Congratulations to Project Heyrick!

‘Project Heyrick’, a plan to use data to detect incidents of modern slavery, has been named the winner in this year’s Civil Service Data Challenge.

Developed from an idea by David Vinnicombe, a Tax Compliance Officer at HMRC, Project Heyrick will now receive £50,000-worth of support to produce a proof of concept for the Home Office commissioning board. Many congratulations to the Project Heyrick Team – and to everyone who sent in your ideas or joined a team, thank you!

For more information, check out our news coverage or click the button below to learn about the four finalists’ ideas.

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“Today has been another powerful reminder that there is a lot of innovation across the Civil Service. We were particularly impressed by the winning team because they had a cross-government coalition of people, using data to target a very hard-to-find community.

“This competition has been instrumental in turning theory into reality, making the ideas ready for deployment.”

Alex Chisholm photoAlex Chisholm
Chief Operating Officer, Civil Service, and Permanent Secretary, Cabinet Office

The winning team, with judges

Find out more about last year’s Data Challenge

Read our news report on December 2021’s Final

Read our article on how the Data Challenge turned one civil servant’s “vague possibility” into a live project

Watch the finalists giving their presentations and answering the judges’ questions in the 30-minute videos below

The 2021 Winner

Deploy AI to protect and enhance our peatlands

In the first Civil Service Data Challenge, which ended in December 2021, the Final Decision Panel picked as the overall winner a plan to train AI systems to identify peatlands drainage channels, supporting work to restore these sensitive environments. Panel chair Alex Chisholm, the Cabinet Office permanent secretary and Civil Service chief operating officer, called the scheme “outstandingly innovative” and noted its potential to reduce CO2 emissions, cut public spending, reduce flood risk and generate intellectual property.

This project is now up and running. And meanwhile, the Challenge has supported another of the finalists’ ideas into implementation: supporting emergency planning work, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has built a data dashboard estimating the distribution of UK citizens overseas.

Deploy AI to protect and enhance our peatlands

Track prisoners’ contacts to support rehabilitation​

Construction industry benefit fraud and error

Gather better statistics on UK citizens abroad


Vicki Chauhan

“The Civil Service Data Challenge has achieved some remarkable things to date – tapping into the unrealised potential of the civil service workforce, providing a channel for good ideas to receive the attention and development they deserve.

“As with last year’s event, deciding a winner for this second year of the Civil Service Data Challenge has been incredibly difficult. I am very much looking forward to working closely with Project Heyrick to develop the idea”.

Vicki Chauhan

Head of Public Sector, NTT DATA UK

“This exciting project, which is creating a data dashboard to help identify and tackle modern slavery, shows the Civil Service at its very best.

“Despite this being only the second year of the Data Challenge, we are already seeing tangible benefits delivered to the public. The government will continue to use its ideas to drive efficiency, improve public services and help tackle some of the most pressing challenges in our society.”

Alex Burghart

Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office

Julia Lopez photo

“I’ve found civil servants full of ideas on how to realise the Government’s objectives. Now we want to apply that inventiveness and expertise to one of the most fundamental challenges facing the civil service: that of realising the potential of our huge data assets.”

Julia Lopez MP

Former Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Photo montage of our judges

Our sponsors and judges

The 2022 Civil Service Data Challenge was sponsored by very senior figures, giving the project reach and influence across government. The judges, who included top data specialists from the Civil Service and NTT DATA, first selected the eight ideas to develop within the programme, then tested the ideas at the Semi-Final and Final – announcing the winner on 23 March 2023. 


Timeline: 2022 programme

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Launch of applications

Friday 29 July 2022

Applications close and long list process begins

Friday 30 September 2022

Longlist of applications published

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Pitch event (the Semi Final)

Thursday 23 March 2023

The Final

Information for managers

All those submitting ideas or volunteering to join a team have required their line manager's permission. If you are selected to join a development team, you'll need to spend time on the project over the coming months; so if you get a new line manager, please show them our Information for line managers page. Here our sponsor, Civil Service Chief Operating Officer Alex Chisholm, explains the benefits of getting involved and asks managers to support participating staff.