Funding competition Biomedical Catalyst 2020: round 1, early and late stage awards

UK registered SMEs can apply for a share of up to £30 million to develop a product or process that is an innovative solution to a health and care challenge.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £30 million to develop innovative healthcare products, technologies and processes.

These can include, for example:

  • 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

This competition combines the early and late stage strands of the Biomedical Catalyst.

This funding is from Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £250,000 and £4 million.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK registered organisation claiming grant funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. It is not possible to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty. If you are unsure, please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance on state aid.

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £250,000 and £4 million
  • start on 1 March 2021
  • end by 29 February 2024
  • last between 12 months and 36 months

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

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise SME or a research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If the lead organisation is an RTO you must collaborate with at least one SME.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size, academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation or RTO
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be invited by the lead organisation

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Partners must enter their own project costs.

Large companies will not be able to claim grant funding.

Partners with no funding

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses or large businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK. Where subcontractors are non-UK based, please justify why you are unable to use a UK alternative.. We would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

Under exceptional circumstances subcontractors can be from outside the EEA but only if this is fundamental to the project. You must provide justification by email to at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Multiple applications

When a business or RTO leads on an application it can collaborate in a further 2 applications.

If a business is not leading any applications, it can collaborate in up to 3 applications.

If an RTO is not leading any applications, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

An academic institution can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications


You can 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. It can be updated based on the assessors' feedback. Each proposal can be resubmitted no more than once.

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 must 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 £30 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For feasibility studies (early stage projects only) and industrial research projects (early stage or late stage projects), you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activities as part of the project 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 is shared between them.

If one or more of your work packages falls under the category of Experimental Development the level of funding for that work package will be reduced accordingly.

12th August 2020 - Text update: clarified the limits of State aid are not to be exceeded

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 your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

The aim of this early and late stage competition is to enable companies to create a data package that can support the subsequent testing of their products, or to carry out evaluations in a clinical setting or other relevant environment.

Testing can include:

  • experimental evaluation (at laboratory scale)
  • use of in vitro and in vivo models to evaluate proof of concept or safety
  • exploring potential production mechanisms
  • prototyping
  • product development planning
  • intellectual property protection
  • demonstrating of clinical utility and effectiveness
  • demonstrating of safety and efficacy (including phase 1 and 2 clinical trials)
  • regulatory planning

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

This competition combines the early and late stage strands of the Biomedical Catalyst only.

Early stage

The aim of an early-stage award is to create a data package that is sufficient to support the testing of your product or process in a clinical setting or other relevant environment.

Late stage

The late-stage award is designed to test a well-developed concept and show its effectiveness in a clinical setting or other relevant environment.

Your project must build on prior credible research on a product prototype or process. This is likely to have included a demonstration or validation in an appropriate model system

How your proposal will be assessed

This competition has 2 stages.

Stage 1: assessed written application.

Stage 2: interview with our Major Awards Committee (MAC).

We want to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories.

Specific themes

Your project can focus on any health and care sector or discipline. We particularly welcome applications that support innovation in the following areas:

  • child health technologies
  • innovations that support clinical trials in the UK
  • biomedical innovations that combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance

You must align your project to one of the following innovation areas:

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

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects and industrial research projects, as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that we consider to be at too early a stage, for example:

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

We will not fund projects that are too close to market or are already in market, such as:

  • evaluations to inform labelling
  • laboratory accreditation
  • distribution or marketing activity
  • post-marketing studies
  • post-marketing surveillance
27 July 2020
Competition opens
4 August 2020
Online briefing event: watch recording
7 October 2020 11:00am
Competition closes
15 December 2020
Invite to interview
4 January 2021
5 January 2021
6 January 2021
12 January 2021
Applicants notified

Before you start

Innovate UK is unable to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty.

Major awards committee

We aim to build a portfolio that is consistent with the spend profile of available funding. Innovate UK reserves the right to maximise the funding available across high-quality projects. This means that the portfolio of projects funded may not follow a strict ranked sequence of the assessors’ scores, but they will all meet or exceed the agreed quality line throughout our independent external assessment process.

The major awards committee will score each project in line with scoring matrices. They will recommend a ranked list of applications for Innovate UK and its affinity partners to fund. They will provide short written feedback to all applicants who attend the interview panel.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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


If your online application is successful you will be invited to attend an interview, where you must give a presentation. Your interview will take place online In the week beginning 4 January 2021.

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 3 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
  • be no longer than 10 minutes
  • have no more than 10 slides
  • not include any video or embedded web links

You cannot change the presentation after you submit it or bring any additional materials to the interview.

Written response to assessor feedback

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

  • be up to 10 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams


After your presentation the panel will spend 15 minutes asking questions. The questions will take into account the information provided in your written application, the response to assessors’ feedback and your presentation.

1. Project details

This section provides background 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

Specify the type of research you will undertake: feasibility study or industrial research.

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. You must indicate if your project will focus on ‘diagnostics’ or ‘medical technology and devices’.

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 (except question 1, which is not scored). 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 website links (URLs) in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1. Equality, diversity and inclusion (not scored)

We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.

You must complete this EDI survey (opens in a new window) and type ‘EDI survey completed’ within your answer. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

Question 2. Healthcare need and impact (Minimum expected score: 7/10)

What is the healthcare challenge that this project addresses and what impacts will your solution have?

Give evidence that the healthcare challenge is real and sizeable. Explain how your project will address it. Define the market, both nationally and internationally, that will generate demand for your proposed solution.

How will the project outputs and/or the solution lead to a commercial opportunity for your organisation?

How will the outputs of the project meet the healthcare challenge?

Give any input you have from healthcare professionals, patients, potential partners 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 3: Scientific evidence (Minimum expected score: 7/10)

What is the underpinning scientific evidence to support your solution?

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 can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4: Innovation (Minimum expected score: 6/10)

What is innovative about your idea?

Identify the extent to which the project is innovative, from a commercial, scientific and/or technical perspective. Refer to existing products, current gold standards and practices that are currently in use and those known to be under development both in the UK and internationally. Comment on how this innovation will fit into the current standard of care.

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.

Highlight the timeliness and novelty of your innovation and explain it in an industrial context.

Question 5: Technical approach (Minimum expected score: 6/10)

What technical approach will be adopted and how will the project be managed?

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:

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

You can submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. You can also include a study design/protocol/approach. It must be a single PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6: Freedom to operate (Minimum expected score: 6/10)

Do you have freedom to operate?

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 (FTO), who conducted the FTO, and that you can work 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, and who will own it.

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 7: Exploit the opportunity (Minimum expected score: 6/10)

How do you intend to exploit the opportunity?

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, channel, geographies
  • reconfiguration of the value system, such as who will benefit or pay
  • changes to business models and business processes for the payor, provider or patient

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
  • the dynamics of this market including measuring its current size then actual and predicted growth rates, providing references to sources
  • the projected or target market share gains over time for the project outcome taking account of possible restrictions on market access and penetration, including any potential competitors
  • 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 8: Technical, commercial and environmental risks (Minimum expected score: 6/10)

What are the technical, commercial and environmental risks to project success? What is the project’s risk management strategy?

Innovate UK recognises that projects of this type are risky, and organisations that succeed focus on key risks, but we ask that the project has adequate arrangements for managing these risks. 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. Identify ownership of each of the risks.

You can submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9: Skills and experience (Minimum expected score: 6/10)

Does the team have the right skills and experience and access to facilities to deliver the project and exploit it?

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. Explain whether you have worked with them before and on what basis.

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 is greater than the sum of its parts
  • the work is being conducted internally where possible and, if subcontractors are being used, there is adequate justification for the choice made
  • the project has access to the appropriate facilities, resources, tools, equipment and human capability.

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 10: Resources required (Minimum expected score 6/10)

What are the resources required to deliver the project and how much will they cost?

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 (e.g. materials, capital equipment 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.

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?

Question 11: Financial support and added value (Minimum expected score: 6/10)

How does financial support from Innovate UK and its funding collaborators add value?

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 wider 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? Tell us what avenues of alternate funding you have explored and the responses.

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). Tell us your alternate plan should public funding not meet any or all of your request.

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Further information can be found in the Biomedical Catalyst guidance.

Extra help

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

Contact us

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 11:30am or 2pm and 4:30pm Monday to Friday.

Enterprise Europe Network

If you are a UK SME and successful in receiving an award, you will be contacted by your local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation Advisor. They act on behalf of Innovate UK to discuss the growth opportunities for your business.

They offer bespoke business support services to help you maximise your project and business potential. This service forms part of your Innovate UK offer under our commitment to help UK SMEs grow and scale.

Please engage positively with your EEN contact so that, working together, you can determine the most appropriate form of growth support for your business.

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