Funding competition Biomedical Catalyst 2019 round 1: feasibility and primer awards

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £3 million to explore and evaluate the commercial potential of a scientific idea to solve a healthcare challenge.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The aim of the Biomedical Catalyst is to support the development of innovative healthcare products, technologies and processes. These can include (but are not limited to):

  • 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

We are also running a combined, early and late stage award competition. Make sure you are applying for the correct competition.

This competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £1 million.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance.

Your project

Your project must start by 1 September 2019 and end by 31 March 2021. It can last between 3 and 18 months.

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Lead applicant

To lead a project or work alone you must:

  • be a UK based micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) or a research and technology organisation (RTO) (Text update 1 Feb 2019: we have changed "UK registered" to "UK based" as this was incorrect.)
  • be an organisation focused on life science
  • carry out your project in the UK

You can work alone or in partnership with others (SMEs, academics or research organisations).

If your project is academic-led you need to apply to the Medical Research Council instead.


The lead must claim funding.

To be a collaborator you must:

  • be a UK based SME, academic organisation, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO) (Text update 1 Feb 2019: we have changed "UK based business" to "UK based SME" as this was incorrect.)
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Partners with no funding

Projects can include partners that do not receive any funding (for example, non-UK businesses). Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs but they will not count as collaborators.

Multiple applications

Any one SME or RTO can lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications. (Text update 1 Feb 2019: we have changed "any one business" to "any one SME" as this was incorrect.)

If an SME is not leading an application, they can be a collaborator in up to 3 applications. (Text update 1 Feb 2019: we have changed "if a business is not leading an application" to "if an SME is not leading an application" as this was incorrect.)

If an RTO is:

  • the lead on an application they must have 2 SME collaborators (Text update 1 Feb 2019: this stated you must have one collaborator that is an SME and one that is a business of any size but we have corrected it to say you must have 2 SME collaborators.)
  • not the lead on any application, they can be a collaborator in any number of applications
An academic institution can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

Previous applications


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

If we decide not to fund your proposal, you will be able to use it to apply once more.

Your resubmission can:

  • take into account the feedback received from the assessors
  • be for a later round of this competition or for another competition

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, 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, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects

Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you are required to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.


We have allocated up to £3 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

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

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

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 article 25: ‘Collaborative R&D, Industrial Research’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

The Biomedical Catalyst has 4 funding strands to support progression of projects from initial concept through to late stage development:

  1. Feasibility
  2. Primer
  3. Early stage
  4. Late stage

This competition combines the feasibility and primer (proof of concept) strands to enable SMEs to apply for projects lasting 3 to 18 months.

A separate competition combining early and late stages is being run in conjunction with this one. You can apply for the early and late stages without needing to go through feasibility and primer.

The aim of this competition is to explore and evaluate the commercial potential of an innovative scientific idea or carry out a technical evaluation through to proof of concept in a model system by:

  • reviewing research evidence and identifying possible applications
  • assessing business opportunities
  • assessing and/or protecting intellectual property
  • validating initial concepts and existing pre-clinical work through experimental studies
  • initial demonstration using in-vitro and in-vivo models (but not human clinical trials such as safety and efficacy)
  • early stage prototyping
  • preliminary regulatory advice

Your project must focus on the development of a product or process that is an innovative solution to a health and care challenge.

Be aware that your project may be subject to interim reviews at important decision points.

Specific themes

Support is available for any life science sector or discipline, including (but not limited to):

  • medical technologies and devices
  • stratified healthcare
  • advanced therapies (gene and cell therapies)
  • digital health
  • drug discovery
  • diagnostics

If you choose the innovation area ‘Diagnostics, medical technology and devices’, you must indicate in the initial project summary whether your project falls within ‘Diagnostics’ or ‘Medical technology and devices’.

Research categories

We will fund feasibility studies and industrial research projects. Please see the general guidance to help you decide which category your project fits in.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects as part of this competition that:

  • are in scope for the Biomedical Catalyst early stage or late stage awards
  • include human clinical trials, such as safety and efficacy or first in person

Learn more about the Biomedical Catalyst.

21 January 2019
Competition opens
30 January 2019

Applicant briefing. Watch the recording

3 April 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
21 June 2019 11:24am
Applicants notified

Before you start

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 make contributions
  • other organisations to collaborate with you

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 does not, it will be immediately rejected.

Application team

Invite colleagues to contribute to your application and other organisations to collaborate on your project.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Is the application a resubmission?

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

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. 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 not be eligible for funding. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers to these questions. You will receive feedback from them 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 can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

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

Highlight the timeliness and novelty of your research and/or proposed innovation and explain it 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 in terms of the deliverables. Describe the stages of the project (the work packages) and link the main areas of work together with their resource and management requirements.

Identify milestones and go or no go points.

The assessors will also consider whether:

  1. The technical and methodological approach is appropriate to the needs of the project. Are the innovative steps achievable through your proposed approach?
  2. 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?
  3. Any study design is robust. Is the timing of key milestones realistic?
  4. You have committed enough resource and have the capability to undertake the project.
  5. Clear management reporting lines have been identified.

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

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

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

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.

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 among commoditised suppliers, is it dominated by a single leading firm and 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

Question 7: What are the technical, commercial and environmental risks 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
  • including the technical (including regulatory), commercial, managerial (such as 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 or 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 submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be 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)

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, and is the consortium 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 how much will they cost? (Minimum expected score 6)

Indicate the anticipated eligible project costs, making clear the level of contribution from any project partners and the level of funding required.

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

Detail the resources required to carry out the project (materials, capital equipment, infrastructure and people). Fully break down the 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 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, costs 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 or 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. In other words, what would happen if the application is unsuccessful?

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

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must 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

Extra help

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

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

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