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Health Innovation Challenge Fund

HICF image
This is a parallel funding partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health to stimulate the creation of innovative healthcare products, technologies and interventions and to facilitate their development for the benefit of patients in the NHS and beyond.
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Current call

The Health Innovation Challenge Fund is not accepting new applications at the current time. An announcement will be made when a date for the next competition has been decided.


The Health Innovation Challenge Fund is positioned as a translational funding scheme to accelerate the clinical application of projects that are well advanced along the development pathway.

Its objective is to:

  • Stimulate the development and uptake of innovative products, technologies and interventions for the benefit of patients in the NHS and other healthcare systems;
  • Support UK-led projects, which target unmet, or poorly met, healthcare needs.
  • Provide translational funding for projects that have demonstrated ‘proof-of-principle’ and have the potential for early clinical use or adoption;
  • Take the product, technology or intervention to the stage at which it is sufficiently validated and developed to be attractive to follow-on funders or investors;
  • Encourage the collaboration of companies, academia and clinicians to better confront today’s healthcare challenges.

Essential requirements

All proposals submitted to the Health Innovation Challenge Fund must satisfy the following criteria.

Projects must have already demonstrated ‘proof-of-principle’ supported by experimental and, where feasible, in vivo data. Evidence from the applicant’s team must clearly illustrate the technical feasibility of the project and demonstrate the potential for development from its current state to a product approved for use in humans.  Early stage research or discovery science is not fundable.

Proposals must include first testing in man during the concluding stages of the project and must have the potential to benefit patients within the following 3-5 years, having demonstrated efficacy and received the necessary regulatory approvals.

Applications must articulate a plan to progress the technology or intervention to the stage at which it is sufficiently, validated, de-risked or developed to be attractive to:

Projects must include a plan to progress the technology or intervention to the stage at which it is sufficiently, validated, de-risked or developed to be attractive to:

  • Commercial organisations (e.g. venture capital funds and corporate bodies) for follow-on development and completing the path to market;
  • Not-for-profit organisations (e.g. the National Institute of Health Research) that can offer expertise and resources to assist with further evaluation and product development;
  • Healthcare providers (e.g. the NHS), in instances where the technology is ready for procurement and adoption into clinical use at the end of the project.

Proposals must show a pathway for commercialisation or clinical adoption that takes into account the regulatory requirements, intellectual property landscape, commercial barriers, competition and health economics.

Proposals must present a plan for the adoption of the technology into the NHS and other healthcare systems that addresses the requirements of patients and health professionals.

Projects must offer solutions that can be:

  • Seamlessly integrated with the current hardware and software infrastructures, care pathways and resources currently deployed within the NHS and by other healthcare providers;
  • Scaled up from local to national level and not, for example, reliant on specialised centres or expertise which can hinder widespread adoption.

Project teams must contain strong clinical representation and be clinically driven.


Project eligibility

All proposals must meet the Essential Requirements of the HICF scheme and address at least one of its specific themes (a project may address either a single theme within the current call or may span several themes). Applications for funding in areas outside of the current themes will be declined.

The HICF will not fund:

  • Early stage or basic research;
  • Proposals to conduct stand-alone clinical trials that are not preceded by a programme of R&D or technology development (except for re-purposing of approved medicines);
  • Health delivery research by the NHS where the focus is on the broad adoption, dissemination and uptake of products, technologies and interventionswithin the NHS;
  • Delivery or provision of health services by or within the NHS;
  • Projects that are already at a stage of development where funding from industry or venture capital could reasonably be secured;
  • Drug development (except for re-purposing of approved medicines);
  • Programs where the time to benefit patients exceeds those specified in the HICF scheme’s Essential Requirements.

Applicant eligibility

The lead organisation must be UK-based and carry out R&D in the UK. Overseas collaborators are permitted.

The following types of organisation are eligible for funding:

  • Publicly listed or privately owned companies;
  • SMEs (including start-up or ‘spin-out’ companies);
  • NHS organisations (including NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts), and equivalent UK authorities;
  • Universities, research institutes and not-for-profit organisations.

A collaboration between two or more of the above is eligible and is actively encouraged where it strengthens the overall proposal. Where there is a commercial partner in such a collaboration and where that partner will ultimately be responsible for the development and sale of the end product then that commercial party should adopt the lead applicant role.

The Wellcome Trust is able to use charitable monies to fund commercial companies to meet its charitable objectives through programme-related investment (PRI). For further details, please see our policy on PRI.

Application process

How to apply

Refer to the HICF Grant Conditions and the terms and conditions of the relevant HICF funding agreement before making an application.

Download a Preliminary Application Form from the Forms and Guidance tab on this page or from the HIC Fund website mirrored at http://www.hicfund.org.uk.

Completed application forms should be emailed to hicfundapplications@hicfund.org.uk before 1pm on the relevant closing date shown on the Deadlines tab.

Preliminary applications will be shortlisted by the Joint Funding Panel (JFP) and successful applicants will be invited to submit a full application.

All full applications undergo independent peer review. Applicants will receive the peer reviewers’ comments and are invited to respond to the JFP in writing.

All shortlisted applicants must present their project proposal in person to the JFP at a funding committee meeting held at the London office of the Wellcome Trust. The interview takes the form of a short presentation followed by a question and answer session. Applicants will be notified of the JFP’s funding decision within 7 days of the committee meeting.

Application advice

See the Forms and Guidance tab on this page for application guidelines, application forms, HICF grant conditions and specimen funding agreements.


Enquiries may be made by email to hicfundenquiries@hicfund.org.uk. Alternatively the joint secretariat for the HICF can also be contacted as follows:

Dr Tim Knott
Business Development Manager
Wellcome Trust
Gibb Building
215 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE
+44 (0)20 7611 7356

Simon Bradshaw BSc MBA
Assistant Director
Health Innovation Challenge Fund
Central Commissioning Facility
Grange House
15 Church Street
Twickenham TW1 3NL
+44 (0)20 8843 8090


Timeline for Round 11 is:

Preliminary applications due:5 May 2015
Preliminary application shortlisting: 12 June 2015
Full applications due: 7 September 2015
Funding committee meeting: 23-24 November 2015

Forms and guidance

These documents are subject to continual review. The funders reserve the right to amend them at their discretion.

Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK T:+44 (0)20 7611 8888