that negative outcomes during development lead to the innovation being unable to launch, then the learning around this must be published to the sector in lieu of the original output
  • produce one or more outputs which disseminate learnings and insight for the benefit of the wider sector (for example a report, webinar, workshop or presentation at an industry event)
  • contribute to an evidence base around ‘what works’ and ‘what doesn’t’ in terms of innovation design and processes in the screen sector
  • support BFI in identifying a ‘results chain’ for at least three awards, where the wider sector is seen to be using or benefitting from the results of innovation or insight

Specific KPIs relating to this Challenge could include: 

  • number of partners trialling new approaches to AI which they did not have the capacity, skills or resource for previously
  • number of outputs which disseminate learning to screen archives within and outside of the network
  • evidence of additional stakeholders within the sector utilising insights made public by this work to generate further impact during the award period

4. Check if you’re eligible  

Applicants must be legally constituted, not-for-profit organisations centrally managed in the UK at the time of application. This includes: 

  • community interest companies registered at Companies House 
  • limited companies registered as not-for-profit
  • UK charities or trusts registered with the relevant charity commission including charitable arms of large organisations   
  • UK combined or local authorities or statutory bodies   
  • UK universities, colleges and independent research organisations 

Partnerships of more than one organisation are eligible to apply, including partnerships of “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” organisations, so long as the lead partner is “not-for-profit”. The lead partner will need to submit the application to the BFI and would be the party to a funding agreement and direct recipient of the award if the application is successful. 

Similarly, organisations based outside the UK can partner on applications where the lead partner is UK-based, and the project is designed to have direct beneficial impacts for the UK screen sector.

Organisations can also partner on more than one application if they so wish, but should ensure they have the capacity to deliver all activity which might be awarded.

In order to be eligible for funding, applicants must also submit a letter of support from the lead organisation’s CEO or a Senior Executive member alongside their application, to demonstrate organisational buy-in for this work at a leadership level. 

When you’re ineligible 

You are not eligible to apply for to this fund if you:

  • are an individual 
  • are not based in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)
  • do not meet the eligibility criteria outlined above 

Get in touch with the team if you’re unsure whether you are eligible to apply to this fund by emailing

5. What you can use the funding for  

The Innovation Challenge Fund will usually offer funding as a grant and is generally expected not to have an effect on competition or investment within the UK or between UK and another territory. However, if the project is expected to result in a financial gain for the applicant, then to comply with UK subsidy legislation, there may be additional conditions attached to the offer of funding. This may include potentially providing the award as a recoupable grant repayable from such gains. We also may request further information at application stage to determine whether subsidy is present and what our approach needs to be to ensure compliance with UK legislation. 

You can use the funding to cover costs including: 

  • technical resource and expertise
  • hiring staff to deliver and/or support the work 
  • partnership development 
  • coverage of some overheads to support the project (e.g. some coverage of existing staff and/or organisational core costs as these apply to the project) - we suggest no more than 10% of the overall budget 
  • outreach and training  
  • the analysis and sharing of learnings with the sector, government and other not-for-profits  
  • securing funding for the on-going support of activity (e.g. hiring a fundraiser)  
  • accessibility provision for project staff or participants 
  • delivering your funded activity in a more environmentally sustainable way.   

What you cannot use the fund for 

Ineligible costs include: 

  • a project management fee that does not reflect costs directly associated with delivery of the programme   
  • core costs for day-to-day running of your organisation not associated with the activity 
  • flights within or between England, Scotland and Wales, or international flights   
  • costs relating to an extension of ongoing work 
  • capital expenditure (building costs and the purchase of equipment) 
  • activity that is already specifically supported by another source of funding, including by other BFI funding provided by a different fund or BFI delegate partner – please contact us if you are unsure whether this applies to you 
  • proposals that focus on other art-forms such as literature, dance on film, poetry film, opera or artists’ moving image 
  • cost incurred prior to an offer of funding from BFI 
  • prize funding of any kind 
  • alcohol, parties or similar events 

This list is not exhaustive and we may inform you that other types of activity within your application cannot be supported by a BFI award, or request that you amend specific lines and allocations. 

If you are registered for VAT, your figures should not include VAT that you can claim back. If you are not registered for VAT, or you are registered for VAT but cannot fully recover the VAT you incur on costs, your figures should include irrecoverable VAT. Grants we make are ‘outside the scope’ of VAT and should be listed in your accounts as a grant and not, for example, as a fee for any services supplied to the BFI. You should get financial advice from your own accountant or the relevant tax office. 

BFI National Lottery funding is project-based, time-limited funding, and as such, there should be no expectation of ongoing support beyond the term of any awards made. Funds are not intended to substitute or replace existing funding or income that would otherwise be available, or to fund activity at the same scale that can go ahead without an award. National Lottery funds can only be awarded to applicants who demonstrate need and a clear public benefit from the activity being funded. 

Partnership funding 

As this fund seeks to support innovation that may not attract commercial or other public finance, we recognise it will be challenging for applicants to raise partnership funding to include in their budgets. We therefore do not require a minimum level of partnership funding from applicants. 

If you have secured, or intend to secure, cash or in-kind resources to contribute to the challenge, you will need to include these in your application budget. Any such partnership funding required to meet budgeted costs will need to be secured in advance of payment of any award from BFI and before the proposed delivery start date. 

6. How to apply

You need to create an account or have an existing account on our grant website to make your application online. You can save your application and return to it later. Make sure you complete all the sections as incomplete forms will be automatically ineligible. 

Applications close on Thursday 5 September 2024.

Information you’ll need to provide  

As part of the application form, we will ask you for:  

  • organisation and contact details 
  • detail of any project partners 
  • a project overview including the proposed innovation in response to the challenge call 
  • an outline of the lead applicant and partners’ relevant experience, skills and network to deliver this proposal 
  • a dissemination plan for learnings from your project, including any resources to be developed 
  • the anticipated benefits of the innovation 
  • a description of the risks you foresee relating to your activity and how you will mitigate these 
  • a plan for the legacy of the work – how will its benefits be sustained after BFI National Lottery funding has ended?  
  • how your project meets our principle of equity, diversity and inclusion through responding to the BFI Diversity Standards 
  • how your project meets our other principles of UK-wide and environmental sustainability. 

You should write your application in the future tense; tell us what you are going to do, and what the project will be, if funding is secured.

Documents you’ll need to provide 

At the end of the application form you will be asked to attach the below:

Documents about your project

  • a detailed project budget (an Excel template for this is provided on the application form)
  • an activity plan outlining the delivery phases of your project, including dates for user testing / demonstration of the innovation to key stakeholders, and public launch 
  • a letter of support from the CEO or a Senior Executive member of the lead applicant’s organisation 
  • if you are applying as part of a partnership bid, an in-principle partnership agreement signed by each partner

Financial documents

  • the lead applicant’s last set of independently certified / audited accounts 
    • if more than 12 months has passed since the year-end covered in these accounts, you may be asked to provide draft accounts for the intervening auditable period as approved by your Board (including both income and expenditure reporting and a balance sheet). If this is not possible for your organisation, please contact to discuss with the team. 
    • if your organisation is less than 12 months old and has not yet filed accounts, please provide evidence of a bank account
  • your organisational risk register

If you have questions about any of these documents, please contact to discuss with the team.

Equality monitoring 

You will be asked to complete an equality monitoring form when you submit your application. The form asks for demographic information on the staff working on your project at the lead partner organisation. The data that you submit on this form will be confidential and anonymous and not seen by the staff assessing your application. We will not be able to put forward your application for assessment until you have completed the equality monitoring form. 

If you have any questions when completing the application form, please contact us at We welcome your feedback on the application process and how we might improve it. 

7. What happens after you apply  

After applications close on Thursday 5 September 2024: 

  1. You’ll get confirmation we received your application within 1-2 working days. 
  2. If your application is ineligible, we will email to tell you we will not be able to consider it. We may enable you to fix a mistake if this is the only reason the application is ineligible. 
  3. We will review your application and request any additional information we may need within 6 weeks. 
  4. Interviews will be held for selected applicant(s) within 10 weeks 
  5. You’ll get a decision within 12 weeks.  

During assessment, we may write to you or request to meet with you to obtain more information about your application. If we need additional information from you, it may take us longer than the timeframes shown above to reach a decision on your application. 

How your application is assessed  

Your application will be assessed by the Innovation Challenge Fund Manager in consultation with colleagues from the wider BFI Research and Insight team or other departments. We may also share your application with one or more external consultants to help us assess it. External consultants will be required to maintain confidentiality regarding the contents of your application and agree not to retain application materials after their review. 

When assessing applications, we consider the extent to which they demonstrate: 

  • a clear approach to tackle the challenge outlined 
  • that they are appropriate for innovation funding (this fund will not support any activity that could be seen as business-as-usual) 
  • a well-designed proposal which is robustly evidenced 
  • a high potential for impact 
  • the potential to generate significant learning and insight which will be of use to the UK screen and moving image archive sector
  • a clear legacy plan for this work 
  • that the applicant and partners have the relevant experience, skills and network to deliver the proposal 
  • a clear understanding of potential risks and plans to mitigate these 
  • a clear plan for working with the BFI on your innovation 
  • a clear and feasible delivery plan 
  • a realistic budget which represents good value for money 
  • the extent to which the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion and environmental sustainability are reflected within delivery plans 
  • where your activity will be carried out and where geographically the benefits of the project are likely to occur – applications will be strengthened if they can demonstrate that their partnerships and beneficiaries will be UK-wide 
  • the need for National Lottery funding 

We may also take into account how you have managed any previous BFI awards (if applicable). 

The team will decide which application to support. 

Lottery Finance Committee consideration 

Following assessment, a funding recommendation will be made to the BFI Lottery Finance Committee. This is the final stage of the funding decision process. We undertake due diligence assessments of the applications we are recommending to our decision-making committee for funding. As part of this, before submitting an application to the Committee, we will request the bank details of the lead applicant. 

We will also request the personal address and date of birth of the CEO or Managing Director of the organisation applying. Please note that our request for this information is not an indication or confirmation of funding and you will be informed separately of the funding decision on your application. We will use this data to run an identity check. Please note that this is not a credit check and will not affect the ability of the CEO or Managing Director to receive credit from other organisations. We will be unable to submit your application to our decision-making committee until we have received your completed form.  
All applicants will be informed in writing of the decision on their application. If your application is declined, all supporting materials will be deleted from your submission in line with our record retention policy. 

8. Getting a decision 

If you’re successful  

You’ll receive a written offer of funding, and you will need to sign this and return it to the BFI within 28 days.   

Your offer of funding will set out details of how you will receive the funding, how to use it and how we expect you to report to us. Read section nine below to find out what you will have to do if you are offered an award. 

If you’re unsuccessful  

We may have turned down your application because we determined that the proposal:

  • did not closely meet the challenge for this funding round 
  • did not fit our funding objectives and outcomes 
  • did not demonstrate a strong enough commitment to one or more of the following principles: equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI); environmental sustainability; UK-wide 
  • was too ambitious for the budget, or did not demonstrate strong value for money 
  • was under-developed or lacking in detail around project content, staffing, risk management etc.   
  • did not demonstrate enough relevant experience 
  • did not demonstrate sufficient need for National Lottery support and could be financed by other means 
  • did not sufficiently respond to the BFI Diversity Standards


It is not possible to resubmit an application to the Innovation Challenge Fund. 

Feedback on an unsuccessful application 

If requested, we will endeavour to provide feedback either in writing or via a phone or video call. As a small team we will prioritise those organisations where we asked for additional information or an interview during the assessment process. 

9. Conditions of funding 

If you are offered an award from us, in addition to the General Conditions of National Lottery Funding, you will be required to deliver the funded project in accordance with the requirements set out in these guidelines and with the contents of your application (in its final form approved by the BFI) including as follows:   

  1. The duration or term of the funding agreement will be based on the requirements of your application but will be no more than 24 months from the date of issue. Progress will be measured based on submission by you of bi-monthly narrative reports updating on activity and progress against KPIs, and quarterly budget reports, reporting costs against budget. The dates for the receipt of these will be matched to cashflow of instalments of the award. 
  2. You will be required to work collaboratively with relevant BFI departments and partners and maintain an open dialogue during the term of your award, updating the BFI of any changes to your project in comparison with your plans at application stage. We may ask you for a meeting at any point during delivery to review progress and, if we request it, you will be required to facilitate access for a BFI representative to observe or where appropriate take part in the funded activity. 
  3. You will be required to write and agree to the publication by BFI of a final challenge report (see deliverables above). This should be written in the spirit of the greatest transparency possible, to enable other organisations to utilise and further develop your work. 
  4. Any outputs produced by the project (for example a digital database, toolkit or online platform) will be owned and managed by you. Once launched, these must be maintained for at least the remaining award term, and legacy planning should ensure their continued use and availability for an additional 24 months beyond the expiry of the term and for no further funding from BFI. If you are unable to sustain this, the ownership of or a licence in all such digital or other tangible assets will be transferred to BFI so that it can explore measures to ensure future public availability.   
  5. You will be required to have an initial consultation with Julie’s Bicycle on your plans for applying the environmental sustainability principle, and to determine what kind of environmental reporting is feasible and meaningful. You will be asked to submit environmental impact data, via Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Tools (or an equivalent tool). You will also be asked to report on how you have applied the environmental sustainability principle by the end of your funding period, by completing the ‘Beyond Carbon’ feature of Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Tools. 
  6. You will be required to take part in evaluation of the Fund, carried out by a third-party contractor appointed by the BFI. This is likely to take place between 2024-26 and may be revisited during later years so you should ensure to retain all data relating to your programme, its participants and its impact until the end of the BFI Screen Culture Strategy in March 2033. 
  7. Where you have included unsecured partnership funding within your budget, you will need to provide updates on securing this finance to the BFI (normally as part of your performance reporting but, where such partnership funding is intrinsic to delivery of the project, as a pre-condition to the funding agreement). The BFI may elect to withhold or withdraw your award if you are unable to secure a level of partnership funding required to deliver the project as planned, or require that you submit revised plans and budget showing how the project could be delivered without the planned partnership funding.  
  8. You will be required to gain BFI approval for any marketing or related materials for your activity, in line with branding guidelines that the BFI will provide you with. 
  9. Where applicable, you will need to adopt safeguarding provisions for protecting children and vulnerable adults and ensure that data on all participants in and beneficiaries of the Innovation Challenge Fund can be shared with BFI in compliance with data protection legislation.