Funding competition Digital health technology catalyst round 4: collaborative R&D

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £5 million to develop new digital health solutions. Projects can use the services of the NICE DataLab to help with real world data. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The Digital Health Technology Catalyst (DHTC) is a £35 million fund run over 4 years as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

It is a core element of the government’s plans to implement the Accelerated Access Review (AAR). It aims to address challenges the review identified in the development of digital health innovations, and to help grow the digital health sector.

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is to invest up to £5 million in industrial research and experimental development projects. These must develop new digital technology solutions to healthcare challenges.

You must show how your project will improve the competitiveness and productivity of at least one UK SME involved in the project.

Innovate UK has partnered with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to provide projects with real world data advisory services from DataLab. You must demonstrate in your application how these services are valuable to your project.

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

Funding type


Project size

Your total eligible costs can be between £300,000 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’s total eligible costs can be between £300,000 and £1 million.

All projects must start by 1 October 2019, can last up to 18 months and must be completed by 1 March 2021.

If your project’s total 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 and collaborators

To be eligible for funding your project must:

  • be led by a UK based SME
  • be collaborative and include at least one business (of any size), NHS organisation, academic organisation, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK

The lead organisation and at least one other organisation in the project must claim funding through this competition.

If you need help to find suitable consortium partners, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network or your local Academic Health Science Network.

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 business can lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can be a collaborator in up to 3 applications. An academic institution or RTO 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 £5 million to fund projects in this competition.

If you are successful, you can get grant funding towards your eligible project costs. The percentage of costs that we pay varies. This depends on the type of organisation you are and the type of research you are carrying out.

For 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
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large 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, ‘Aid for research and development projects’, 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 government’s Industrial Strategy sets out a long-term vision for how the UK can:

  • build on its economic strengths
  • address its productivity performance
  • embrace technological change
  • boost the earning power of people across the UK

Your project must fulfil these points for at least one UK SME involved in the project.

Aligned with both the Industrial Strategy and the Accelerated Access Review, the aims of this competition are to:

  • address major healthcare challenges
  • grow the UK digital healthcare industry through the innovative use of digital technologies
  • develop solutions for either clinical or non-clinical use

We will select and fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets and healthcare needs, that demonstrate the potential for significant innovation

In addition to offering grant funding to projects, Innovate UK is funding NICE DataLabs to provide additional advisory services to projects. All projects that are successful at the interview stage will then be assessed by NICE DataLab to determine whether their services would be suitable. These assessments will take place once you’ve been notified and before your project goes live. Innovate UK will fund a number of these services following the NICE assessment. We do not guarantee that all projects will be provided with any of these services as they are limited.

Specific themes

State clearly what unmet healthcare need you are addressing, which technologies you are using and, if applicable, which stage of the patient experience it relates to.

Your project must address unmet healthcare needs in one or more of the following:

  1. Improving health, and closing the health and wellbeing gap.
  2. Transforming care, and closing the care and quality gap.
  3. Controlling costs, enabling change, and closing the finance and efficiency gap.

The specific technologies you use could include:

  • immersive: virtual and augmented reality
  • intelligent: artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • connected: use of sensors, internet of things (IoT), networks
  • data driven: informatics, data analytics and process

The types of digital health projects we will fund can include:

  • clinical decision-making support
  • technologies that improve access to healthcare or help treatment compliance or provide patient led management
  • digital technologies and products which help overcome privacy challenges of managing, sharing and exploiting data
  • projects addressing the patient-led experience from prevention, through diagnosis, treatment and recovery, to long-term care
  • applications of technology to health challenges where digital solutions offer and can demonstrate significant improvements in quality, speed, cost, outcomes and learning

NICE DataLab Services

DataLab is an innovative collaboration between NICE, the University of Manchester and Health Innovation Manchester. It aims to bring together a wide range of expertise from across the NHS, academia and NICE on health data research.

With a strong emphasis on industry collaboration, DataLab is working with Innovate UK to provide a unique, specialist service for companies who are successful in this competition to provide consultancy and advice across 4 key areas:

  1. The use of real world data
  2. Secure health data environments
  3. Selection of methodology for evaluation of digital health interventions
  4. NICE scientific advice. This service provides additional support to applicants to demonstrate the value of their product or service to the UK and international healthcare systems and strengthen their future business propositions.

Outline of process

Successful companies will be invited to complete a short pre-assessment questionnaire to feed into a half-day workshop with DataLab which will take place before your project goes live. Using the NICE Evidence for Effectiveness framework, the DataLab team and the company will work together to understand which options are most suitable for their project proposal. They will co-develop the plan to deliver the selected outcomes in a way that best fits the project needs.

Option 1: Real world data

Provide expertise and advice on the use and challenges of real world data in

healthcare. This will include:

  • routinely collected healthcare data
  • access to national datasets such as Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) and Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD)
  • national audit data
  • design of data collection directly within the catalyst project, covering challenges of design, standards, coding and ethics

This option is useful for projects using real world data, whether national datasets or derived through local integration, to understand the potential impact of a new digital intervention in a patient pathway.

Questions of health economics, identification of stakeholders along a patient pathway, and the health benefits of a new solution need to be well defined. This must be through the use of existing data sources in a way that meets rigorous research ethics requirements in order to be able to demonstrate value to the UK and international healthcare systems.

The output will be a report and recommendations on the use of real world health data in the project

Option 2: Data Safe Haven

Provide expertise and advice on health data storage and analysis services. This will ensure the project can meet national and international regulatory and governance requirements for scalable Data Safe Haven. This will cover requirements for:

  • secure storage of confidential health data
  • privacy and anonymisation techniques
  • standards for interoperability and development or use of business intelligence and research platforms

This option is useful for projects that are storing sensitive patient data for research that need to be able to demonstrate a high level of security and governance of this data. These needs have to be balanced against being able to undertake research and use the right analysis tools.

The output will be customised guidance and a report on the technical implementation of data safe haven with reference architecture tailored to specific project needs, supporting guidance and template agreements.

Option 3: Digital health methodology

  • evaluation of algorithmic health care and methodology
  • identification of scalable methodology, evaluation of digital health interventions (using new Evidence for Effectiveness framework) and providing quality management or metric development tools for evaluation
  • co-design and review of methodologies for use of real world evidence to support demonstration of the efficacy of the product in development
  • understanding the methodology and development of algorithms to meet current best practice and NICE recommendations
  • actionable feedback to clinical staff about digital technologies and clinical pathways

This option is useful for projects that want to ensure they have the right evidence for efficacy and quality improvement as the product is being prepared for market.

The output will be a customised guidance report and recommendations for implementation.

Option 4: NICE scientific advice

  • NICE scientific advice on real world evidence generation for digital technology research, development, and vitally, adoption
  • expanded META tool and clinical input

This option is useful for companies looking to develop robust plans and evidence for adoption.

The output will be a NICE scientific advice report on clinical benefit, cost benefit and a basic health economic model.

Research categories

The competition will fund industrial research and experimental development projects. It is important that you read the definitions of these and apply for the correct category of research.

Projects we will not fund

In this competition we will not fund projects that:

  • do not have digital technology as the main provider of transformation
  • cannot demonstrate in their application that they will benefit from NICE Datalab services
  • discover or develop medicines
  • seek only to develop data or record-keeping systems
  • do not demonstrate strong awareness of the underlying unmet healthcare need
  • are not collaborative
  • are not game-changing or disruptive innovative ideas leading to new solutions
  • do not explain how they will gather and demonstrate relevant economic, safety and clinical evidence

11 February 2019
Competition opens
19 February 2019
Online briefing event.
16 April 2019 6:00pm
Competition closes
24 May 2019
Invite to interview.
10 June 2019
To 14 June. Interview panels.
19 June 2019 12:48pm
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


If your application is successful at the written stage you will be invited to attend an interview, where you will need to give a presentation.

Your presentation must:

  • use Microsoft PowerPoint
  • be no longer than 15 minutes
  • have no more than 15 slides
  • not include any video or embedded web links

You must submit your presentation slides to Innovate UK by the date stated in the email inviting you to interview. You will not be able to make any changes to the presentation after this date.

Up to 5 people from your project can attend the interview panel. Agree with your consortium who will attend, ideally one person from each organisation, and send us their names by the date stated in the invitation email. Make sure they will be available on all of the published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

After the interview there will be 20 minutes of questions for you. You will be expected to answer based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

You will have the opportunity to provide a supplementary written response to the assessor feedback, answering any concerns raised by the assessors. This can be up to 10 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document. It can include charts or diagrams. This must be submitted to Innovate UK by the date stated in the invitation email.

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 length.

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. 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.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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.

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 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1: Need or challenge

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

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the healthcare and/or business need, technological challenge and market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 2: Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example, report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

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 3: Team and resources

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

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
  • the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any gaps in the team you will need to fill

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 4: Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • 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

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5: Outcomes and route to market

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

Describe or explain:

  • your current position in the market and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example, why they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including 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

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 6: Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • 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

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the relevant research category, the lead partner assigned to each and 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 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 8: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

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 you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

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 9: Added value

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

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 faster to market, more partners and 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 the partners would 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?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

Question 11: Suitability for NICE DataLab services

This question is not scored.

Describe how your project would benefit from use of the NICE DataLab services that are offered. These are described in the section titled NICE DataLab services. Your project may benefit from one or more of the services. You should review these and if relevant, provide your assessment of the benefit you would gain from each of them.

Describe or explain

  • the specific data elements of your project
  • the challenges you face in the use of real world data in your research and development activities
  • the areas you think will benefit, augment and de-risk your development as a result of the services offered through the DataLab,
  • the specific DataLab services you feel are most appropriate to your project

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

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

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

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