Guide to accessing financial support for UK medical innovations

A comprehensive list of funding opportunities to support SMEs access the healthcare marketplace

During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies across the UK have shown that innovation is rife, with firms coming up with new solutions to help the NHS deal with the increased pressure being heaped on an already-stretched system.

But small businesses in the medical device industry may need financial support to bring an innovative idea to market.

And applying for the right grant and securing funding can be a very-difficult process.

Here, Alice Vo Edwards, a translational science R&D consultant on Kolabtree, the freelance platform for scientists, provides a comprehensive list of medical device development grants and funding options for small businesses in the UK.

There are a number of organisations and grants to help support UK businesses access the healthcare marketplace

Elevate Grant from Oxfordshire Business Support (OBS)

Oxfordshire Business Support (OBS) created the Elevate Programme consisting of two funds for Oxfordshire SMEs to fund projects and activities related to job creation, start-up, and growth.

The first fund awards start-up businesses, which have been established 12 months or less, a minimum of £1,000 and up to a maximum amount of £3,000.

The second fund awards growing businesses that have been established longer than 12 months, between £1,000-£8,000.

To apply for this grant, SMEs must be based in an eligible sector of Oxfordshire and have sufficient funds to match the requirements.

These funds can be used for capital and revenue projects, to increase sales through consulting, market research, and advertising.

They can also be used to improve business processes, performance and profitability and to create new jobs within the company.

This is a highly-competitive grant competition with the aim to providing flexible capital and/or revenue to assist SMEs, ultimately leading to business growth and job creation in Oxfordshire.

Get funding for ideas that address COVID-19

The goal of the COVID-19 grant fund through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is to provide funding for short-term projects for UK-based companies which are directly correlated with the coronavirus outbreak.

Proposals from companies and organisations must demonstrate the ability to address and mitigate effects on economies, cultures, environments, communities, and/or health for the duration of the project.

This opportunity is perfect for small businesses developing medical devices, because it supports the manufacturing and adoption of interventions addressing the COVID-19 outbreak now, and for future use.

If your company is based in the UK, but you have partners or products from outside the UK, this grant does allow international co-investigators in some instances.

Citizen Science Collaboration Grant

The Citizen Science Collaboration Grant will support multidisciplinary research collaborations that spread citizen science methods into new fields of research and involve citizens to address societally-relevant issues.

This is a single round funding scheme for projects lasting one to three years.

Lead applicants can be from any discipline and must be of lecturer level or equivalent.

This grant supports UK-based applicants and awards up to £1.5m.

It is particularly interested in funding collaborative projects that will allow researchers who have no prior experience in using citizen science methods to develop their expertise, and projects that extend citizen science methods into new research disciplines.

Citizen science is defined as scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur, or non-professional scientists.

This is a great opportunity to consider how your medical device might benefit from Citizen science.

For example, when users of a medical app input their personal data and allow it to be shared for larger data analysis and predictive projects, these users are considered citizen scientists. How could your medical product benefit from developing citizen scientists?

Technology Touching Life

Multiple grants for research applications pertaining to the scope of Technology Touching Life available through a group of three research councils (BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC) in the UK.

There are many grants available, one in particular is funded by the BBSRC and is relevant to technology development for the biosciences.

This area of focus encourages development of new bioanalytical and/or biological tools and technologies, and if awarded, the research councils provide funding on the basis of 80% of the full economic cost.

To help applicants identify the most-appropriate lead research council to submit a proposal, UKRI recommends submitting a query form to the TTL inbox.

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is part of the Government’s long-term plan to raise productivity and earning power in the UK.

This fund is a core pillar in the Government’s commitment to increasing funding in research and development by £4.7billion over four years to strengthen UK science and business.

It invests in highly-innovative businesses to address the biggest industrial and societal challenges today.

This fund is a core pillar in the Government’s commitment to increasing funding in research and development by £4.7billion over four years to strengthen UK science and business

SMBs could submit medical device funding proposals addressing one or more of the following areas: accelerating detection of disease, commercialisation of quantum technology, and manufacturing made smarter.

Eureka: healthy ageing

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, calls for UK registered businesses to apply for funding in collaborative research and development (CR&D) projects related to healthy aging.

Focus areas include industrial research and medical devices — specifically robotics, augmented or artificial intelligence, software as a medical device, wearables, diagnostics, imaging, data analytics, sensors, apps, and other medical devices that promote healthy ageing.

Applicants can apply for a total grant of up to £500,000 for each project, not to exceed £2m.

Medical device SMBs have a chance to develop new products, processes, or services that lead to improvements in existing areas.

A grant to pay for biomedical scientists to work for your company

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) invites applications for individuals from any discipline wishing to spend up to 36 months - full or part time - on secondment in the biomedical sciences sector.

This grant would allow a medical device business to receive funding to pay for the secondment of a biomedical science expert to work on projects within a medical device company.

The objectives of this grant call for a medical device small business are to create porosity between sectors by enabling career mobility; boost the skills, knowledge, and career development of people; intensify knowledge exchange between the biomedical industry and academia; add value to the biomedical sciences sector and the UK economy by increasing productivity. This grant can total up to £300,000 per secondment up to 36 months.

Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP)

Each year the Department for International Trade (DIT) and TAP trade challenge partners agree which overseas trade shows they will provide grants for UK businesses to attend.

The grants must not exceed the business’s own expenditure on direct exhibiting costs, and, in some cases, grants may also be agreed to help towards direct conference costs where the purpose of attending is to promote the business, such as conference fees and costs of preparing conference material.

Grant awards can total between £500-£2,500. These trade shows include some of the most-important events in each sector’s calendar, where the best opportunities exist for UK organisations to access.

Businesses take part as a group, led by the trade challenge partner for that trade show.

The Prince’s Trust

Got a business in mind or want to explore an idea?

The Prince’s Trust works with 18 to 30-year-olds living in the UK to develop big ideas into reality.

From training and mentoring support, to funding and resources, they are committed to helping you become the best entrepreneur you can be.

This free enterprise programme is broken down into three stages: information session, workshop, andbuild your business.

Before the launch of a new medical device business, you will present your business plan to the Business Launch Group. It is a positive experience designed to ensure there are no weak points in your plan, and the group may even provide additional start-up financial support if needed.

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