May 2020 Funding Landscape

At NBIC, we feel it’s important for us to keep you informed of the latest funding awards, grants and

competitions to support you in the progression of your research or developments.


Together with our partner Black Kite® Ltd, we have put together some key current opportunities that specifically link to our four Strategic Themes: Prevent, Detect, Manage, and Engineer (PDME). For further information, including advice and guidance on bidding into competitions, please contact us at 

Click on a button below to jump to your preferred funding option.


Innovate UK: Smart (Innovate UK’s open funding programme)

Opens: 10 January 2020; Briefing 17 January 2020. 

Closes: 12pm, 27 May 2020

Scope of call: Any technology area. Requires strong business plan; exploitation expected immediately after project end.

Available funding

  • £25-500k / project 6 – 18 months.
  • £25k-£2m / project 19 – 36 months.
  • Grant: 50% to 70% (business).


  • Must include an SME.
  • Any organisation, including Research Technology Organisations (RTOs), can lead (industry preferred), but not Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
  • Collaborative or non-collaborative (project size dependent)

Key Considerations for NBIC partners in this call

  • RTOs must include 2 partners.
  • HEI involvement is limited to 30% total costs.
  • Experimental development projects included.
  • Projects over £2 m require approval before submission.
  • RTO can lead, must include (min.) 2 businesses and show credible route to market.
  • Strong business plan needed for success, inc. global market potential.
  • Highly competitive call; scores of 80% + needed.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment: Aligns to all themes. Engineer may be more suitable under experimental development (45% SME intervention).


Sectors and Market Alignment: Open to all, with an emphasis on global markets. Currently, bringing in Health and Industrial Processing, water and food aspects could be welcome.


Collaboration: Research Technology Organisations (Higher Education Institutions) can lead this if there is a clear exploitation path; one SME + another industry partner. Only one application / lead; can collaborate on any number. NBIC industry partners could formulate projects on all NBIC themes.


International: Excluded.


NBIC recommendations

  • Academics would need to find SMEs strongly aligned to NBIC themes.
  • Strong opportunity for SMEs alone or in partnership with others.
  • Contact NBIC if looking for an academic partner
  • Demonstrate clear, credible exploitation.
  • Ensure professional project management is evident within the application.

UKRI & MRC: COVID-19 rolling calls

Opens: 1 April 2020

Closes: 1 April 2021; rolling call, submit any time

Scope of call: Any rapid research for COVID-19 to deliver public health impacts within 12 months. Research to understand disease, prevent, treat & control.

Available funding

  • £25-50k / projects up to 12 months.
  • Grant: variable; UK academics 80% FEC.


Key Considerations

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment:

Aligns with all NBIC themes in terms of PPE, i.e., studies to optimise PPE & IPC (infection prevention control) measures.

Sectors and Market Alignment: Open to any academic, and SME, start-up focused on research and novel ideas related to addressing COVID-19. Call is broad in nature; various university departments could address, e.g., healthcare, clinical management, vaccines, therapies, assays, models, sensing and monitoring, biocidal coatings, and more.

Collaboration: Appears open to individual organisations and collaborations. The proposed outcomes should be targeted at the UK domestic market, but should have global benefit.

NBIC recommendations

  • This is a unique application method so please review pages carefully.
  • Rapid response required with credible and strong expected impact to Covid. Early preparation useful; consider ideas now.
  • Calls remain open, and impression given is that further specific calls may be forthcoming, as well as calls from other bodies.
  • Ways in which the ideas are innovative and unique should be emphasised.
  • The potential impact on society in the face of COVID-19 should be well articulated.
  • Fast assessment of bid submissions is a benefit (2 – 4 weeks).
  • Funding diverted to these calls so worth a try but likely to be very popular

Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) – the UK’s pre-commercial procurement programme: monitor and visualise domestic pollution to safeguard health

Opens: 20 February 2020; Briefing 3 March 2020 (recorded)

Closes: 12pm, 20 May 2020

Scope of call

  • Health, pollution monitoring, sensors
  • Exploration and design of solutions
  • Establish viability and scalability

Available funding

  • £20k / project up to 3 months

  • Procurement of R&D services


  • Any single organisation of any size

  • Can be academic group or RTO

  • Single applicant, but subcontractors allowed

Key Considerations

  • Needs to be innovative, practical and deliverable
  • Affordability important
  • Proposed device must monitor more than one pollutant
  • Must seek to monitor pollutants in a domestic environment (not outside) and must provide visual indication of pollutants for householder
  • Should propose ways to improve strategic understanding of household pollutants and their impact on health
  • Phase 1 project – a phase 2 follow-on will be awarded, and projects should outline their approach to phase 2 in the bid

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment: Aligns well with Detect, and for the phase 2 follow on aligns also with Engineer.


Sectors and Market Alignment: Open to any organisation of any size working alone, although specialist consultants or advisors can be taken as subcontractors. Novel sensors based on biofilms would be particularly relevant. Sensor design and display needs to be tailored to use by domestic users. The more pollutants can be monitored, the better the bid will be viewed.


Collaboration: Phase 1 is single organisation, although phase 2 will be larger and open to a collaboration. It is expected that stakeholders will be involved, and therefore relevant consumer groups or regulatory authorities should be identified in the bid


NBIC recommendations

  • Describe a sensor approach that meets the criteria and has the potential to be developed commercially
  • Make contact with, and quote from, relevant health and regulatory bodies
  • Show a good knowledge of sources and effects of household pollutants to show the proposed solution will have measurable impacton health of individuals
  • Show that the proposed sensor is capable of commercialisation and manufacture in quantity i.e. scalable, and give description of how commercialisation might be effected.