Competition 2013
| Digital Collections | Express Interest | TOCs | FAQs | Judging | Example Ideas | Resources and Tools | Draft Entry | Submit Entry | Events |

We want you to propose an innovative and transformative project using the British Library's digital collections and if your idea is chosen, the Labs team will work with you to make it happen and you could win a prize of up to £3,000.

From the digitisation of thousands of books, newspapers and manuscripts, the curation of UK websites, bird sounds or location data for our maps, over the last two decades we’ve been faithfully amassing a vast and wide-ranging number of digital collections for the nation. What remains elusive, however, is understanding what researchers need in place in order to unlock the potential for new discoveries within these fascinating and diverse sets of digital content.

The Labs competition is designed to attract scholars, explorers, trailblazers and software developers who see the potential for new and innovative research and development opportunities lurking within these immense digital collections. Through soliciting imaginative and transformative projects utilising this content you will be giving us a steer as to the types of new processes, platforms, arrangements, services and tools needed to make it more accessible. We’ll even throw the Library’s resources behind you to make your idea a reality.

Details | Prizes | What happens to your ideas? | Dates in 2013 | Software | Reminder


  1. We’re looking for people over 18 who are interested in researching and developing a project that would significantly benefit from access to the British Library's digital collections.
  2. If you are thinking of entering, express your interest, so we can try and support and help you develop your idea before you submit it.
  3. Take note of the important dates below.
  4. Read the competition details, terms and conditions, FAQs, judging process, example ideas and resources pages to help you formulate a fantastic idea before you submit it to the competition.
  5. Start working on a draft submission using a text version of the final submission form (it will be easier to submit the final version by copying text from the text form to the live form)
  6. Discuss tools, datasets, digital resources in an open way using this wiki (get an accountif you haven't already got one), use our mailing list, or other tools such as twitter, blogs and / or websites (remember to use the #BL_Labs hash tag).
  7. Participate in one of the roadshow events around the UK, virtual events, our hack event in London or contact us to discuss your ideas and ask questions about the competition and Labs.
  8. Submit your entry using the live entry form before the deadline, Wednesday 26 June , 2013 (midnight GMT)
  9. Your entries will be judged using specific assessment criteria.
  10. If you win, you will work with the Labs team to complete your project at the British Library between Saturday July 6 to Monday 4 November, 2013. You will then have the opportunity to showcase your work during November 2013 and of course collect your prizes.
  11. If you don't win, you can still develop your idea on the Labs wiki and the Labs team and British Library staff will try and support you where possible.


Winners will get direct curatorial and financial support for completing their project from the Labs team, which may involve an expenses paid residency at the British Library for a mutually agreed period of time (dependent on the winners' circumstances, the winning ideas, access to resources and budget allowing).
  • Winners will receive £3000 for completing their project
  • Runners-up will receive £1000 for completing their project

The work will take place between between Saturday July 6 and Monday 4 November, 2013, with the completed projects being showcased during November 2013 when prizes will be awarded.

What happens to your ideas?

Selected ideas will be posted on the Labs website after they have been judged. Project ideas submitted for the competition can continue to be worked on and where possible the Labs team will provide support (time and resources permitting). Well developed projects will be showcased together with the competition winners during November 2013.

Dates in 2013

Below is a list of important times and dates you will need to refer to if you are participating in the competition:
  • Thursday 2 May - Full competition details released
  • Friday 17 May 2013 at 1500 GMT - Virtual discussion about the Labs competition
  • Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May - Hack event at the British Library in London
  • Up to Monday 17 June - Roadshow promoting Labs and the competition around the UK
  • Monday 17 June - Deadline for expressions of interest
  • Wednesday 26 June (midnight) - Final deadline for competition entries
  • Thursday 27 June - Thursday 4 July - Judging entries
  • Saturday 6 July - Winners announced at Digital Heritage Conference at York
  • July - Monday 4 November - Winners complete their projects by working with the Labs team
  • During November - Winners and other projects developed as a result of the competition are showcased and prizes are awarded.


If you are preparing software for the competition, we require that you ensure it is developed on the principles of open source softwareand made available, royalty free. Whilst new code for prototypes is encouraged, previously written code may also be used. The same code may be used in multiple prototypes. Sharing of code is encouraged and no code is off limits for use so long as it is legally used. Third party libraries, applications and web services can be deployed.


Participants must ensure that entries do not in any way infringe copyright, or other intellectual property rights, of any third party.

Please remember to read the terms and conditions, FAQs, judging / assessment criteria, example ideas and resources pages carefully before you enter.