Biomedical Catalyst: what it is and how to apply for funding

An overview of the Biomedical Catalyst funding programme, which supports UK businesses to test and develop innovative technologies for health and care.


The Biomedical Catalyst programme provides funding to help businesses test and develop innovative health and care projects.

The Biomedical Catalyst supports ideas for:

  • disease prevention and management
  • disease detection and diagnosis
  • tailored treatments that change a disease or offer potential cures

This guidance is designed to help UK businesses find and apply for Biomedical Catalyst funding opportunities.

What is the Biomedical Catalyst?

The Biomedical Catalyst was established in 2012 to achieve 3 key objectives:

  • deliver growth to the UK life sciences sector
  • deliver innovative life sciences products and services into healthcare more quickly and effectively
  • provide support to academically and commercially led research and development

The programme provides funding to help UK SMEs speed up bringing new products to market and secure onward investment.

The programme is run by Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council.

Who can apply

You can apply for funding to lead a project if you are a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). Innovate UK follows the European Commission Recommendation definition of SMEs.

You will need to be based in the UK and intend to carry out your project work in the UK.

Depending on the stage of your project and size of your business, you can work alone or collaborate with others.

The opportunities for UK businesses

Competition themes

UK businesses can apply with projects that will solve a health and care challenge. Projects will develop innovative technologies or processes for:

  • disease prevention and proactive management of health and chronic conditions
  • earlier and more accurate detection of disease, leading to better patient outcomes
  • tailored treatments that either change the underlying disease or offer potential cures

Type of research and innovation

The Biomedical Catalyst has 4 competitions designed to support SMEs to progress projects that are at different stages of development.

Feasibility award

The feasibility award is designed for projects that have developed an innovative concept or carried out experimental proof of concept but have not validated the technology. The aim of the feasibility award is to explore and evaluate the commercial potential of innovative ideas.

Primer award

Funding in the primer award is for conducting a technical evaluation of an idea through to proof of concept in a model system.

Early-stage award

The aim of the 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. Relevant projects will have already been validated in a laboratory or relevant setting. At the end of the project, the technology will be ready to be demonstrated in a relevant environment.

Late-stage award

The late-stage award is designed to test a well-developed concept and show its effectiveness in a relevant environment. Projects are expected to 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 to apply

You can apply for funding through a Biomedical Catalyst competition. Competitions typically run 3 times a year. Each competition generally consists of 2 strands – one strand for feasibility and early-stage awards, and one strand for primer and late-stage awards.

Applying for funding is a competitive process and applications cannot be made outside of this time.

Biomedical Catalyst competitions will be announced on Innovate UK’s website. To apply to a competition you will need to read the specific competition brief and guidance, which is made available via the Innovation Funding Service. You will need to submit your application before the stated deadline.

Success stories from previous grant holders

Since 2012, the Biomedical Catalyst has awarded more than £250 million in funding to over 300 projects. The funding has been matched by around £150 million in private finance.

Many of the award holders have enjoyed global success.

Sky Medical Technology

Cheshire-based Sky Medical Technology has developed a device called OnPulse. OnPulse straps to the back of the knee and was used originally to help boost the performance of some British athletes at the London 2012 Olympics. The firm was able to work with the Olympic team thanks to Biomedical Catalyst funding, which it used to run multi-centre clinical trials on the device.

OnPulse has since been proven to have a range of uses – including helping to prevent blood clots after hip surgery.


Heathtech startup Entia’s hand-held blood testing kit, the Affinity monitor, could help reduce cancellations for chemotherapy appointments. The device enables patients to test their blood count at home, which prevents the patient from having to visit the hospital for the check. This can also allow chemotherapy patients to tailor treatment to their specific needs.

Entia received funding through the Biomedical Catalyst to develop the monitor with The Royal Marsden Hospital.


Newcastle-based healthcare firm Biosignatures used Biomedical Catalyst funding in a project to develop Videometrics – a software system with improved video imaging and management capability for bladder examinations (‘cystoscopies’).

The software could reduce false positive referrals and therefore unnecessary follow-up appointments, saving an estimated £130,000 a year for every 1,000 cystoscopy examinations.

Published 9 August 2018