Funding competition Enabling integrated diagnostics for early detection

Up to £20 million is available for multidisciplinary consortia to develop and evaluate integrated diagnostic solutions for early detection and diagnosis. This includes funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) has a programme in data to early diagnosis and precision medicine. The programme is led by Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

Innovate UK will invest up to £17 million in the research, development and evaluation of integrated diagnostic solutions. An additional investment of up to £3 million is available for oncology-focused projects from Cancer Research UK.

Integrated diagnostics are disruptive innovations that link technologies, data, care pathways and systems to create new diagnostic and precision medicine solutions. The aim is to detect and diagnose earlier in the disease course, more sensitively and specifically, and with more nuanced information on prognosis and/or therapy selection.

This competition aims to accelerate development of innovative diagnostic tools and technologies by multi-disciplinary and cross-sector consortia.

Your project can focus on early development of new modality combinations (such as the combination of imaging and genomic information with new algorithms) and their detection technologies, to later stage refinement of more established tools. However, even in earlier stage development you must consider how your proposed solution could be used in clinical practice and be integrated into NHS care pathways.

Your project must involve collaboration between industry and the UK’s supporting healthcare and research infrastructure. This will be critical in ensuring new products, processes and services are fit for purpose and solutions can be translated into clinical settings. Your project can include health economic studies, modelling of care pathways and the generation of evidence to support adoption.

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

Funding type


Project size

The maximum grant your consortium can apply for is £3.5 million. The total eligible project costs for each consortium, including industry contributions and any other co-funding, must not exceed £10 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, including industry contributions and any other co-funding, must not exceed £10 million.

Projects must start by 1 January 2020 and can last for up to 36 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 organisation

To lead a project your organisation must be:

  • a UK registered business of any size
  • a UK registered research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • a UK registered academic institution
  • a UK registered hospital
  • an NHS or National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) organisation, for example an Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) or Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operative (MIC), or equivalent in the devolved administrations

Each organisation can lead on up to 2 applications. You must collaborate with other organisations as outlined in the Project team section. We encourage you to include more than one business.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead organisation your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size, or a UK registered RTO, academic institution, hospital, charity, public sector organisation, or medical research entity supported by UK Research and Innovation
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the project result for the benefit of the UK
  • be invited to take part by the lead applicant

Your consortium must have at least 3 partners (including the lead) and involve:

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding and enter their costs as part of the application.

For businesses, your organisation does not have to be UK registered with Companies House when you apply, but it must be registered by the time you receive funding. Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

There is no limit to the number of applications that an eligible organisation can collaborate on.

Previous applications


You cannot use a resubmission to apply for this competition. A resubmission is a proposal Innovate UK judges as not materially different from one you have submitted before.

You are able to submit a previous application that has been updated based on assessor feedback and that fits with the scope of this competition.

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation 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 £17 million to fund innovation projects in this competition. Up to £3 million is also being invested by Cancer Research UK for oncology-focused projects only.

Your consortium can apply for a maximum grant of £3.5 million.

The majority of the work funded in this competition will be planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. Both defined as industrial research. We will also fund some experimental development projects and work packages (a group of related tasks in a project) within industrial research projects. Make sure you understand the definitions we use for these categories.

For industrial research projects, you could receive 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
  • up to 80% of full economic costs (classed as 100% in calculations) if you are an academic institution
  • up to 100% if you are an NHS organisation that is only NHS funded, other public sector organisation or charity

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

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business
  • up to 80% of full economic costs (classed as 100% in calculations) if you are an academic institution
  • up to 100% if you are an NHS organisation that is only NHS funded, other public sector organisation or charity

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research and development (R&D) projects’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

The research organisations collaborating as part of a consortium may share up to 50% of the eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

Oncology-focused projects and intellectual property

All academic partners in successful oncology-focused projects will be jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation and Cancer Research UK. The proportion of funding provided by Cancer Research UK will be the same across all academic partners in all oncology-focused projects. It will be confirmed in November 2019, once the final funding decisions have been made.

In accordance with the guidelines set out by the Association of Medical Research Charities, Cancer Research UK will receive a share of any net revenue academic institutions generate from intellectual property (IP) as a result of this funding. Cancer Research UK will discuss this with the academic institutions in your project team.

Cancer Research UK’s revenue share will:

  • not be greater than 30%
  • only relate to academic institutions and to the academic institutions’ net revenue share after considering any agreements it has with other partners in the consortium
  • be on a pro-rata basis, relative to the percentage Cancer Research UK ultimately funds (which will be confirmed in November 2019) of each academic institution’s total grant request

Cancer Research UK will not be entitled to any revenue arising from IP generated by industry partners.

Innovate UK, MRC and UK Research and Innovation will not get involved in the IP rights of funded consortia. They will be independent of discussions between academic partners and Cancer Research UK about this.

If you would like more information before submitting your application, please email Nicole Lyons at Cancer Research UK:

Your proposal

Your application must aim to integrate across technologies, data, care pathways and systems to deliver new diagnostic systems for the early detection and diagnosis of diseases. Your consortium must work with the UK’s health and care infrastructure to advance the development of integrated diagnostic solutions.

We encourage you to be ambitious in your integration of multiple detection or diagnostic technologies and approaches, potentially arising from multiple commercial or academic settings.

We want to build on investments that have been made to date. This can include those made:

  • within this challenge (such as the digital pathology, radiology and AI centres of excellence)
  • by UK Research and Innovation more broadly
  • by other funders such as the National Institute for Health Research, Cancer Research UK and other charities

You can choose to create new products, processes and services that integrate across technologies, data, care pathways and systems to deliver new diagnostic solutions for early detection and diagnosis of diseases. You must consider how your solution will fit into existing or feasible care pathways and generate evidence that will support the adoption of your proposed new products, processes and/or services.

You can use the following approaches:

1.Integrating technological approaches to improve early detection and diagnostic accuracy, including:

  • applications ranging from early stage ‘first-in-type’ integration of data streams with potentially broad applicability to refinements of more established tools or technological innovations for a specific application
  • technologies in development and/or solutions already on the market that have not previously been used together in the same way
  • innovative technology development to enable new insights from biological samples or patient data
  • the development of algorithms to maximise diagnostic accuracy from multiple sources of information
  • the development of clinical decision support tools
  • treatment selection

2.Integrating new diagnostic solutions into care pathways

3.Evaluating new integrated diagnostic solutions (such as performance characteristics, clinical impact, health economic evaluations and the collection of real-world evidence) as part of the wider programme of work, to provide information that will aid adoption

Disease areas in scope include but are not limited to:

  • cancer
  • cardiovascular disease, including stroke
  • inflammatory disorders, including autoimmune disease
  • metabolic diseases
  • neurodegenerative diseases, including dementia
  • paediatric and maternal-foetal
  • co-morbidities

We will fund the development of wearables and new diagnostic tests for use in the community, but only if they have been designed with professional health specialists.

The diagnosis and management of infectious diseases or mental health are not in scope. However, they can be included within a co-morbidity setting provided they are not the focus of your application.

Your project can build on the capabilities of existing infrastructure but we are not looking to fund the development of new infrastructure.

Early detection and diagnosis must be the focus of your proposal. You can also include work packages on monitoring, treatment selection and patient management.

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, disease areas, technological maturities and research categories.

To know whether your idea is in scope email

Specific themes

We are especially looking for projects that focus on one or more of the following:

  • build on strengths in digital imaging or pathology, genomics and other technologies
  • improve data integration, analysis, interpretation and visualisation for early diagnosis and precision medicine
  • accelerate industry R&D in integrated diagnostics
  • include work packages that will design and evaluate solutions in context
  • build and grow lasting collaborations across business, NHS and academic researchers for UK benefit
  • address the specific challenges of co-morbidities
  • support industry and the NHS in developing and planning for future, comprehensive, diagnosis systems and pathways
  • are disruptive and go beyond incremental change to deliver significant healthcare impact and/or economic impact
  • consider the opinions of the patient and public, including the acceptability of the diagnostic solution to the user

Research categories

We will fund industrial research projects and experimental development projects, as defined in the general guidance.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • projects that focus predominantly on behavioural monitoring
  • projects that include data from wearables that have not been prescribed by a health professional
  • the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases or mental health on their own
  • basic research, such as biomarker discovery or new detection technologies for which there is no proof of concept
  • the development of new infrastructure
  • the development of therapies

22 July 2019
Competition opens
23 July 2019
London briefing event.
25 September 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
18 November 2019
Interview panel
19 November 2019
Interview panel
20 November 2019
Interview panel
9 December 2019 9:16am
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the general guidance for applicants before you start.


If your online application is successful you will be invited to attend an interview, where you must give a presentation. Details of the length of your presentation will be stated in the invitation email.

Before the interview, by the deadline stated in the invitation email, you:

  • must send a list of who will attend the interview
  • must send your interview presentation slides
  • can send a written response to the assessors’ feedback

List of attendees

Agree the list with your consortium. Up to 5 people from your project can attend. They must all be available on all published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

Presentation slides

Your interview presentation must use Microsoft PowerPoint and not include any video, embedded web links or substantial animations. You cannot change the presentation after you submit it.

Written response to assessor feedback

This is optional and is an opportunity to answer the assessors’ concerns. It can:

  • be up to 6 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams


After your presentation the panel will have time to ask you questions. You will be expected to answer based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section sets the scene for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

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 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. You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Your answer to each question can be up to 500 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers.

Question 1. Need and opportunity (15 points)

What is the clinical need, technological opportunity or market failure behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project and how it would improve early diagnosis and healthcare delivery
  • the clinical need, technological opportunity or market failure you will address
  • the nearest current standard of care, 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 focuses 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: Existing capability and partnerships (10 points)

How will your consortium access existing UK infrastructure and expertise and build on established partnerships to create a significant change in integrated diagnostics?

You must illustrate:

  • that the consortium partners are at the forefront of research and innovation in diagnostic development
  • what existing activities and partnerships underpin the proposal
  • how research-active NHS partners will support your innovation
  • what critical infrastructure is already in place, summarising the available technology and commitments from partner organisations
  • how you will leverage existing initiatives including, for example, the ISCF Digital Pathology and Radiology Centres or NHS England’s Local Health and Care Record Exemplars
  • if you have identified any barriers and how you plan to overcome them
  • that there is an existing environment of cross-sector collaboration, with strong relationships between NHS organisations, business and academic partners

Question 3. Supporting data and technologies (15 points)

What data and technologies will underpin your solution?

You must describe:

  • what biomarkers or signals will drive diagnostic utility and how these will feed into your proposed products, processes and services
  • how any proposed technologies will add value to the proposed solution and why these technologies are appropriate
  • where on the clinical care pathway your solution will be deployed and whether this pathway is or could be consistently and clearly defined
  • the work you have done with clinicians and patients to define what would make your products, processes and services acceptable and useful to them

You can submit one appendix of supporting data to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long. The font, including figure legends, must be legible at 100% zoom

Question 4. How will your proposal address the identified need? (20 points)

What approach will you take, where will the focus of the innovation be and how will these make a difference?

Describe or explain:

  • how the programme of work will address the need, challenge or opportunity you have identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • how your proposal will build on the infrastructure and relationships described
  • whether the innovation will focus on new diagnostic solutions, bringing together different data types for the first time, or on the refinement of established techniques to yield diagnostic innovation
  • the staff, resources, data assets and clinical populations to be provided by NHS partners
  • any ethical approvals you will need to conduct your research
  • how the programme outputs will enable validation and the up-take of your diagnostic solution in an NHS environment, linking to regulatory approvals and product roll-out
  • your research and development goals, and how these link to the strengths and experience of the consortium partners
  • the freedom the project partners have to operate and how you will address IP within the consortium
  • how this project fits with the project partners’ current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make the project partners 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 5. Team and resources (10 points)

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 that will need to be filled

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 6. Market awareness (10 points)

What do the market or markets you are targeting look like and how will your product, process or service align with NHS commissioning pathways?

Describe or explain:

  • the regulatory needs and likely route to NHS rollout of your solution
  • the markets (domestic and international) you will be targeting
  • the size of the target markets, 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
  • any barriers to entry
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed
  • how your project will try to explore the markets’ potential

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

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

Question 7. Wider impacts (10 points)

What impact might this project have outside your consortium? In your answer you must consider the aims of the Industrial Strategy.

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

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 8. Project management (10 points)

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get 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 must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an 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. Risks (10 points)

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 or data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

You must submit a risk register as an 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 10. Added value (10 points)

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses and other organisations involved?

Describe or explain:

  • whether 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 businesses 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 11. Costs and value for money (10 points)

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 each partner 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

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academic institutions 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

This competition is being run as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) investment in ‘Data to early diagnosis and precision medicine’. This formally sits under the AI and Data Economy Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge and is also closely aligned with the Ageing Society Grand Challenge.

The programme of activity aims to:

  • maximise the use of data from multiple sources for patient benefit
  • ensure that the UK economy benefits from the excellence of the research base and the opportunities afforded by NHS England, and its equivalents in the devolved administrations

The Challenge will see investment of £210 million in 3 major areas of related activity. The programme will maximise the UK’s potential to diagnose diseases earlier, identify the best therapeutic intervention for patients, and ultimately enable a new wave of treatment regimens to emerge. These new regimes will be based on a better understanding of disease processes and improved diagnostic capabilities. In line with the Industrial Strategy, the ISCF and the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, each activity has placed industry’s needs and growth of the UK economy at the heart of its approach. The programme also seeks to improve efficiency in the NHS and improve patient outcomes.

The Challenge has already invested to strengthen UK research and development (R&D) in whole genome analysis, digital pathology and radiology, and provide access to rich health data sets. We are now calling for proposals for consortia and smaller partnerships to develop R&D and support innovation, beyond what individual companies or project-scale collaborations could easily achieve.

This competition will challenge organisations to create consortia which utilise the UK’s infrastructure, including but not limited to the NHS and related organisations, UK Research and Innovation and charity funded frameworks and centres, to deliver integrated diagnostics for early detection, diagnosis and precision medicine. The activity will demonstrate that the UK’s unparalleled ‘ecosystem’ of support for researchers and developers in academia and industry can help develop a new wave of products, processes and services.

Cancer Research UK, is the world’s largest charity dedicated to saving lives through research. As part of its commitment to early detection and diagnosis of cancer, Cancer Research UK is collaborating with UK Research and Innovation as part of this competition to support oncology-focused projects. Currently the translation of new cancer early detection diagnostics is challenging and has a high attrition rate. This funding initiative aims to integrate the expertise and efforts of academia, industry and the NHS to accelerate clinical implementation and improve cancer early diagnosis and prognosis of patients.

Successful applications will be assigned a Monitoring Officer, who will report to Innovate UK.

Extra help

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

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

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