Funding competition Support for SMEs to evaluate innovative medical technologies

SMEs can apply for a share of £1 million to support the evaluation of innovative medical devices, diagnostics and regulated digital health products.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The Office for Life Sciences (OLS) in partnership with Innovate UK is to invest up to £1 million to support developers of innovative medicines, medical devices, diagnostics and regulated digital technology to evaluate their product in a real world clinical setting.

This competition aims to provide support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to generate an evidence base that will enable the evaluation of products that address NHS priorities. This support is intended to allow companies to collect and analyse clinical performance and cost effectiveness data within an NHS setting.

Proposals should:

  • describe the innovative medicine or CE-marked device
  • include any current up to date evidence of the product’s clinical performance and cost effectiveness
  • demonstrate how the product meets the priority needs defined in next steps on the NHS 5 year forward view, and how it is expected to deliver significant cost savings, health gains or beneficial service impacts, if quickly adopted across NHS England
  • provide evidence that you are working with appropriate stakeholders including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England, National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs)
  • include the development or implementation of plans for data collection within the NHS
  • outline how studies will generate data on the costs and benefits of a product, allowing evaluation by NICE

All projects must be business led.

Collaborative partners are permitted but not required. Only the lead partner can claim grant.

Funding type


Project size

Total project costs must range in size from £50,000 to £250,000. Projects must start by 1 June 2018 and be completed by the end of March 2019.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To apply for funding you must:

  • be a UK based SME
  • carry out your project within the NHS
  • have a product that is aligned with the specific priority healthcare areas defined in the next steps on the NHS 5 year forward view
  • involve products that have been marketed in the UK for less than 5 years
  • be able to outline relevant discussions you have had with key stakeholders, such as NICE, NIHR, NHS England and AHSNs, to demonstrate the feasibility of your proposal

SMEs may work alone or in collaboration with other businesses or research organisations as unfunded partners or sub-contractors. Only the SME leading the project can claim grant.

SMEs may only submit one application to this round of the competition.

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Projects we won't fund

In this competition we are not funding projects involving:

  • CE marked products that have been marketed in the UK for more than 5 years
  • medical devices and diagnostics that do not focus on the specific priority areas for NHS England defined in this competition
  • digital health products not regulated as a medical device

Funding and project details

We have allocated up to £1 million to fund projects in this competition.

Option 1: project costs of up to £50,000

SMEs can apply for support to develop detailed and feasible plans for the collection of relevant data in a clinical setting. It is expected that the development of these plans will involve discussion with appropriate stakeholders in NIHR, NICE and NHS England.

Option 2: project costs of up to £250,000

SMEs can apply for support to enable the collection and analysis of real world data that helps evaluate the impact of your product. Plans must have been developed in discussion with NICE and NHS England.

You can use the funding to access innovation and advisory support services, including consultancy. You can also use it to support costs related to the collection and analysis of clinical data beyond that required for standard clinical care.

The costs that are eligible for funding are those for:

  • obtaining, validating and defending patents and other intangible assets
  • the secondment of highly qualified personnel from a research organisation or large enterprise to work on research, development and innovation activities in a newly created function within the beneficiary, as long as they are not replacing existing personnel
  • innovation advisory and support services

Support services can include consultancy and training, for the purpose of developing more effective products, processes and services, in:

  • knowledge transfer
  • acquisition
  • protection and exploitation of intangible assets
  • use of standards and regulations embedding them
  • the provision of office space, data banks, libraries, market research, laboratories, quality labelling, testing and certification

Project types

This competition is being run under Article 28: innovation aid for SMEs. Further information, including eligible costs, can be found on page 42 of this document.

Your work should focus on understanding evidence gaps, and testing product performance to elucidate the operational impact of your product on NHS service provision.

You could get funding of up to 50% of your eligible project costs.

Competition scope

We aim to encourage SMEs involved in the development and manufacture of innovative medical devices, diagnostics and regulated digital healthcare products to collect supporting clinical evidence on the performance and impact of their product in the NHS. Proposals must aim to support the impact assessment of medical devices, diagnostics and regulated digital healthcare products.

We will also fund projects that support the development or design of plans for the collection of clinical data, for example, projects to define evidence gaps and design performance evaluation studies.

Priority will be given to products that address the priorities outlined in the next steps on the NHS 5 year forward view. Developers of medical devices, diagnostics and regulated digital healthcare products should have gained a CE marking. However, you should not have marketed the product in the UK for more than 5 years.

You will need to show how your product is likely to have a significant impact and is aligned with NHS England’s priorities.

You should show how your project will produce evidence of the impact of your technology, and where appropriate increase patient access to innovative technologies.

Specific themes

We are particularly encouraging applications that are aligned with priority areas for NHS England, as described in the next steps on the NHS 5 year forward view. Priority will be given to projects that address:

  • reducing cancellations or unnecessary appointments in primary and secondary care
  • reducing the burden on A&E services, for example through diverting footfall
  • improving patient safety and avoiding patient harm
  • speeding up diagnosis, such as improving the scope of lower cost diagnostic imaging
  • enabling earlier diagnosis of cancer
  • supporting the management of long term conditions, such as diabetes, chronic pain management cardiovascular disease, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Applications should also demonstrate how the project will:

  • expand the evidence base by adding data that can contribute to the health technology appraisal process, for instance through comparing the use of the new product against the current standard of care
  • support identification of potential breakthrough technologies
  • support the establishment of improved methods and systems, and demonstrate how the product combined with health care system adaptation delivers better outcomes at lower cost
  • work with the National Institute of Health Research
29 January 2018
Competition opens
13 February 2018
Recording of applicant briefing.
21 March 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
10 May 2018 3:44pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application. Please note that there are differences in the funding rules and eligible costs as this competition is being run under Article 28 of the general block exemption regulation (GBER): innovation aid for SMEs.

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite:

  • colleagues to contribute to the application
  • other organisations to participate in the project as unfunded collaborators if your application is successful

Unfunded partner organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details
  2. Application questions
  3. Finances

1. Project details

Explain your project. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and length. List any partner organisations you have named as collaborators.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could be before you start your project.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why.

Applicants must demonstrate how their products are aligned with the competition’s specific priority areas as described in the competition scope. Applications should also demonstrate how the project will contribute to the health technology appraisal process, and how it supports the adoption of improved or more cost-effective systems of patient care.

There are 2 different options or levels of support available. You need to specify which option you are applying for and tailor your bid accordingly.

  • Option 1: study planning and preparation
  • Option 2: collection of clinical performance and cost-effectiveness data study

2. Application questions

In this section, answers to these questions are scored by the assessors. Following assessment, you will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long.

Question 1: Need or challenge

What is the business need, citizen challenge, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Provide evidence of:

  • the potential for your product to have a significant impact on patients or the efficiency of care delivery by the NHS
  • when the product was first marketed in the UK, as only products that have been marketed for less than 5 years are eligible for support
  • the current status of your evidence base

If you are applying for option 1 funding:

  • explain or justify why the study planning and preparation funding is necessary to continue working on your product
  • provide details of your gap analysis of the clinical performance and cost-effectiveness of your product, if you have performed it, including the output from the use of the NICE medtech early technical assessment (META) tool or an equivalent, or provide any specific advice you have received on evidence gaps
  • justify any further work needed to define the evidence gaps and where appropriate indicate if this includes a NICE Scientific advice project
  • provide a summary of the evidence requirement you are trying to fill

If you are applying for option 2 funding:

  • show that you have performed an initial product evidence gap analysis using the NICE META tool, a comparable approach or product specific advice including a NICE scientific advice project
  • explain how your proposed study will fill the identified gaps and tell us what evidence your study will gather and analyse

Question 2: Approach

What approach will you take?

If you are applying for option 1 funding:

  • tell us how you will use the funding to develop and execute plans for data collection
  • describe specific plans for engagement with relevant stakeholders including NICE, NHS England and AHSNs

If you are applying for option 2 funding:

  • describe what work needs to be carried out during the study, and why
  • describe how the study data will be collected and analysed
  • provide details of how you are working with NICE, NHS England, AHSNs and other stakeholders regarding the development of these plans

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long to support your answer.

Question 3: Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

You should describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • (if your project is collaborative) the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any gaps in the team that will need to be filled

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer.

Question 4: Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

You should describe or explain:

  • the market opportunity you will address
  • how your product compares to the current standard of care or current practices
  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

Question 5: Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

You should describe or explain:

  • how you will use the data generated by the project’s clinical data
  • what your plan is for onward product development
  • whether the data generated will contribute to a NICE medtech or diagnostics guidance document, refinement of the product, or new knowledge about the impacts to the care pathway
  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers and/or end users, and the value to them, for example, why would they use or buy it
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation (increased revenues or cost reduction)
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

Question 6: Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Summarise the anticipated benefit of your product for one of the clinical or operational areas listed in ‘Specific themes’. Your product must address the clinical and service need priorities given in the next steps on the NHS 5 year forward view.

You should describe, and where possible measure:

  • why and how the adoption of this technology will lead to significant nationally relevant healthcare benefits or system savings.
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 7: Project management

You should describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms that will be used for a successful and innovative project outcome.
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You may upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long.

Question 8: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

You should describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how these risks will be mitigated
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise or data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how this will be managed

You may upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long.

Question 9: Additionality

Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.

You should describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the business of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity you can undertake, and the related spend

Question 10: Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

You should describe or explain:

  • the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • how you will finance your contribution to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation in your project to complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. For full details on what costs you can claim please refer to the specific guidance related to the eligible costs under Article 28 of the GBER: innovation aid for SMEs. Further information can be found on page 42 of the state aid manual as these differ from the eligible costs set out in our standard guidance for applicants.

After you have entered your project costs you should enter a funding level of 50% in the ‘your funding’ section.

Background and further information

The life sciences sector is critical for developing medicines, medical and digital technologies and diagnostics that improve patients’ lives. It is one of the most important sectors for the UK economy with more than 5,000 companies, nearly 235,000 employees and a £63.5 billion turnover in 2016. It is a highly productive industry with employment distributed across the regions, in small, medium and global companies.

The government’s ambition is that NHS patients should be among the first in the world to get life-changing treatments. In autumn 2016, the independently chaired accelerated access review (AAR) set out a vision of getting the best technologies to patients more quickly and more cheaply, in a system that is quick to adopt innovation.

More than 95% of companies in the UK life sciences sector are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The AAR analysis revealed that SMEs are sometimes unable to provide sufficient real-world evidence to inform or support NHS commissioning and adoption decisions, preventing their innovations from helping patients.

In addition to the portfolio of support available through current research funding, the government is delivering a new £6 million scheme. This will help SMEs obtain an effective evidence base for their medtech products, including IVDs and digitally enabled devices, or medicines qualifying for the early access to medicines scheme (EAMS).

This Innovate UK scheme focusing on medtech is intended to support the collection and analysis of clinical performance and cost data within an NHS setting, often referred to as real-world evidence. This type of data will make it easier for the healthcare system to adopt innovations with the greatest potential impact to deliver savings or improve patient care.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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