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The ‘2011 Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth Report[1] stated ’the UK must strengthen its ability to accelerate the commercialisation of emerging technologies, and to capture the value chains linked to these’[2]. Some of the key messages of the report are as follows:

  • Innovative businesses grow twice as fast, both in employment and sales, as businesses that fail to innovate[3].
  • We (UK Government) will invest £180m over the next 3 years in a Biomedical Catalyst Fund, to be managed by the Medical Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board.
  • The Coalition Government has made the Technology Strategy Board the prime channel for supporting business-led technology innovation.
  • The government will invest an additional £75million over three years … to support innovative small businesses (rebranding of Grant for R&D back to Smart).

These and other statements from the Strategy for UK Life Sciences[4] next and NHS Innovation Health and Wealth demonstrate that the next few years are an important time for the sector to capitalise on existing and new initiatives to help drive the UK back to growth. This report aims to bring together many of the new structures and initiatives that can help UK businesses on the path to growth.

The following sections describe the public sector bodies currently providing research and innovation funding to Healthtech and Medtech companies.


Technology Strategy Board (TSB)

 The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) was established as an executive Non- Departmental Public Body with effect from 1 July 2007, and is an arm’s length body of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The TSB has the overall goal to drive business innovation and deliver to:

  • Business innovation
  • Economic growth
  • Quality of life

As its name implies it has a focus on technology, and it is the main government body providing funding to support UK businesses. With the demise of Regional Development Agencies, the Technology Strategy Board has been further positioned to be the main national body supporting innovation, in collaboration with Devolved Administrations, and new programmes to support business are expected to surface over 2012, one of which is the Growth Accelerator (more later).

The following webpage gives access to a search-tool for up-to-date calls for funding.

Its current support is though a number of programmes, presented below:

Technology Strategy Board (TSB) programmes

TSB – Smart

Smart has replaced the Grant for R&D scheme, and is a single company grant scheme for SMEs covering:

•    Proof of Market
•    Proof of Concept
•    Development of Prototype 

A summary of each is shown below:


Proof of Market

Proof of Concept

Prototype Development

  • This grant enables companies to assess
  • commercial viability, through:
  • Market research
  • Market testing and competitor analysis
  • Intellectual property position
  • Initial planning to take the project to commercialisation, including assessing costs, timescales and funding requirements.
  • A grant to explore the technical feasibility
  • and commercial potential of a new
  • technology, product or process:
  • Initial feasibility studies
  • Basic prototyping
  • Specialist testing and/or demonstration to provide basic proof of technical feasibility
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Investigation of production and assembly options
  • It also includes pre-clinical research studies
  • for healthcare technologies and medicines,
  • including target identification and validation.
  • This funding is used by companies to
  • develop a technological innovative product,
  • service or industrial process:
  • Small demonstrators
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Trials and testing, including clinical
  • Market testing
  • Marketing strategies
  • Identifying routes to market
  • Product design work
  • Phase 0 pre-clinical studies for medicines.

Key Features:

  • Duration - up to 9 months
  • Maximum grant - £25k
  • Funding proportion – up to 60% of total
  • project costs

Key Features:

  • Duration – up to 18 months
  • Maximum grant – up to £100k
  • Funding proportion – up to 60%of total
  • project costs

Key Features

  • Duration – up to 2 years
  • Maximum grant - £250k
  • Funding proportion – up to 35% of total
  • project costs for medium enterprises; up to
  • 45% for small and micro enterprises


This is a popular scheme for small businesses, covering pre-start-ups as well as those SMEs who have been trading for a few years. It is possible to use sub-contractors if businesses cannot undertake all the research or development in-house, and it helps progress topics from early market research to pre-production prototyping, including as noted above clinical studies and trials.

TSB - Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)

SBRI is a contract to undertake research for a defined government department with 100% funding because it commissions work through a contract and not a grant. It seeks to stimulate innovation, by requesting innovative solutions that meet a defined need and for which there is not as yet, a commercial solution on the market. These are delivered through short-term development contracts.

The process starts with a government department or other public body identifying a specific challenge and articulating this in a way that businesses can respond to. This is then turned into an open competition for new technology products and services that is open to the broad business community.

Risk is managed through a two-stage gate process, initial feasibility contracts are generally limited to six months and a maximum of £100k.

Following a second assessment stage, the most promising companies/solutions may be awarded a second phase contract for up to two years and £1m. This is for more detailed product development. This should lead to a commercial product or service which can be taken to market and open to competitive procurement.

There is no guarantee that procurement will follow but by meeting a defined need, the company is in a strong position to meet this need both within the UK and elsewhere. (IP is retained by the company but the public body retains the right to guarantee itself access to the technology).

TSB are working within their own priorities as well as with the Department of Health (and its relevant organisations) and the MOD/Centre for Defence Enterprise to launch several SBRI calls each year.


TSB - Collaborative Research and Development

Collaborative Research and Development (CR&D) is a traditional collaborative model of TSB and its predecessors. It is typically business led, and provides for business to business or business to knowledge base collaboration. The calls for this programme are typically within defined themes (the priority themes of the TSB) and specific technology or market defined topics. Occasionally a call can be more open to stimulate a more open response to bring forward clever ideas that would otherwise not find a home (eg 2011 call for Technology Inspired Ideas).

Between 2008 and June 2011 a portfolio of over 600 projects has been supported with a combined business and Government investment in excess of £1 billion; this is across all industry sectors. See competitions page for more information on current opportunities.

In recent years the scope of the collaborative R&D competitions has been expanded to support smaller projects with faster timescales (approval and delivery) as well as the more traditional two to three year project.

This product of the TSB will span calls in Health specific themes and also cross cutting themes that are very relevant to Healthtech, eg High Value Manufacturing, Materials, Digital Communications (data handling, security, privacy), Electronics and Sensors.

Collaborative R&D calls are developed from the various TSB Strategy Documents that are prepared at least every 3 years and are further defined by annual Implementation Plans. This gives businesses a chance to see what calls may be upcoming in forthcoming years. The TSB Medicines and Healthcare Strategy is being refreshed in 2012.


TSB - Innovation Platforms

The TSB has increased its investment in challenge-led themes, where the UK can make a significant contribution to meeting both a UK and world challenge, examples in the health space being the ageing population and infectious agents. These Innovation Platforms are developed around these challenges (defined by one or more government departments), and are built up into Innovation Platforms which are typically expected to last for five years and have funding in excess of £50m. The Platforms are cross-government programmes with a lead government partner and often Research Council engagement.

Each programme will have its own call for proposals which span technology and other themes (eg business and economic modelling, standards, regulations) to meet the challenge and ensure the UK can become or remain a world leader in a large and growing market.

Current Platforms in the Healthtech space are:

Future Platforms may be developed in other key areas.


TSB - Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP)

The TSB lead on this programme which is funded through many government agencies, and is an excellent vehicle for businesses to engage with the UK knowledge base on specific areas of strategic importance to the business. The programme funds an Associate (usually post-doc level) to spend the majority of their time at the business working on a defined project, with the back-up of the host university.

Projects can now be of a shorter term (10-40 weeks) or the more usual 1-3 years. The annual contribution (for a 1-year project) from the company is typically £20k, with the grant covering the remaining costs of the Associate and University (or knowledge base partner) participation. These can be an excellent model for transferring knowledge gained from a CASE Award into the company, but also (more commonly) operate as stand-alone projects.


TSB: BioMedical Catalyst (BMC)

Launched in April 2012, this new scheme is aimed at innovative SMEs and academics to support the translation of good ideas and excellence science, bringing new products and services closer to market and making them attractive to private investment. The BMC is a joint fund between TSB and MRC, with the TSB specifically supporting innovative SMEs with an ability to make a large impact on healthcare and economic growth. The BMC aims to catalyse innovations through a pipeline of Awards (grants), which are summarised in the following three boxes:

 Biomedical Catalystbiomedical catalyst

The BMC has a wide scope, supporting all human health life sciences, spanning acute, chronic, social care and prevention; pharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and ICT related products and services. This is a new fund, and companies that have products or services with an ability to have real impact and lead to significant growth for the UK, and are maybe struggling to get to the next stage of development or funding are encouraged to explore if this is right for them.


Department of Health - National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funding programme

Invention for Innovation Programme (i4i)

The i4i programme aims to support and advance the Research and Development of innovative healthcare technologies and their translation into the clinical environment for the benefit of patients through:

  • Guided progression of innovative medical product prototypes, and
  • Provision of business advice to the medical technology professionals it funds.

i4i supports projects through prototype and commercial development to introduction and adoption in the NHS.

Funding under i4i is now available at 100% of allowable costs, and is open to businesses as well as academics and clinical academics. Funding has increased gradually from £4m in 2006-07 to its present £13m in 2011-12.

All applicants invited to submit a full proposal are now required to present a high level summary to the Selection Panel and take part in a question and answer session.


i4i Product development awards

i4i will support projects developing any innovative medical technology including medical devices, active implantable devices and in vitro diagnostic devices. i4i will also support projects which utilise and develop techniques or technologies from other industry sectors that could have a potential impact if applied in a healthcare setting.

There is a single route of entry for applying to the i4i Product Development Awards. Invited full applications will be assigned to one of two Selection Panels (Early-stage and Late-stage) for assessment.

Individual i4i Product Development Awards are provided for a period of 1-3 years. The amount of funding awarded is determined by the scale and nature of the research activity to be conducted. Applicants should cost their projects to the appropriate amount.

Project teams from Wales, or those involving collaborators based in Wales are welcome to apply for funding through i4i Product Development Awards.


i4i Challenge awards

The i4i Challenge Awards is a new i4i funding stream, introduced to supplement the existing i4i Product Development Awards, that aims to bridge the gap between the innovation and development of new medical technology and its adoption into clinical pathways.


Health Innovation Challenge Fund

The Department of Health in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust offer funding through the Health Innovation Challenge Fund which is a themed programme with two calls per year (£100m per year available). This is not grant funding, as some return is expected if projects are successful, but it helps indicate some of the priorities the DoH is needing to address and brings in the expertise of the Wellcome Trust in helping progress good innovations.

The current call will remain open and accept applications in each of areas of special interest listed below until 2 Sept 2013.

  • 0512-1a – Clinical applications of genetics
  • 0512-2a – Early detection and diagnosis of chronic illness or long term conditions
  • 0512-3a – Minimising the impact of trauma and serious injury
  • 0512-4a – Informing clinical management through software-based analysis of complex datasets
  • 0512-5a – Repurposing of medicines and medical devices:


Devolved administrations (DAs)

Devolved Administrations (for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland) are further national bodies of the UK who have, as part of their role, a goal to support businesses in their nation and generating new and retained jobs and sustained or increased turnover/profits:

The DAs are as follows:

Scotland, through the Scottish Life Sciences Association, has created its own roadmap of support available through Scotland and this can be accessed at:

Scottish Enterprise has information on specific calls of relevance as follows:

A further link for DA support is via:


Research Councils

 Research Councils are predominantly there to support early stage research through the university and knowledge base. However, they have a number of programmes that actively encourage and support working with industry. Their main functions are to:

  • Fund basic and strategic research.
  • Support postgraduate training (PhDs or masters students and Fellows).
  • Advance knowledge and technology and provide services and trained scientists/engineers to contribute to the economic competitiveness, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and quality of life.

There are seven research councils in total, but four are particularly relevant to the health technology industries:

Medical Research Council (MRC)

The MRC is the largest of the Research Councils in terms of its investment in medical research (>£700m on research), with its focus on clinical research and two priority themes:

Resilience, repair and replacement:

  • Natural protection.
  • Tissue disease and degeneration.
  • Mental health and wellbeing.
  • Repair and replacement.

Living a long and healthy life:

  • Genetics and disease.
  • Life course perspective.
  • Lifestyles affecting health.
  • Environment and health.

These topics are dominated by medicines and disease research rather than medical technologies, although there is strong interest in imaging and diagnostics.


Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

The BBSRC has a strong emphasis on biologics, and from a medical technologies stand-point, the interest may be in biomarker research to support diagnostics. The BBSRC has an annual budget of around £450m per year.


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The EPSRC has been the most relevant Research Council for investing in the engineering areas relevant to medical technologies. Its remit spans a wide number of industrial sectors, but healthcare is one of its priorities with current sub-themes as follows:

  • Assistive Technologies
  • Design and technologies for Public Health
  • Diagnostics
  • Digital Health Technologies
  • Medicines
  • Regenerative Medicines
  • Techniques for Biomedical Understanding
  • Therapeutics

And core themes of:

  • Towards next generation healthcare
  • Ageing - lifelong health and well-being

EPSRC is also committed to supporting High Value Manufacturing for this sector (2012 call for new Centres for Innovative Manufacturing) and sensors (2012 call for an Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Sensors Technologies for Healthcare).

EPSRC also operates a number of Doctoral Training Centres with relevance to health technologies, and alongside educating our future researchers, these Centres can provide a starting point for industry engagement through industry sponsored student projects.


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The ESRC undertakes research that particularly helps to inform government policy, but in recent years has addressed how it can support business and other organisations more directly. So businesses with a need for a social science input or business school engagement (e.g. new business models), may find this Council has relevance through Fellowships or KTPs.


Charities and endowments

 Certain Charities and Endowments provide support to innovation from businesses of the Healthtech and Medtech sector, provided it meets the aims and specific programmes of their remit and goals.


Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is an independent charity funding research to improve human and animal health. It has a long history, having been established in 1936 with an endowment of around £13 billion, and it is the UK's largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research. A large proportion of the research is around clinical research and supporting clinical researchers but their Technology Transfer programme supports Proof of Concept studies from the clinical, academic and business base.

 The main programme currently is the joint Wellcome Trust/Department of Health ‘Healthcare Innovation Challenge Fund’ (HCIF). This scheme supports UK businesses and is specifically targeting Valley of Death scenarios (also mentioned under DoH funding).

 This fund has specific themes which address major healthcare challenges, and the website below can highlight current calls.

 Applications must meet specific criteria and it is key that the projects must be able to advance to a stage where there is clear exploitation at the end, via procurement and adoption or commercial interest through investment or purchase. Funding is at 100% of allowable costs.


The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA)

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts - an independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative. NESTA is one of the UK's largest seed-stage investors.

Their fund is composed of a blend of private and public capital, a model which is increasingly becoming replicated across the country. NESTA combines capital investment with non-financial support to help the UK's innovative early-stage companies turn their ideas into commercial success. However, they have strict investment criteria, and only work with companies that have high potential for growth, are at seed or start-up stage, and have the potential to attract syndicated support.


Other charities

Other potential sources of charity funding for Healthtech and Medtech businesses are as follow:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation
  • Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC)
  • British Heart Foundation
  • Cancer Research UK
  • The Royal Society: eg Industry Fellowships, Mercer Prize and Royal Society Enterprise Fund
  • Nuffield Foundation

The following charities may encourage business involvement but mainly fund academics/clinicians:

  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund
  • Research into Ageing Fund (RiAF) managed by Age UK (formerly Age Concern & Help The Aged)
  • British Medical Association
  • Diabetes UK
  • Association for International Cancer Research (AICR)
  • International Spinal Research Trust
  • Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Fund
  • National Kidney Research Fund


European funding


Eurostars is a EUREKA style programme which is specifically targeted to SMEs. Under this programme, the proposals are approved at European level but the funding comes from member states. Within the UK, the Technology Strategy Board is the funding agency, and they limit their investments to UK SMEs only. In other member states other rules can and will apply (e.g. university engagement).

Eurostars funds business to business or business to science collaborative research with a minimum of one other EU state. This is an attractive scheme for SMEs particularly for their first entry into European funding, as it covers smaller programmes and consortia, and can be more focused to specific needs as a result. Eurostars in the UK will only support SMEs, but other nations do fund academia and other organisations, so a UK business could work with a clinical or academic researcher from overseas.


Framework Programme 7

The European Framework Programme 7 (FP7) is Europe's main instrument for funding research and development in selected priority areas. FP7 is open to public and private ‘legal entities’, including public and private companies, research institutes, universities and individuals.

The HTM KTN, alongside other public funding programmes, has good knowledge of these schemes and can help direct people to the right call areas and other contacts able to help in this area.

FP7 programmes include:

FP7 - Cooperation programme - this addresses priority themes for business-led cooperative research. The themes relevant to Healthtech are:

  • Health
  • Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
  • Nanosciences, materials and production technologies (NMP)

These programmes are relevant to R&D intensive businesses or at least businesses that have the capacity to undertake their own R&D. The UK has National Contacts Points who have deep knowledge of these themes and upcoming calls and provide up to date newsletters of activities around these themes.

FP7 - Capacities programme - this programme has a number of areas but the two most relevant to businesses are:

  • Research for SMEs
  • Research for SME Associations

These programmes are designed for those companies who have limited internal R&D capacity and the programme pays for groups of SMEs (supply chain) to collaborate and benefit from directed (SME-led) research work performed by others, typically research associations and universities.

Further information is available at:

The KTN has recently issued a short introduction to accessing European funding, available at: