Funding competition Biomedical Catalyst 2018 round 2: primer award

UK SMEs can apply for a share of up to £5 million to work alone or with others on solving healthcare challenges in a model system.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


This is a competition for a primer award in the Biomedical Catalyst.

Biomedical Catalyst supports the development of innovative healthcare products, technologies and processes. These can include:

  • disease prevention and proactive management of health and chronic conditions
  • earlier and better detection and diagnosis of disease, leading to better patient outcomes
  • tailored treatments that either change the underlying disease or offer potential cures

The Biomedical Catalyst has 4 types of funding award. These are: feasibility, primer, early stage and late stage. The late stage award is running alongside this one. They are designed to help SMEs developing a product or process to provide an innovative solution to a health and care challenge. The scheme supports progression from initial concept through to late stage development.

We welcome applications from any sector or discipline.

If your project’s total costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, email us at least 10 days before the competition closes.

Funding type


Project size

We expect projects to range in size from £200,000 to £1.5 million (total project costs). Projects should last 12 to 24 months and must start by 1 April 2019.

Who can apply

An SME business can:

  • take part in up to 3 applications in this competition round, although you may only be the lead partner in one application in this round
  • lead only one active project in any one Biomedical Catalyst award at any time

The exception to the rule on leading only one active project is when a new project is a direct progression from one award to the next category of awards. For example, you may already hold both an early stage and a late stage award. When the early stage project finishes, you may apply in this round for a late stage award to continue that specific programme of work while still holding your original late stage award. We will ask you to provide evidence that you have enough resources to run 2 projects at the same time.

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK, but you did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, you will not be awarded more funding in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members
  • communicate our decision to you in writing
Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information please see our general guidance.


If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be classed as a resubmission.

If your application is unsuccessful, you may reapply with the same proposal once more, taking into account the feedback received from the assessors. You can reapply into another round of this competition or another competition. In other words, you can make a maximum of 2 applications in total with any proposal.


We have allocated up to £5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

The research organisations in your consortium can share up to 50% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

This competition provides state aid funding under the General Block Exemption Regulation. It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

The primer award supports a technical evaluation of your idea through to proof of concept in a model system, and can include:

  • experimental evaluation (at laboratory scale)
  • initial demonstration using in vitro and in vivo models (but not human clinical trials such as safety or efficacy)
  • exploring potential production mechanisms
  • early-stage prototyping
  • product development planning
  • intellectual property protection

We support projects from any sector or discipline, including (but not limited to):

  • stratified healthcare (both therapeutic and diagnostic components)
  • advanced therapies (gene and cell therapies)
  • diagnostics
  • digital health
  • medical technologies and devices
If you choose the innovation area ‘Diagnostics, medical technology and devices’, please indicate within the scope whether your project falls within ‘Diagnostics’ or ‘Medical technology and devices’.

Project types

For feasibility and industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that cover:

  1. Human trials, such as clinical trials of safety or efficacy.
  2. Trials involving human subjects which would be considered in scope for the Biomedical Catalyst late stage award.
  3. Projects that are too early stage, for example:

  • basic research
  • generation of pure scientific and technological knowledge
  • development of research ideas, hypotheses and experimental designs that have no practical commercial application

4. Projects that are too close to market or are already at market, such as:

  • evaluations to inform labelling
  • laboratory accreditation
  • distribution or marketing activity
  • post-marketing studies
  • post-marketing surveillance
5. Projects that include large organisations as partners.
6 August 2018
Competition opens
7 August 2018
Online briefing event. Watch the recording
3 October 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
29 November 2018 3:45pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Make sure you are applying to the right competition. Would the late stage award be more appropriate for your stage of development?

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

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 collaborate in the project if your application is successful

Collaborating 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. Application details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Application 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 does not, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

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

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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 happen before you start your project. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


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. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

Your answers to these questions will be scored by the assessors. You will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Your answer to each question can be up to 600 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1: What is the healthcare need that this project addresses and what impacts will your solution have? Minimum expected score: 7

Describe the healthcare challenge or issue that your project addresses. Give evidence that the healthcare need is real and explain how your project will address it. Define the market that will generate demand for your proposed solution. How will the project outputs and/or the innovation lead to a commercial opportunity for your business?

How will the outputs of the project meet the healthcare need? Give any input you have from healthcare professionals, patients or representatives of the onward supply chain.

Measure the potential positive impact on socio-economic factors and healthcare at a patient and community level. Detail the number of anticipated users and the benefits your solution will provide, with estimated timescales.

Question 2: What is the underpinning scientific evidence to support your solution? Minimum expected score: 7

Detail all relevant prior experimental or technical evidence which can explain how the previous results link to the proposed study.

Outline any preclinical or clinical work conducted to date and the outcomes.

You may provide an appendix to present relevant figures such as chemical structures, graphs or schematics, with relevant descriptions. This appendix should be a PDF no more than 2 pages long and 10MB in size. This should not be used as an overflow for answers to the application form questions.

Question 3: What is innovative about your idea? Minimum expected score: 6

Identify the extent to which the project is innovative, from a commercial, scientific and/or technical perspective. Refer to existing products and practices that are currently in use and those known to be under development both in the UK and internationally. Discuss the benefits and shortcomings of these (both technical and commercial) compared with your solution. This could include the results of competitor analyses, literature surveys and so on.

In evaluating this section assessors will also consider whether:

  • you have provided evidence that it will push boundaries over and beyond current leading-edge world science and technology
  • it is looking to apply existing technologies in new areas and, if so, what the challenges are in doing so
  • it could be innovative in the area of application

The timeliness and novelty of your research and/or proposed innovation should be highlighted and explained in an industrial and/or academic context.

Question 4: What technical approach will be adopted and how will the project be managed? Minimum expected score: 6

Please provide an overview of the technical approach including the main objectives of the work.

Describe where you are now and where you want to be at the end of the project (‘deliverables’). Describe the stages of the project (‘work packages’) and link the main areas of work together with their resource and management requirements.

Identify milestones and go or no go points.

Please note that projects may be approved subject to interim review at key decision points.

The assessors will also consider whether:

  • the technical and methodological approach is appropriate to the needs of the project. Are the innovative steps achievable through your proposed approach?
  • the project plan is sufficient in comparison to the complexity of the project. For example, have you provided enough detail to allow assessors to understand the tasks involved and the resources required?
  • any study design is robust. Is the timing of key milestones realistic?
  • you have committed enough resource commitment and have the capability to undertake the project
  • clear management reporting lines have been identified

If relevant, please compare and contrast alternative research and development (R&D) strategies and describe why your proposed approach will offer the best outcome.

Please provide justification for the use of animals or human subjects and the numbers of animals, samples and so on tested.

You may submit one appendix with a detailed Gantt chart and information on your study design, protocol and approach, such as experimental detail. This should be a PDF no more than 4 pages long and 10MB in size.

Question 5: Do you have freedom to operate? Minimum expected score: 6

Detail any existing intellectual property (IP) which may affect or which is relevant to project delivery and exploitation. State the ownership of IP and where necessary, how rights have been assigned. Provide evidence that you have freedom to operate without infringing other patents (by summarising the results of patent searches and so on).

Detail the intellectual property that you expect to be generated as a result of your project.

Describe your strategy for protecting the knowledge resulting from the project. If it is a collaborative project, how will you assign IP rights to project partners?

Question 6: How do you intend to exploit the opportunity? Minimum expected score: 6

How will the outputs of this project take you nearer to your objectives, and what will the steps be in this journey?

Describe how these outputs will be exploited including, where applicable:

  • the route to market
  • reconfiguration of the value system
  • changes to business models and business processes
  • other methods of exploitation and protection

Provide evidence that the proposed solution would be commercially viable for the target market (consider cost of manufacturing at launch and at scale, pricing and so on). You should describe the size of the market opportunities that this project would create, including details of:

  • the current nature of the specific markets at which the project is targeted (for example is it characterised by price competition amongst commoditised suppliers? Is it dominated by a single leading firm? What are the channels to market?)
  • the dynamics of this market including measuring its current size then actual and predicted growth rates
  • the projected market share for the project outcome taking account of possible restrictions on market access and penetration, including any potential competitors
  • what the biggest obstacles will be to the exploitation and commercialisation of your innovation
  • what impact the project outputs will have on the business and non-academic partners’ forecasts for annual turnover, profit, exports and R&D spend (as a percentage of turnover if appropriate) and employment (in FTEs) for 1, 3 and 5+ years after project completion

You can submit an exploitation plan as an appendix. This should be a PDF no larger than 10MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 7: What are the risks (technical, commercial and environmental) to project success? What is the project’s risk management strategy? Minimum expected score: 6

Innovate UK recognises that projects of this type are risky, but we ask that the project has adequate arrangements for managing this risk. Please focus on:

  • identifying the main risks and uncertainties of the project and provide a detailed risk analysis for the project content and approach. Include the technical (including regulatory), commercial, managerial (e.g. managing stakeholders) and environmental risks as well as other uncertainties, such as ethical issues associated with the project
  • developing a risk register, identifying the main risks as high/medium/low (H/M/L)
  • discussing the potential impact of these scenarios. State how the project would mitigate all significant and relevant risks

Identify project management tools and mechanisms that will be used to minimise operational risk. This should include the arrangements for managing the consortium where applicable.

You can upload a risk register as an appendix. This should be a PDF no larger than 10MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8: Does the team have the right skills and experience and access to facilities to deliver the project and exploit it? Minimum expected score: 6

Please detail the expertise and track record of the project participants, including collaborators and subcontractors, to show your capability to deliver the project and exploit the output.

In evaluating this, the assessors will also consider whether:

  • the project builds the UK supply chain and addresses end-user needs
  • for collaborations: are the consortium’s formation objectives clear? Is extra benefit gained from the collaboration, for example, increased knowledge transfer? Is the consortium is greater than the sum of its parts?
  • the work is being conducted internally where possible and, if subcontractors are being used, there is adequate justification for the choice made
  • the project has access to the appropriate facilities

If you are planning to use subcontractors outside the UK then you must provide evidence that no UK alternative exists or strong justification to support your choice of non-UK contractor.

Question 9: What are the resources required to deliver the project and their cost? Minimum expected score 6

Indicate the anticipated project cost making clear the level of contribution from any project participants and the level of funding required.

This information should complement the financial summary table in the application form.

Please use this section to detail the resources required to carry out the project (materials, capital equipment, infrastructure, people). Fully break down your costs and justify them (for example quotations to prove value for money). This should include all internal and external costs.

Costs must be consistent with the category of R&D being undertaken. Please see our funding rules guidance for more information on the rules for the various categories.

In evaluating the costs, assessors will consider the following questions:

  • is the budget breakdown realistic and justified for the scale and complexity of the project?
  • is it clear how costs are being allocated?
  • does the financial support required fit within the limits set by the specific competition?
  • does the funding request provide value for public money?
  • is a financial commitment from other sources demonstrated for the balance of the project costs?
  • will funding be available to cover cash flow pending quarterly reimbursement of costs from Innovate UK?

Read detailed guidance on eligible and ineligible project costs in our project costs guidance.

Note: Where individuals have roles in 2 or more participating collaborative organisations, cost will be closely scrutinised.

Question 10: How does financial support from Innovate UK and its funding collaborators add value? Minimum expected score: 6

Could this project go ahead in any form without public funding? What difference would public funding make (such as a faster route to market, more partners, reduced risk)? Describe the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved.

Tell us why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding (what would happen if the application is unsuccessful).

Explain how failure to secure public funding for this project would change the nature of R&D activity the collaborating partners would undertake (and related spend profile).

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation in your project to complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

The Biomedical Catalyst is a unique partnership between Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council. It provides responsive and effective support to the most innovative life sciences opportunities, regardless of scientific approach. The Catalyst evolved from the 2011 Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. It aims to de-risk innovative scientific ideas coming out of academia and industry. In this way it helps UK SMEs to develop into competitive and sustainable organisations which:

  • speeds up the progress of novel products to market
  • supports onward investment
  • bridges ‘the valley of death’, the stage of development of an innovation where it is difficult to get private sector funding

An independent evaluation in 2015 has confirmed that the Biomedical Catalyst is already achieving its goals of:

  • providing support to both academically and commercially-led research and development in a seamless, effective and efficient way. (For example, at least 40% of supported companies have originated in UK academia and many others have in-licensed academic intellectual property)
  • encouraging UK economic growth and leveraging investment into the healthcare and life sciences sectors. (For example, supported projects leveraged over £120 million of private funding against grant funding over the first 8 competition rounds)
  • delivering innovative life sciences products and services more quickly and effectively into healthcare. (For example, the Biomedical Catalyst has supported more than 60 first-in-human studies)

In autumn 2016, the government allocated £100 million to continue funding the Catalyst for a further 4 years.

Innovate UK, the Medical Research Council and Scottish Enterprise fund Biomedical Catalyst awards.

Extra help

If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

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

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