+44 (0)1509 261182

SBRI Competition – Assays for SARS-CoV-2 cellular immune responses


Organisations can apply for a share of £1.5million inclusive of VAT, to develop assay systems to define the magnitude and profile of cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2.

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by UKRI. The competition is part of the COVID-19 National Core Studies (NCS) programme. The programmes’ objective is to address key research questions in support of the UK government’s response to COVID-19.

The aim of this competition is to develop effective assay system approaches to measuring human cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 natural infection or vaccines, to improve clinical management and vaccine deployment.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject of a separate, possible competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

Projects can range in size up to total costs of £700,000, inclusive of VAT and between one to 12 months duration.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this competition is to develop effective approaches to measuring human cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 natural infection or vaccines, to improve clinical management and vaccine deployment.

Assays that both qualitatively and quantitatively measure the antibodies that recognise and neutralise SARS-CoV-2 are already available. Assays to measure cellular immune responses rapidly and reproducibly are more limited.

Your project must develop a novel assay system that can define the magnitude and profile of T-cell immune responses to SARS-CoV-2. Where it can be justified, other cellular responses, including B cell and innate cell responses, may be of interest.

Your project can focus on assays that work in a clinical or laboratory setting, whilst considering the ease, speed and reproducibility of sample preparation. Assays that use whole blood rather than requiring complex cell separation protocols would be a priority.

Your project must:

  • Have a defined and justified intended use (research, clinical or diagnostic) for the assay
  • Identify, justify and if required validate the biomarkers or cellular characteristics you propose to measure
  • Develop or evaluate a sample preparation and assay format able to sample and measure the biomarkers or cellular characteristics with the required performance, test procedure and operational characteristics for the intended use

Projects must:

  • Start on 01 October 2021
  • Finish by 31 September 2022
  • Last between one to 12 months.

To lead a project, you can:

  • Be an organisation of any size
  • Work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

Contracts will be awarded only to a single legal entity. Innovate UK are looking for proposals that involve industrial and academic institutions as the lead and subcontractors. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

A total of up to £1.5million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated for this competition.

Innovate UK expect to fund up to three projects.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • Adjust the provisional funding
  • Apply a ‘portfolio’ approach

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design, and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • Commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • Supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • Integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy Control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to Subsidy Control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • Do not appropriately combine academic, clinical and industry insight and expertise
  • Do not engage with potential end users or customers to understand needs
  • Cannot be undertaken within the working restrictions of coronavirus (COVID 19)
  • Directly duplicate other UK government work you have already been funded to deliver
  • Duplicate existing innovation, or work in progress by others
  • Are new areas of research under the UKRI open call
  • Have total eligible project costs over the amount allowed
  • Cannot measure SARS-CoV-2 specific response without confounding cross-reactivity in pre-pandemic samples
  • Are dependent on export performance
  • Are dependent on domestic inputs usage

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.