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Biomedical catalyst 2021: early and late stage awards


UK-registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £18million to develop innovative healthcare products, technologies, and processes.

This funding is from Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Your project can address:

  • Disease prevention and proactive management of health and chronic conditions
  • Earlier and better detection and diagnosis of disease, leading to better patient outcomes
  • Tailored treatments that either change the underlying disease or offer potential cures

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

This competition combines the early and late-stage strands of the Biomedical Catalyst.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations are highly encouraged where appropriate in the proposal. Applications will continue to be assessed on their innovation merit, where innovation is defined as the potential for commercially successful exploitation of ideas.

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £250,000 and £4million.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this early and late-stage competition is to enable businesses to create a data package that can support the further development of their products.

The project can include:

  • Experimental evaluation (at laboratory scale)
  • Use of in vitro and in vivo models to evaluate proof of concept or safety
  • Exploring potential production mechanisms
  • Prototyping
  • Product development planning
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Demonstrating of clinical utility and effectiveness
  • Demonstrating of safety and efficacy (including phase 1 and 2 clinical trials)
  • Regulatory planning

Your project must focus on the development of a product or process that is an innovative solution to a defined health or care challenge.

Innovate UK will only support innovation projects conducted to the highest standards of animal welfare.

Visit the UKRI Good Research Hub and NC3R’s animal welfare guidance for further information.

This competition combines the early and late-stage strands of the Biomedical Catalyst.


The aim of an 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.


The late-stage award is designed to test a well-developed concept and show its effectiveness in a clinical setting or other relevant environment.

Your project must 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 your proposal will be assessed

This competition has two stages.

Stage 1: Assessed written application.

Stage 2: Interview with Innovate UK’s Major Awards Committee (MAC).

Innovate UK want to fund a portfolio of projects, to ensure that opportunities are provided to companies across the whole spectrum of life sciences. The MAC will score each project in line with scoring matrices. They will recommend a ranked list of applications for Innovate UK and its affinity partners to fund. They will provide short written feedback to all applicants who attend the interview panel.

Specific themes

Your project can focus on any health and care sector or discipline. Innovate UK particularly welcome applications that support innovation in the following areas:

  • Child health technologies
  • Innovations that support clinical trials in the UK
  • Biomedical innovations that combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance

Your project can align with one or more of the following:

  • Medical technologies and devices
  • Stratified healthcare
  • Advanced therapies (gene and cell therapies)
  • Digital health
  • Drug discovery
  • Diagnostics

This list is not intended to be exhaustive

Your project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £250,000 and £4million
  • Start from 1 April 2022
  • Last between 12 months and 36 months

To lead a project or work alone, your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

Academic institutions or research organisations cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered business of any size, academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation, or research technology organisation (RTO)
  • Carry out your project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • Be invited by the lead organisation

Large companies can be collaborators but will not be able to claim grant funding.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Partners must enter their own project costs.

Extenuating circumstances where overseas work may be allowable include, for example:

  • Clinical trial in a specific patient population
  • Access to skills or expertise not in UK

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Innovate UK will decide whether to approve your request.

Partners with no funding

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses or large businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must also provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.

Innovate UK expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. Innovate UK will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Multiple applications

When a business leads on an application it can collaborate in a further two applications.

If a business is not leading any applications, it can collaborate in up to three applications.

Research organisations, academic institutions, charities, not-for-profit and public sector organisations can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

Innovate UK will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK’s obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. Innovate UK will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

European Commission State aid

You must apply under European Commission State aid rules if you are an applicant who is conducting activities that will affect trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU as envisaged by Article 10 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

In certain limited circumstances, the European Commission State aid rules may also apply if you are an organisation located in England, Wales, or Scotland and conduct activities that affect the trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU. For further information, please see section 7 of the BEIS technical guidance.

For further information see the general guidance on state aid and BEIS guidance on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

For applicants subject to the European Commission State aid rules, applicants will be required to prove that they were not an “Undertaking in Difficulty” on the date of 31 December 2019 but became a UID between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2021. Innovate UK will ask for evidence of this.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, please take independent legal advice.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.

This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean Innovate UK need to change the terms of this competition, they will tell you as soon as possible.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £18million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • Up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • Up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Innovate UK will not fund projects as part of this competition that are:

  • In scope for the Biomedical Catalyst feasibility or primer awards
  • Not related to human life sciences
  • Already on the market
  • Laboratory accreditation
  • Distribution or marketing activity, post-marketing studies and post-marketing surveillance
  • Dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country.
  • Dependent on domestic inputs usage – for example if they insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product

Innovate UK will not support innovation projects conducted to anything less than the highest standards of animal welfare.

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.