Funding competition Innovation in health and life sciences round 3

UK businesses can apply for up to £15 million for projects that support small and medium sized enterprises to develop innovations in health and life sciences.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK is investing up to £15 million in innovation projects. These should address challenges in health and life sciences (H&LS) that lead to increased agri-food productivity, quality and sustainability or improved healthcare outcomes.
Projects must show significant innovation in one of our priority areas:
  • increasing agricultural productivity
  • improving food quality and sustainability
  • advanced therapies (cell and gene therapies)
  • precision medicine
  • medicines discovery
  • preclinical technologies
  • advanced biosciences
Proposals must show how projects will enable a significant change in competitiveness and productivity for at least one UK SME involved in the project.
We are accepting applications for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships in H&LS at this time.

Funding type


Project size

Total project costs should be between £50,000 and £2 million.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK-based business or RTO
  • carry out your project work, and intend to exploit the results, from the UK

To lead a project you must:

  • be an SME if you wish to work alone on a project with costs of less than £100,000
  • work in collaboration, including with at least one SME, if your project has costs over £100,000

Number of applications:

  • any one business may be involved in up to 3 applications to this competition, but may only be the lead partner in one application
  • any one research and technology organisation may only be the lead partner in one application. If they are leading an application they may be involved in up to 3 applications to this competition.
  • if a research and technology organisation is not the lead on any application, they can be a partner in any number of applications
  • if an application is unsuccessful, you may use the feedback received to re-apply for the same project once more into either another round of this competition or another competition

If the innovation leads judge that your project is not materially different from your previously submitted project, it will be classed as a resubmission.

For more information on the criteria, read the general guidance for applicants.

For all research organisations, the total level of project participation is set at a maximum of 30% of total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

For applicable technologies to be eligible you must follow Innovate UK’s definitions described in the ‘supporting information’ section.

For KTPs please see our guidance on how to apply.

Projects that we won’t fund

In this competition we are not funding projects covering these aspects of:

Increasing agricultural productivity:

  • forestry, equine or wild-capture fisheries

Improved food quality and sustainability:

  • food processing or manufacturing applications that focus solely on improvements in production efficiency
  • a primary focus on a health claim (as opposed to a nutrition claim) that would require approval from the European Food Safety Authority

Precision medicine:

  • drug discovery
  • diagnostic tests for treatments that are still in development, unless justified as a parallel development
  • biomarker discovery. (Biomarker development will still be in scope for precision medicine. Biomarker discovery and development platforms are both in scope under the preclinical technologies theme. The applicant must make clear the benefits of lead optimisation of potential new medicines)

Advanced therapies:

  • development of new viral delivery systems
  • manufacture of viral vectors not part of human therapy
  • approaches not based on cell or gene therapy
  • medical devices and advanced materials

Medicines discovery and preclinical technologies:

  • a model, assay or method that can only be used for a single application (for example, development of a specific medicine)
  • projects where the primary goal is to develop a specific new medicine


  • the management and use of biofilms

Funding and project details

We have allocated up to £15 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Funding is available for projects with eligible costs of up to £100,000 and 6 to 12 months in duration or projects with eligible costs of up to £2 million and between 1 to 3 years in duration.

Project costs of up to £100,000

If you are an SME and expect your eligible project costs to be up to £100,000, you can run the project on your own. You can also work with other businesses or research organisations.

Project costs of £100,000 or above

If you expect your eligible project costs to be more than £100,000 you must work with other organisations who are claiming grant as part of the project. At least one member of the consortium must be an SME.

Project types

Your project can focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development. This will depend on the challenge.

For technical feasibility studies and industrial research, you could get:

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a 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:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs 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

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

For more information on the research categories, read the general guidance for applicants.

Competition scope

The aim of this competition is to stimulate innovation in H&LS. Projects must align with at least one of the following Innovate UK priority areas:

  • increase yield, quality and sustainability in agriculture and food production
  • advanced therapies (cell and gene therapies), precision medicine, medicines discovery or preclinical technologies
  • advanced bioscience techniques and capabilities that have the potential to improve healthcare and/or agriculture and food production in the future

We will fund business led projects that connect with the themes of the H&LS sector. An example would be innovation in health and life sciences leading to increased agri-food productivity, quality and sustainability and improved healthcare outcomes.

We will fund a range of projects that address the technical or commercial challenges across the Innovate UK priority areas listed above. These challenges should lead towards increased business productivity, competitiveness and growth, especially of SMEs. Your project may focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development depending on the challenge identified.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

As part of this competition we also welcome applications Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). KTP applications should follow the specific guidance for KTPs.

For KTPs we are accepting applications across H&LS. Projects should focus on agriculture, food and healthcare. We particularly welcome KTPs that cover the specific competition themes.

KTP applications have the same competition deadlines.

Specific competition themes

Applications need to address at least one of the following themes:

Increasing agricultural productivity:

  • advanced and precision engineering
  • fighting agro-chemical and antimicrobial resistance
  • enhancing resilience to biotic and abiotic stress
  • individualised livestock/aquaculture nutrition and healthcare
  • novel genetics and breeding

Improved food quality and sustainability:

  • authenticity and traceability
  • enhanced nutritional value
  • food safety
  • modern methods of food manufacturing
  • new and smarter ingredients
  • protein development
  • smarter packaging

Precision medicine:

Focuses on the better selection of more targeted treatments for patients by combining clinical knowledge with advances in diagnostic techniques and data analysis.

You must make it clear how your proposed technology will advance precision medicine and how it improves the treatment selection process.

We will support:

  • either: early diagnosis of Cancer or Paediatric Oncology
  • “Diagnostic Tools” for Advanced Therapies (products requiring good manufacturing practice (GMP) based on cellular or product characteristics)

Advanced therapies:

  • increasing the UK’s commercial capacity to manufacture viral vectors for use in the development of cell and gene therapies to treat human disease and disorders
  • processing or manufacturing technologies for advanced therapies products including those suitable for near-patient application
  • technology or processes that lower production costs
  • tools and techniques for quality control to enable real-time product release

Medicines discovery and preclinical technologies:

  • innovative platform technologies for analysing, screening and optimising potential new medicines
  • novel in vitro and in vivo models that determine the mechanism of action, efficacy, or safety of potential new medicines
  • novel artificial intelligence approaches to drug discovery


  • synthetic biology technologies including gene synthesis and assembly, strain development, “parts” characterisation and standards
  • computational systems biology technologies for replicating and predicting biological activity in silico
  • naturally inspired: biomimicry and applied evolutionary biology

2 October 2017
Competition opens
12 October 2017
Applicant briefing event. Watch the recording
6 December 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
16 March 2018 4:44pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

To start an application you must create an account as the lead applicant, or sign in as a representative of your organisation. Once you have an account you can track the progress of your application.

As a lead applicant:

  • you are responsible for collecting the information for your funding application
  • you can invite other organisations who will participate in the project as collaborators if your application is successful
  • you can invite colleagues to contribute to the application
  • your organisation will lead the project if your application is successful

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

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

Research organisations

Research organisations may participate in applications as collaborators. In this competition Research and Technology organisations (RTOs) may also lead a collaborative project subject to the eligibility criteria and rules.

There are specific rules for research partners which limit the amount of involvement a research organisation may have in your project. The participation rule will be set out in the eligibility criteria for the competition.

You will not be able to submit your application if your research participation is over the stated percentage for the competition.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. project details
  2. application questions
  3. finances

1. Project details

In this section you will provide the details of your project. This section is not scored, but our assessors will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t fit the scope then it will be immediately rejected. Within project details you will need to complete:

Application details

The title of your project, the start date and project length. This section will also list you as the lead organisation and any partner organisations you have named as collaborators. The lead applicant must complete this section.

Project summary

Describe your project and what is innovative about it. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application so we need a summary of the innovation in your project.

Public description

Describe your project in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If your project is successful and awarded funding, Innovate UK will publish this description.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding and will not be sent for assessment. Innovate UK will provide feedback if we decide that your project is not in scope.

2. Application questions

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

Question 1: Need or challenge

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

  • describe the main motivation for the project; the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • describe the nearest current state-of-the-art (including those near-market or in development) and its limitations
  • describe any work you have already done to respond to this need. For example is the project focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one?
  • identify the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural and/or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity for example, incoming regulations. Our Horizons tool can help here.

Question 2: Approach and innovation

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

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

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no more than 1MB in size to support your answer.

Question 3: Team and resources

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

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

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no more than 1MB in size to support your answer.

Question 4: Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Specify the markets (domestic and/or international) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets.

For the target markets, describe:

  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by appropriate references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the market such as customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the main supply/value chains and business models in operation and any barriers to entry
  • the current UK position in targeting this market

For highly innovative projects, where the market may be unexplored, explain:

  • what the route to market could or might be
  • what its size might be
  • how the project will seek to explore the market potential

For other markets, briefly describe the size and main features

Question 5: Outcomes and route to market

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

  • describe your current position in the markets and supply/value chains outlined for example, if you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • describe your target customers and/or end-users, and the value proposition to them (why would they use/buy it?)
  • describe your route to market
  • tell us how you are going to profit from the innovation (increased revenues or cost reduction)
  • explain how the innovation will impact your productivity and growth in the short and long-term
  • describe how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project for example, through know-how, patenting, designs, changes to business model
  • outline your strategy for targeting the other markets identified during or after the project
  • for any research organisation activity in the project, outline your plans to disseminate project research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • if you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities, describe how you will do this

Question 6: Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Identify, and where possible measure, the economic benefits from the project to those outside the project (customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy) such as productivity increases and import substitution.

Identify, and where possible measure, any expected social impacts, either positive or negative, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion/exclusion
  • jobs (safeguarded, created, changed, displaced)
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • environmental impacts
  • animal welfare

Identify any expected regional impacts of the project.

Question 7: Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

  • outline the main work packages of the project, indicating the relevant research category and lead partner assigned to each, and the total cost of each one
  • describe your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms that will be used to ensure a successful project outcome. Highlight your approach to managing the most innovative aspects of the project
  • outline the management reporting lines
  • outline your project plan in sufficient detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You may upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no more than 1MB in size.

Question 8: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

  • identify the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks. Highlight the most significant ones, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • explain how these risks will be mitigated
  • list any project inputs on the critical route to completion such as resources, expertise or data sets
  • is the output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical or other similar issues? If so how will you manage this?

You may upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no more than 1MB in size.

Question 9: Additionality

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

  • tell us 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, reduced risk
  • describe the likely impact of the project on the business 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 this project would change the nature of research and development activity the partners would undertake, and 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?

  • justify the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals

  • explain how the partners will finance their contributions to the project

  • explain how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer. How does it compare to what you would spend your money on otherwise?

  • justify the balance of costs and grant across the project partners

  • justify any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation to complete project costs, organisational details and funding details for each organisation in your project. 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

Today we have a growing global population, ageing demographic, burden of disease and increased wealth. These challenges are accelerating the demand for food and improved healthcare. At the same time, there are opportunities:

  • the food and drink sector represents around 30% of the global economy (around US$20 trillion)
  • there is a £250 billion-plus global market opportunity associated with improving agricultural productivity
  • healthcare is one of the largest industries in the world, at close to 10% of global GDP
  • new technologies and expertise in bioscience, medical research, engineering and physical sciences are enabling innovation in H&LS

Innovate UK’s H&LS sector helps businesses find solutions to these challenges.

The government’s Agri-Tech Strategy aims to help the UK become a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability.

New Agri-Tech centres have been set up to provide world-leading capability including:

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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