Competition brief: innovation in health and life sciences round 2

Updated 5 April 2017

1. Dates and deadlines

Competition opens Monday 6 February 2017
Briefing event for applicants Thursday 9 February 2017
Registration deadline Midday Wednesday 5 April 2017
Application deadline Midday on Wednesday 12 April 2017
Decision to applicants By end of June 2017

2. The competition scope

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

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

Proposals must indicate how projects will enable a step change in competitiveness and productivity for at least one UK SME involved in the project.

2.1 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

As part of this competition, we also welcome applications for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). For further information please see the 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. However, KTP applications should follow the specific guidance for KTPs.

3. Specific competition themes

Applications must address at least 1 of the following 6 themes. The sub-themes are the types of projects which would be supported:

3.1 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

3.2 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

3.3 Precision medicine

Precision medicine focuses on the better selection of more targeted treatments for patients. It achieves this by combining clinical knowledge with advances 
in diagnostic techniques and data analysis.

Applicants applying into this competition theme must make it clear how their proposed product and/or service will advance precision medicine.

We will support:

  • the development of tests and/or diagnostic tools to select the best treatment, care pathways and disease management regimes for patients. This can include in vitro and in vivo diagnostic tests, better integration and use of data and/or the development of systems, including point of care diagnostics
  • precision medicine approaches to paediatrics and child health
  • stratification in primary care, the community and home, including direct-to-consumer products and medical devices
  • precision medicine approaches to addressing antimicrobial resistance
  • the development of capabilities that will enable precision medicine approaches such as improved informatics, imaging techniques and biosciences

3.4 Advanced therapies

  • increasing UK existing commercial capacity/productivity to manufacture viral vectors for use in the development of clinical cell and gene therapies for the treatment of human disease and disorders
  • it is essential that the developed capability will supply viral vectors for clinical cell and gene therapies within the lifetime of the proposed project

3.5 Preclinical technologies

  • innovative platform technologies for analysing, screening and optimising potential new medicines
  • novel in vitro and in vivo models that determine mechanism of action, efficacy or safety of potential new medicines

3.6 Biosciences

  • synthetic biology technologies including gene synthesis and assembly, strain development, ‘parts’ characterisation and standards
  • computational systems biology technologies for replicating and predicting biological activity
  • biological sample preparation technologies to enable minimal processing
  • cells, tissues and communities as bio-manufacturing platforms, for example, mixed fermentation technologies

4. Projects that we won’t fund

In this competition we are not funding projects in:

4.1 Increasing agricultural productivity:

  • forestry or equine projects
  • wild-capture fisheries

4.2 Improved food quality and sustainability:

  • food processing or manufacturing applications that focus solely on improvements in production efficiency. However, these areas may find potential opportunities in future manufacturing and materials competitions
  • projects with a primary focus on a health claim (as opposed to a nutrition claim) that would require approval from the European Food Safety Authority

4.3 Precision medicine:

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

4.4 Advanced therapies:

  • discovery of novel candidate viral vectors for cell or gene therapy
  • manufacture of viral vectors for cell or gene therapies for non-human use
  • any therapy types that are not cell or gene therapies
  • medical devices and advanced materials

4.5 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

4.6 Biosciences

  • the management and use of biofilms

5. Find out if you are eligible to apply

To lead a project, you must:

  • be a UK-based business of any size. See the general guidance for circumstances where research and technology organisations (RTOs) may lead
  • involve at least one SME
  • carry out your project in the UK
  • propose an innovation project that lasts between 6 months and 3 years

Non-academic RTOs may lead a project providing:

  • they are able to clearly say why the RTO and not one of the business participants, should lead the project
  • they collaborate in the project with at least 2 or more businesses (one must be an SME)
  • their involvement is no greater than 30% of the total eligible project costs
  • the project shows a compelling route to market, most likely through the non-lead partners

If project costs are less than £100,000, an SME can work on the project alone or with partners.

If total project costs are £100,000 or more, the project must include at least 2 grant-claiming partners working together.

6. Funding and project details

We have allocated up to £15 million to fund innovation projects. There is up to £5 million available for projects lasting up to 12 months, up to £5 million for projects lasting up to 2 years, and up to £5 million for projects lasting up to 3 years.

Your project may focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development.

All projects must involve at least one SME. A business or RTO may lead the project.

Total project costs of £50,000 to £100,000 for up to 12 months:

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

Total project costs of £100,000 to £2 million and/or more than 12 months:

If you expect your total eligible project costs to be more than £100,000 and/or your project duration is longer than 12 months, you must work with other organisations. At least one of these must be an SME. We particularly welcome projects that are led by an SME.

6.1 Project types

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

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro/small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For example, if you are an SME applying on your own for the maximum amount of £100,000, you will only be awarded a maximum of £70,000. If the SME were to ask for eligible costs of £140,000 so that they could get an award of £98,000, this would not be allowed.

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro/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.

In any project, a maximum of 30% of total eligible project costs can be spent by the research organisations involved. Where projects include human clinical trials, the project cannot be led by an RTO and a maximum of 50% of total eligible project costs can be spent by the academic or research organisations. Costs will need to be fully justified.

We expect projects to last from 6 months to 3 years and range in size from total project costs of £50,000 to £2 million.

We may consider projects outside this range, but you must contact us at least 10 days before the registration deadline to discuss further.

7. How to apply

To apply:

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

External, independent experts assess the quality your application. We will then select the projects that we fund, to build a portfolio of projects as described in the competition guidance for applicants. Please read this carefully before you apply.

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

8. Background and further information

Today we have a growing global population, ageing demographic, burden of disease and increased wealth. These challenges are speeding up 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 supports business to 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