September 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: Biomedical Catalyst 2020: R1, early & late stage awards



Scope of Call:

(a) Disease prevention & management;

(b) earlier & better detection & diagnosis;

(c) tailored treatments.

Aim: create data package to test product, or conduct evaluation in a relevant setting.

Available funding: total £30 m.

£250k – £4m (project costs) / 12 – 36 months.

Grant: 70% (micro or small); 60% (medium).

Eligibility: Lead: UK SME or RTO.

Work conducted in UK; Exploit in / from UK.

Any UK organisation can partner, including academics.

Dates: Opens: 27/07/2020; Closes: 7 Oct (11:00)

Project start: 1 Mar 2021; end: 29 Feb 2024

Online briefing: 1pm, 4 Aug 2020 Zoom link. 

Key Considerations:

•If RTO led, must collaborate with SME.

One application / lead; can collaborate on two others.

•Large companies cannot claim grant.

Non UK subcontractors need justification ten days in advance of application.

•One resubmissions allowed.

Testing is broad: feasibility studies to lab. evaluation to product development to phase 2 clinical trials.

Focus: development of innovative solution (product, process) for a health challenge.

•Likely to be a competitive call.

•EDI (exclusion, diversity, inclusion) survey.

General Recommendations:

SMEs do not need strong alignment to NBIC themes; focus is healthcare need.

NBIC institutions should be able to partner.

Demonstrate clear healthcare need supported by scientific evidence, leading to credible commercial opportunity.

•Show commercial viability at scale.

•Show team is greater than its parts.

Professional project & risk management should be evident.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment: Potentially aligns to all themes, with PD more relevant due to disease prevention & diagnosis, although ME is relevant due to tailored treatments.


•Scientific evidence required.

•Quality threshold per question (10 off).

•Interviews will be conducted.


UK SME led; can work alone. Less likely that large projects, e.g., > £1 m, will be one SME.

Academics can partner on any number of applications; involvement limited to 50%.

NBIC industry partners could formulate projects on all NBIC themes, PD is suggested first, followed by ME.

NBIC Specific Recommendations:

Relationship to PDME

Prevent: surfaces and materials resistant to bacterial contamination.

Detect: in vitro or in-vivo detection of contaminants and infections.

Manage: anti-bacterial properties of biofilms.

Engineer: biofilms as components of disease management.

Possible application of Biofilms

Biofilms with direct applications in providing solutions to health challenges are in scope; project must be at Early or Late stage strand of the BMC (i.e., post-Proof of concept).

As active components in experiments and trials of diagnostics or treatments

•Key Collaborators

UK SME or RTO (e.g. health charity) operating in health applications.

Unfunded large business (e.g., medical equipment) adds support and credibility.

Health provider (customer and trials support).

Key Collaborators

•UK SME or RTO (e.g. health charity) operating in health applications.

•Unfunded large business (e.g., medical equipment) adds support and credibility.

•Health provider (customer and trials support).

Innovate UK: Designing sustainable plastic solutions



Scope of Call:

Human-centred design projects to reduce environmental harm of plastics.

Aim: Reduce persistent plastic waste from landfill or entering the environment altogether. Design: includes all necessary disciplines to develop a design specification.

Available funding: total £800k

Project costs: £20k to £80k; 3 – 6 months.

Grant: 50% (large); 60% (med.); 70% (small)

Eligibility: Lead: UK business of any size. HEIs and RTOs can partner.

Dates: Open: 3 Jun 2020; close: 16 Sep (noon) / Project start: 1 Jan 2021; end 30 Jun 2021.

Online briefing  

Key Considerations:

•Up to 70% subcontracting allowed.

•includes EEA businesses.

One application / lead; can collaborate on two others.

•Six marked questions for application.

Projects will be showcased at a KTN exhibition.

Must involve hands-on customer / user research to inform and test novel ideas.

Deliver a well-informed and viable design concept for an innovative product, service or business model.

Seek permission for project values >£80k ten days prior.

Subcontractors allowed from UK/EEA, esp. for design. Can be universities or institutes.

General Recommendations:

Could be a good project for SMEs connected to NBIC.

Revenue generation & growth should be evident.

Application questions focused on idea and delivery.

Design is expected to take into account all relevant disciplines for the idea at hand, e.g., engineering, material science, service design, circular design, systems thinking. Engineering (and Materials Science) could be relevant to NBIC.

Likely that pre-approval of say, up to £100k projects, may be gained.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment: Aligns with: Prevent, Engineer; and 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.

Collaboration: Given low funding, probably single applicant; small academic involvement possible.

Other: Expects hands-on human-centred research & design, pref. into reuse & life extension.

NBIC Specific Recommendations:

Relationship to PDME

Prevent: improvements in bio-degradability for reduction in plastics use; usability improvements of non-plastic alternative materials.

Engineer: incorporate bio-film tech into plastic and plastic alternative products; gain and apply customer insights into needs.

Possible application of Biofilms

As part of manufacturing process for non-plastic alternative materials, as catalyst or delivery mechanism for end of life plastic degradation.

•Key Collaborators

Particularly suitable for start-up or SME with novel proposition based around bio-films.

Key Collaborators

Particularly suitable for start-up or SME with novel proposition based around bio-films.

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 £25m

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.

Dates: Open: 28 Aug 2020; close: 25 Nov (11:00am). 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.

Innovate UK: IETF Industrial Energy Efficiency and Decarbonisation Studies



Scope of Call:

Feasibility studies investigating technologies to improve energy efficiency or reduce greenhouse gas emissions of an industrial process.

Funding: Feasibility Study must be >£60k, research organisation at least 10% of costs.


Must be led by a UK business manufacturing site; can include multiple projects per site.

Collaboration with RTO or academic institution is allowed.


Open: 20 July 2020; close: 28 Oct 2020

Key Considerations:

Subcontract from UK or non-UK allowed.

Commercial business must operate at a manufacturing site (SIC 10 – 33) or a data centre (SIC 63110).

UK industrial business with a plant and a desire to reduce environmental pollution. Likely, but not necessarily, a large manufacturing plant.

General Recommendations:

The study needs to consider all aspects and benefits of the approach, including economic analysis.

Feasibility study should establish whether technology is technically and commercially viable.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment:

Prevent and Detect.

Sectors and Market Alignment:

Applies to any industrial sector where biofilms might be used to detect and manage carbon emissions.

NBIC research can support a specific manufacturing facility investigating use of biofilms to detect or manage greenhouse gas emissions.

NBIC Specific Recommendations:

Relationship to PDME

Prevent: show how biofilms can improve energy efficiency or reduce greenhouse gas emissions of industrial processes.

Detect: monitor greenhouse gas emissions.

Possible application of Biofilms

Detection of emission levels and feedback for their reduction.

Application in industrial processes to reduce or mitigate greenhouse gas production or emission.

Key Collaborators

NBIC academic institution, particularly for feasibility studies.

NBIC industry partner for experimental development project.

Innovate UK: Other competitions

Sort and segregate nuclear waste: phase 1 (SBRI competition). Opens: 17/08/2020; closes: 11 Nov. 2020 (11:00)

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

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

Standard SBRI application – 5 weighted questions.

Agri-tech catalyst round 10: agriculture and food systems. Opens 20/07/2020; close 21 Oct. 2020

Create positive impact on poverty in African countries through: crop and livestock, including aquaculture, non-food uses of crops, challenges in food processing, distribution or storage, improving availability of safe, healthy and nutritious foods

Early, mid and late stage projects, must be collaborative. 12-18 month projects, costs between £100k-£500k

More information.

ISCF Transforming foundation industries: Building a resilient recovery : £8m. Opens: 3/08/2020; close: 4 Nov 2020 (11:00)

Support fast recovery and growth from Covid-19, must focus on resource or energy efficiency.

•Project cost: £100k to £1m; 3 to 12 months, start by 1 April 2021. Standard 10 questions.

•Different briefings 17 and 27 July 2020: Briefing oneBriefing two.

EUREKA GlobalStars Singapore CRD – R 2: £1m. Opens 17/06/2020; close: 15 Oct 2020 (11:00)

•Include partner from Singapore and a named Eureka nation.

Application to demonstrate same areas as a SMART application (game changing etc.), market-driven in any technological area, with a civilian purpose. Up to £350k grant; HEI’s up to 30%.

Could be ideal for NBIC SME’s wishing to collaborate overseas.

EUREKA GlobalStars Japan: £1m. Opens: 8/06/2020, close: 10 Sep (noon)

•With Japan, develop new, innovative product, process or service, involving technological risk.

•Include partner from Singapore and a named Eureka nation.

UK costs: £100k – £1m; up to 24 months; start 1 Mar 2021. HEI’s allowed up to 30%.

Application to demonstrate same areas as a SMART application (game changing etc.), market-driven in any technological area, with a civilian purpose.

Could be ideal for NBIC SME’s wishing to collaborate overseas.

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).

Dates: Open call, next deadline 18 Sept. 2020

Key Considerations:

SME applies for and justifies knowledge collaboration.

Simple application process with regular awards committee reviews.

NBIC Theme (PDME) Alignment:

Could apply to all NBIC themes, drawing on expertise supportive of SMEs.


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

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.

The 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 means of preparing for and fighting new emerging viral infectious diseases.

Funding: Grants of €100k – 500k per year for up to three years.

•Collaborations between institutions allowed.

General Recommendations:

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

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.

UKRI: Research England (RE)



General Background: 

New UKRI council funding HEIs for research and KE.

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

More information. 

Funding changes:

Recurrent grant finding for the academic year 2020 – 2021 (£ m):

Quality-related research (QR) funding – excl. GCRF 1,629

•Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) 230

•Strategic Priorities Fund 29

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

•National facilities and initiatives 40

•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 panel dates updated:

£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.

•Not obvious whether the fund is currently open.

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.

•Currently closed, and no plans at present for a future round of funding.

•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 – But currently not open; future round not yet confirmed.

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.

More information. 

Research England Development (RED) Fund:

Ongoing application and approval process.

•Panel dates: Oct 2020 then 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.

More information.