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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 invites applicants to apply for funding in any of the areas of special interest listed below. Please read the eligibility criteria thoroughly before applying.

Each £10m funding round will review and assess proposals from all themes. All applications will be judged purely on merit. There are no funding quotas for individual themes.

Surgical technologies

We invite proposals for surgical solutions that will translate into safe and cost-effective practice in the NHS.

Applications are sought for innovative developments in instrumentation, implants and devices, software, materials, mechatronics and robotics - including, for example:

  • Technology that improves upon current devices or instruments to demonstrably and significantly improve patient outcomes, e.g. by increasing the accuracy and/or precision of a procedure
  • Instruments and methods that reduce the invasiveness of current surgical procedures
  • Computer-aided and computer-guided surgical methods and tools that improve decision support in the operating room
  • Pre-investigative, image-guided assessments and planning of surgical outcomes
  • Devices and methods for targeted treatment
  • Targeted delivery of therapeutic agents
  • Instruments and methods that reduce the invasiveness of current surgical procedures
  • Computer-aided and computer-guided surgical methods and tools that improve decision support in the operating room
  • Pre-investigative, image-guided assessments and planning of surgical outcomes
  • Devices and methods for targeted treatment (e.g. by RF or ultrasound)
  • Targeted delivery of therapeutic agents (e.g. using micro-carriers)

Innovative diagnostics

Whether it’s for the early detection of chronic diseases, or the targeted treatment of acute illnesses, advances in diagnostics can bring significant patient and economic benefit.Technologies that are faster, cheaper, more accurate, more portable, user friendly and easily interfaced/connected with healthcare systems have the potential to increase productivity, improve care pathways and reduce NHS workload.

We are particularly interested in products that could realize a step change in performance rather than substituting for an existing established technique. The solution may be situated in either a central reference laboratory, hospital setting or be portable and used at the point of care.

Applications are invited that:

  • Provide novel diagnostic tests or procedures which are more accurate, faster or more cost effective than their existing equivalents
  • Permit timely diagnosis of conditions where no test currently exists or where the present turnaround time is protracted
  • Enable both diagnosis and monitoring of the patient’s response to treatment
  • Offer solutions that can be readily integrated into and deployed widely across UK healthcare systems and beyond

Specifically out of scope for this call are:

  • Projects for monitoring chronic or long term illness
  • Telehealthcare and telemedicine
  • Biomarker discovery
  • Cancer diagnostics
  • Diagnostic tests thatutilise genome-wide exome sequencing or whole genome sequencing

Trauma and critical care medicine

Early recognition of symptoms, prompt diagnosis and effective intervention can have a significant benefit for critically ill patients, who frequently suffer long-term physical and psychological complications. Prolonged stays in the intensive care unit are associated with impaired quality of life, functional decline and increased morbidity, mortality, cost of care and length of hospital stay. In England the average annual cost of critical care beds is £1.3 billion and some 750,000 people are admitted to ICUs and HDUs annually (2010 figures).

The HICF is seeking early interventions and solutions that will tangibly improve the care and long-term outcomes of patients who experience acute illness or who have sustained severe injury or trauma. Proposals must demonstrate a clear plan on how the innovation will integrate into current pathways given the time pressures, complex logistics and multi-disciplines involved when responding to these emergencies. They should offer a step-change improvement of the immediate treatment, care, transport and recovery of patients.

Applications are invited that:

  • Focus on care given in either pre-hospital settings, emergency departments, trauma centres, intensive care units or high dependency units
  • Provide improved monitoring devices, innovative analytical or imaging modalities or rapid diagnostics
  • Develop non-invasive, point-of-care diagnostic devices to support early treatment intervention
  • Deliver better interventions for trauma or critically ill patients including e.g. optimising ventilation, pain control, more effective haemostatic therapies and devices, stabilisation of spinal, pelvic or limb injuries, better wound care and improved surgical and non-surgical treatments
  • Offer solutions that will enable quick profiling and stratification of patients to allow targeted therapy to slow down or reverse secondary injuries
  • Analysis of patterns in accumulated historical data and in newly acquired data to identify changes in a patient's condition in real time or provide early warning of any deterioration
  • Use of data fusion techniques to produce 'smart' alerts for patients in high-dependency areas who are monitored using static, wired or wireless physiological monitoring

Specifically out of scope for this call are:

  • Proposals focusing on hospital acquired infections
  • Non-critical care delivery following discharge from an ICU to a general ward

Repurposing of technologies and medicines

It is not always commercially attractive to repurpose devices or drugs even though important medical benefits could be gained. This HICF theme is intended to support and facilitate projects aiming to repurpose products in the wider pursuit of enhanced, affordable healthcare and which can result in early adoption by the NHS and other healthcare systems.

In addition, we recognise that cross fertilisation between different disciplines may often result in innovative new solutions to previously intractable problems. Thus we are also keen to receive proposals that will utilise technologies and learning from non-medical settings to develop novel devices and therapies.

Applications are invited that (a):

  • will repurpose approved medicinal products, medical devices, diagnostic tests or materials for use in new therapeutic indications or disease states
  • recombine or reuse pre-existing drugs or devices for various diseases, including rare or orphan ones
  • are anticipated to encounter a low regulatory hurdle and rapid progression to clinical use and adoption
  • undertake validation or safety studies or small pilot scale efficacy studies

or (b):

  • repurpose technologies developed within other sectors (for example, the automotive, aerospace, military or computer gaming sectors) for medical use

Biological therapeutics

Biological medicinal products (biologics) can be carbohydrates, proteins, nucleic acids or combinations of these substances, or they can be cell or tissue based products.In 2014, biologics accounted for 12% of novel medicine approvals by the FDA. Biologics, in particular, have provided an important advance in the treatment of inflammatory diseases and cancer.

The HICF is seeking proposals for ground breaking biological therapies. For example, these could include:

  • Therapeutic proteins for treating immune disorders, infections and other diseases. This may include, but is not limited to, bi-specific monoclonal antibodies, multi-specific fusion proteins, peptides, antibody conjugates, synthetic antibodies, peptide aptamers
  • DNA, RNA or microRNA based technology including gene therapies and antisense therapies
  • Cell based therapies
  • Immunotherapies

Specifically out of scope for this call are:

  • Biologics used to prevent or diagnose disease
  • Tissue engineering based regenerative therapies


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