November 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 expand your preferred funding option.

Innovate UK : Smart August 2020


Scope of Call:

Any technological area. Game changing, innovative, ambitious, ready for commercialisation soon after project end. Strong business and delivery plan.

Aim: Any innovation with significant potential for growth or scale-up, taking customer and user needs into account.

Available funding: total £25 m.

For project durations between 6 & 18 months, total costs between £25k – £500k; project duration 19 to 36 months, total costs £25k – £2m. For costs up to £3 m, seek approval ten days before deadline.

Eligibility: UK registered business or RTO. RTOs can partner, academic institution cannot lead.


Open: 28 Aug 2020;

Closes: 25 Nov (11:00)

Project start: by 1 May 2021

Key Considerations

•Must be led by UK business, of any size.

Project must include at least one micro or SME.

Shorter (6-18 month) projects may be single SME, but more likely a collaboration led by business (large or SME).

Larger projects must be collaborative. Non-grant claiming partners’ costs are included in total eligible project costs.

Subcontractors permitted, no specified limit but must be justified and appropriate.

Must demonstrate intention to commercially exploit project result(s).

Funding level is function of project type (feasibility. industrial research, etc.) and organisation size.

•One resubmission allowed.

•Research partners max. 30% total costs.

•Highly competitive.

Standard application form + EDI, additional financial considerations (e.g. for UID).

General Recommendations

A commercial exploitation path must be evident for all business partners.

There is a focus on identified customers and users to show value & potential of solution.

•Time to market is important.

Clear project management approach, availability of necessary skills and appreciation of risks and their management is needed, i.e., strong project management should be evident in application.

Need to identify if the project is feasibility (shorter, but higher funding levels), industrial research or experimental development (larger, but lower funding %).

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment

Any technological area, thus aligns to all NBIC themes.

HEI’s cannot lead.

Expectation of clear significant economic impact potential from an innovative, disruptive new product, with rapid commercialisation potential.

Sectors and Market Alignment

•Typically any sector with potential for rapid growth & global reach.

•Customer & user needs must be evident.

Projects can be feasibility, industrial research or experimental development.

For small projects a micro or SME must lead or a collaborator; NBIC academics should try and partner.

NBIC Specific Recommendations

Relationship to PDME: SMART projects applies to any technology area, but must have potential to be innovative / disruptive and be ahead of the field.

Possible application of Biofilms: Competition welcomes projects that address the identified Grand Challenges, but is not a requirement; biofilms appear best suited to ageing society and clean growth (of UK economy). Cf. Plastics solutions competition.

Key Collaborators

•Public facing organisation giving customer/user component is beneficial.

•NBIC researchers can support associated SMEs, spin-outs or businesses.

NIHR i4i Product Development Awards


Scope of Call:

Medical devices and in vitro diagnostics.

Aim: Translational R&D of medical devices for NHS use, addressing any disease or health area where there is a clear unmet clinical need.

Funding: Grant: 100%; 80% (HEI).

Eligibility: Lead: SME, NHS Trust, HEI. Must include NHS Trust or NHS service provider. At least two organisations involved.


Open: 4 Nov 2020

Closes: 12 Jan 2021

Project start: April 2021

Key Considerations

Projects can be led by an SME, an HEI or NHS provider.

Minimum of two organisations must be involved.

•At least one collaborator from NHS.

Research proposals may address any disease or healthcare area.

Technologies must already have demonstrated safety & efficacy.

•Proof of concept must exist already.

Two-stage application process.

•Lead applicants must be based in England

•Project durations: 24 months (min.) and 36 months (max).

General Recommendations

This competition is for projects that have already demonstrated proof of concept. Early stage research is not fundable.

Any existing medical device for which further prototyping and development is needed can be funded

Of particular interest is techniques or technologies from a different industry sector applied to the healthcare setting.

A plan for adoption into the NHS is necessary, therefore partnering with an NHS trust or provider is essential.

A commercial strategy showing how the product or technique will be taken to market is needed, that shows appreciation of the regulatory pathways for healthcare products.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment: This topic is of relevance to all NBIC themes, P, D, M & E.

Sectors and Market Alignment

•Targeted at the healthcare sector specifically.

•R&D of medical devices and in vitro diagnostic devices.

The target user is the NHS in the first instance; commercialisation partner could be a provider of services or product to the NHS.

Target application must be somewhere that a clear clinical need has been identified, and where benefits over current practice can be shown.

Project must present a significant innovation with the potential to change clinical practice, and show clear commercialisation strategy.

•Patient and public involvement (PPI) needs to be shown.

NBIC Specific Recommendations

Relationship to PDME: 

P: protection of surfaces, cleaning and re-use of clinical instruments.

D: sensing of microbial contaminants, in vitro detection and identification of pathogens.

M: decontamination of surfaces, applying preventative surfaces to reduce cross-contamination.

E: laboratory cultures for identifying or developing anti-microbial agents, development of screening processes using bio-film based instrumentation.

Possible application of Biofilms: Competition welcomes projects that address the identified Grand Challenges, but is not a requirement; biofilms appear best suited to ageing society and clean growth (of UK economy). Cf. Plastics solutions competition.

Key Collaborators

NHS providers and clinicians.

Suppliers of services or laboratory equipment to clinical settings.

Innovate UK: ISCF Future Plastic Packaging Solutions


Scope of Call:

Part of the SSPP, Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Programme Smart & sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products.

Deliver cleaner growth across supply chains.

Aim: Deliver dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025.

Available funding: total £2m: Project costs: £50k to £150k; 18 months max. Grant: 50% (large); 60% (med.); 70% (small).

Eligibility: Lead: Business; Charities; NDPB (‘quango’); Not-for-Profit. Collaborations allowed.


Open: 26 Oct

Closes: 20/01/2021 (11:00am)

Project start: 1 Jun 2021; end 30 November 2022

Key Considerations

SSPP Challenge aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator.

Projects must make plastics packaging supply chain more circular; deliver the targets of the UK Plastics Pact; embed life cycle thinking and end of life in packaging design and decisions.

Show reduced environmental impact, e.g., reduced emissions, increased/improved recyclability.

Projects not seeking direct commercial output or financial value will be funded, i.e., direct or indirect commercial outcomes.

Cf. & quantify benefits of new approach to the system to be replaced / improved.

Demonstrate a holistic approach, i.e., impacts to humans, wildlife, environment.

General Recommendations

Projects must demonstrate how objectives of the plastics pact are supported, and delivers systemic change.

Clearly explain reductions in UK plastic packaging system’s overall environmental impact.

Demonstrate contributing to meeting the SSPP Challenge objectives.

Portfolio of projects to be funded that address the four Plastics PACT targets.

HEIs may collaborate.

12 application questions; particular focus on idea, outcomes, impacts, and delivery.

Expected to be feasibility or industrial research projects.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment

Aligns with all themes: Prevent, Detect, Manage, Engineer.

Aligns with NBIC’s activities: Interdisciplinary research and sectorial challenge; Improved Customer Products.

Sectors and Market Alignment: Any practical innovative solutions to help reduce plastic waste and the harm plastics have on the environment, including recycling, reuse, tracking, etc.

Collaboration: Ideal for an NBIC member company (SME or large) to partner with NBIC University.

Other: Impact is just as important as a business/commercial outcome.

NBIC Specific Recommendations

Relationship to PDME: 

Prevent: bio-degradability; reuse & refill.

Detect: marking & tracking of packaging to improve supply chain circularity or sustainability.

Manage: New business models to reduce plastic going to landfill; behaviour change to use less packaging, increase recycling; removing the need to incinerate medical packaging.

Engineer: incorporate biofilms into packaging; develop food grade plastic packaging that may be recycled etc.

Possible application of Biofilms: As above plus low carbon, non fossil polymers for packaging.

MedTech Navigator Innovation Grants


Scope of Call

Innovation grants to facilitate interactions between Med Tech SMEs and Knowledge Providers during product development. For example, help to develop or test new or improved products, processes and services.

Applications assessed on novelty of innovation, clinical need, value for money, strength of team.

Available funding: Up to £7,500 grant (50% of total project cost).


Open call, next deadline 27 November 2020

Following deadline likely January 2021

Key Considerations

SME applies for and justifies knowledge collaboration.

Simple application process with regular awards committee reviews.

General Recommendations

Health stakeholders should be involved in any bid, such as patient groups, clinicians or NHS organisations.

Teaming with an NHS Trust or medical device manufacturer would be beneficial.

University medical departments are also regarded as a knowledge provider.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment: Could apply to all NBIC themes, drawing on expertise supportive of SMEs.

Collaboration: UK SME led, collaboration with university (or NHS/medical organisation).

•Links with, e.g., the Southampton medical school would be helpful.

Could form part of an existing relationship between NBIC and health SME, or help to establish new relationship.

Any MedTech SME needing expertise to support development or testing can access NBIC as a knowledge provider.

NBIC Specific Recommendations

Relationship to PDME: The grants facilitate interaction between SMEs and knowledge providers on any aspect of healthcare, therefore any aspect of PDME could come into play.

Possible application of Biofilms: Fund covers any aspect of health and medical technology, and so any of the many health applications of biofilms already in development through NBIC are relevant. Fund could support an existing link between an SME industry partner and NBIC research institution.

Key Collaborators

UK SMEs associated with NBIC.

RTOs or health trusts as knowledge providers.

Universities / Research Institutes from NBIC.

Merck 2020 Research Grants


Scope of Call: Within the health sector, the pandemic preparedness topic looks for innovative research into technological means of preparing for and fighting new emerging viral infectious diseases.

Funding: Grants of €100k – 500k per year for up to three years, with the option of an extension. Collaborations between institutions allowed.

Dates: Next call to be published in Jan 2021.

Key Considerations

Collaboration is not mandated, although teaming with a healthcare provider would add credibility.

Bringing existing technology from a different sector into this domain e.g. for biocides or on-chip (in-vitro) diagnostics would be of interest.

Bio-electronics are also mentioned as being of interest.

General Recommendations

Knowledge, competence, access to facilities and innovative ideas will support a bid.

Connection to, or collaboration with, a clinical or healthcare provider will add credibility and knowledge of the user.

Innovative thinking, bringing technologies applied to non-health sectors into the health domain will be of interest.

Time to an outcome seems important, especially during the current situation, therefore existing approaches that can be repurposed to the health domain will be of interest here.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment

Aligns with all NBIC themes, esp. Prevent and Detect, and applies specifically to the improved health sectorial challenge.

Research within an NBIC partner institution relevant to vaccine or drug delivery platforms, pathogen control, PPE improvement could be proposed.

Sectors and market alignment: Involvement can create connections between NBIC research and commercial partners.

NBIC Specific Recommendations

Relationship to PDME: 

Prevent: Any application of biofilms that supports identification or categorisation of future health threats.

Detect: any platform using biofilms for screening or diagnostics of infections.

Manage: testing, vector control and delivery systems for emerging health threats.

Engineer: applications of biofilms in PPE or drug production.

Possible application of Biofilms: Appear to be many relevant biofilm applications at PoC level already underway that are relevant and could form the basis of a bid.

Key Collaborators: These are research proposals seeking tech solutions towards pandemic preparedness, therefore led by an NBIC research team supported by access to relevant industry partners through NBIC.

STFC: Challenge Led Applied Systems Programme; CLASP 2021: Healthcare and Energy


Scope of Call: Themed call to apply STFC funded research/technology to help address societal challenge areas in healthcare and low-carbon energy.

Dates: Call for expressions of interest opens 10 November 2020 and closes 14 January 2021

Key Considerations

Applicant, in collaboration with STFC, proposes project supporting STFC research in moving forward to higher TRL.

Industrial partners cannot receive funding directly from the scheme and are expected to contribute support in kind.

General Recommendations: This programme is intended to be a route to commercialise STFC technology/research.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment

Aligns with all NBIC themes, esp. Detect and Engineer, and applies specifically to STFC funded research/technology to help address societal challenges

Novel detection devices based on biofilms, monitoring and surface based catalysis

Through appropriate collaboration, where healthcare or low-carbon energy applications can benefit from biofilms (e.g., diagnostics, reduced fuel consumption, environmental monitoring, hydrogen production etc.) there is an opportunity for biofilms to contribute.

Sectors and Market Alignment

•Key areas are healthcare and energy.

Need to include STFC tech or researcher (including past researcher); has potential to create new relationships with STFC for NBIC.

NBIC Specific Recommendations

Relationship to PDME: 

Prevent: Protection or decontamination in healthcare applications.

Detect: use of biofilm-based detectors for pollutant detection and identification, possibly also radiation detection using bio-luminescence.

Manage: reduce or remove harmful biofilms in health applications. Reduce impact of natural biofilms on efficiency of energy production or storage units.

Engineer: new diagnostic devices for healthcare, catalysis or other process application of biofilms for hydrogen production or carbon capture / utilisation.

Key Collaborators:

STFC–funded collaborator is essential.

Collaborator from the relevant user community beneficial.

UKRI: Research England (RE)


New UKRI council funding HEIs for research and KE.

UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, and HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Fund).

Funding changes – Recurrent grant finding for the academic year 2020 – 2021:

•Accelerated QR £0m

National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF, allocated as QR) £107m

Recurrent knowledge exchange (HEIF) £230m

•National facilities and initiatives £40m

•Others are unchanged from 2019 – 2020.

Fund review

UK Research Partnership Initiative Fund (UKRPIF): Capital funding to research centres and universities; only half the projects allocated. Fund not currently open; open dates will be published on the UKRI website.

Research England Development (RED) Fund (see further below): £27 m p.a. for projects that aid development & interaction of the UK’s HE and KE activities in line with Government and UKRI priorities.

Research Capital Investment Fund: For research groups to maintain or improve physical premises or infrastructure. Is allocated annually to HEIs – awards normally announced July

International Investment Initiative (I3) Fund: Supports existing international collaborations. Closed for submissions in 2019; no future rounds are in place as yet.

Connecting Capability Fund (CCF): Supports partnerships between HE, businesses and investors & some Catapults. Only open for follow-on funding for existing CCF wave 1 projects at present.

Museum, Galleries and Collections Fund: University museums, galleries and collections; Ongoing for existing recipients.

Global Challenges Research Fund: Research that addresses challenges faced by developing countries. Accessible to HEIs that submitted QR GCRF (ODA compliant) strategies.

Expanding Excellence in England (E3) Fund: Strategic expansion of research units already deemed excellent. Specifically about supporting improvements in UK research capability in line with the Industrial Strategy and Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Relevant to NBIC – (not currently open; future round not yet confirmed). Find out more. 

Thirteen current projects across diverse areas, from linguistics to space, from plastics to music, from fine print to diabetes, etc..

•Total funds allocated ~£76.1 m

•Average project size ~£5.8 m

Research England Development (RED) Fund: Ongoing application & approval process. Next Panel date: 4 Dec 2020. Expectation that applications are prepared in collaboration with RE. Possible for industry to partner with an HEI to apply an advanced research technology. Eight current projects: ~£22.7 m; avg ~£3 m (excluding low value outlier). Straight-forward application process; alignment to the fund’s key priorities should be evident. Non-competitive fund; apply any time.

Relevant to all NBIC themes as long as a net public benefit will be delivered; collaboration is welcomed. Find out more.

Innovate UK: UK and Canada biomanufacturing innovations in cell and gene therapies


Scope of Call: Partnership with National Research Council of Canada (NRC); aimed at SMEs.

Aim: Support improvements in biomanufacturing for cost effective gene and cell-based therapies.

Available funding: £128k over 24 months (max.) 75% grant. Start by 1 may 2021.

Eligibility: Lead: any organisation except HEI. Collaborators: any, inc. HEIs.

Dates: Opens: 26/10/2020; Closes: 23 December 2020 (11:00am) Online briefing: 03/11/2020 Interviews will take place.

Key Considerations

•Work area:

Process improvement for adeno-associated virus (AAV) based gene therapy.

Deploy process analytical technologies to perfusion-enabled lentiviral vector manufacturing.

Must establish a partnership with a named research team at NRC Canada.

KTN briefings: NRC will explain the type of projects being looked for.

KTN wil make information on these sessions available.

•Show evidence of established relationship.

NRC partner costs are not part of your project costs.

•Total grant funding limited to £96k.

•Standard grant rates.

General Recommendations:

Work is expected to be exploited from or in UK and in Canada.

Note cost limits: £8k max for Capital; overheads capped at 10%.

•Fundamental research projects are excluded.

•Standard ten questions.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment

•Unclear how well related to biofilms.

The two main work areas are related to measurement and process characterisation and improvements.

Collaboration: HEIs may be subcontracted.

Innovate UK: SMEs transforming food production: series A investor partnership (ISCF)


Scope of Call: Part of ISCF. Grant + VC funding. IUK partnering with investors.

Aim: Main objective: support SMEs in this tech. area to grow & scale through facilitated private investment. Develop precision technologies & data driven solutions to realising net zero food production systems by 2040.

Available funding: total £5 m. £1m to £3m / project.

Eligibility: Dates: Opens: 04 Nov; closes: 13/01/2021 (11:00) Online briefing: 10/11/2020 Bootcamp ands investor events. Heads of term agreement: 3 June 2021. Optional boot camps: 22 February.; 19 March 2021.

Key Considerations

Receive grant funding + investors will top up, providing the match funding.

•Experimental development project.

•Demonstrate potential for growth & scale.

Project start: 1 Oct 2021; end 31 Mar 2023 (18 months).

Single applicants – SMEs.

Small and micros receive 45% grant; medium 35%.

•Grant is only for the project.

Investment is for company (inc. project), growth and scale.

Investment may be equity or convertible loan.

See ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge:

Find out more.

General Recommendations

Demonstrate meeting overall aims of the ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge.

Transform food production towards net zero emissions by 2040.

Demonstrate efficiency, resilience & sustainability in food production.

Confirm investment from an investor from the pool is secured.

Must secure investment of at least twice the amount of grant through one of the lead investors.

Investors will also provide support on: leadership; market access; skills; resources.

Typical application questions with EDI survey + questions on competition and impacts.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment

•Could potentially be relevant to all themes, P, D, M, E.

Main consideration : an NBIC SME that wishes to scale and grow and needs/wants investment.


Main consideration : an NBIC SME that wishes to scale and grow and needs/wants investment.

•Process will take approximately one year till project commences.

Collaboration: HEIs may be subcontracted, and could thus work with an SME.

NBIC Specific Recommendations

Relationship to PDME:

P: Reduce food waste from biofilm activity (e.g., through improved agriculture).

D: Find biofilms within the food production sector.

M: Reduce biofilm activity to assist emission reductions; supply chain considerations.

E: Use / reduce biofilms to enhance food production, longevity for sustainability.

Possible application of Biofilms: Consider productivity improvements in agriculture.

Key Collaborators

NBIC University to demonstrate key knowledge to allow a NBIC SME business to grow and scale.

•Partnering could be useful to gain suitable VC contacts.

Innovate UK: Other competitions


Sort and segregate nuclear waste: phase 1 (SBRI competition)

•Develop autonomous and integrated toolkit to sort & segregate radioactive waste.

Phase 1 of a 2-phase competition. Phase 1: £60k inc. VAT contracts, up to 10 off.

Opens: 17/08/2020; closes: 11 Nov (11:00). Standard SBRI application – 5 weighted questions.

Knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP): 2020 to 2021, round 5

Standard KTP scheme. Comprehensive application process.

•12 – 36 month projects.

Technology and Management KTPs possible.

•Opens: 2 Nov 2020; closes: 27 Jan 2021.

African agriculture knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP): 2020 to 2021, round 5: £2m.

Similar to above KTP, except another knowledge base and a business partner registered in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya or S. Africa to be included.

Enhanced application form/process – more questions.

SBRI – AI supporting early detection and diagnosis in heart failure management: £120k inc. VAT

•Funded by NHS Scotland.

Develop a system that can provide accessible, timely and accurate data on heart failure from healthcare information which is routinely collected in primary and secondary care.

Two phase approach: Ph 1 projects up to total costs of £10k inclusive of VAT; Ph 2 fr successful Ph 1 projects.

Ph 1 – technical feasibility projects; ph 2 – prototype development & evaluation.

SBRI are contracts; standard SBRI questions.

•Opens: 12 October 2020; closes 9 December 2020 (11:00am)