Development Awards (Broadcast, Games and Film)
What are Development Awards?
Development Awards support the development of broadcast, games or film proposals that engage the audience with issues around biomedical science in an innovative, entertaining and accessible way.
We are interested in funding individuals and organisations with brilliant early-stage ideas for television, radio, games platforms or cinema. In broadcast we are keen to receive proposals in all genres, though we are particularly interested in series, format ideas and drama; multi-platform proposals are welcomed.
Our funding will enable these ideas to be developed into high-impact, well-researched proposals that can be used to secure a UK distribution platform and production funding. Development funds might be used to undertake thorough research, create a taster tape, build a game prototype or develop a script. Your project should primarily be aimed at a mainstream UK and/or Republic of Ireland audience in the first instance, although the subject matter can be international.
Please note that current affairs programmes are not eligible for Development Awards.
Development Awards are worth up to £10 000, for a maximum of one year.
Read about our broadcast media strategy to find out about the other ways we can support broadcasters.
How do I apply?
Complete a full application form via the Trust's eGrants online application system (select the 'Development Award: Broadcast, Games and Film' form in the 'Full application' drop-down menu), and submit it at any time before the published deadline.
Applicants are usually affiliated to organisations, but can apply as individuals. Please note that organisations need to be registered on eGrants before an affiliated application can be submitted. We highly recommend registering your organisation in advance of any upcoming deadline, as registration may take several days to process. You can register by contacting us; for full information, see eGrants.
All eligible projects will be assessed individually on merit and need by a Funding Committee.
The scheme is open to broadcast, games and film professionals and other organisations or individuals working on broadcast, games and film projects. Partnerships between those working in these industries and other professionals, such as scientists, ethicists and educators, are especially welcomed.
To be eligible, applicants must be based in the UK or the Republic of Ireland, although other members of the project team can be based overseas. The proposal must primarily be aimed at a mainstream UK and/or Republic of Ireland audience in the first instance but the subject matter can be international.
Projects must be scientifically sound - we look for scientific input either through a scientist taking on an advisory role or through direct collaboration.
Projects that are not eligible for Development Awards include health promotion or campaigning projects, arts projects for therapeutic purposes, or projects that do not deal with biomedical sciences or the history of medicine.
Proposals that do not explore some element of biomedical science and/or its social implications will not be considered.
We expect any scientific content to be rigorously researched, balanced and expert-led.
If you are looking for production funding for fully developed projects, please see our People Awards for funding up to £30 000 or contact the Broadcast team for further information.
If your proposed project has a strong innovative artistic dimension, please see our Arts Awards.
If you would like advice on the eligibility of your project or how to apply, please contact the Broadcast team well in advance of the deadline.
At the end of the development period we will require a summary of your progress along with any supporting materials developed as part of the grant, such as scripts or taster tapes. In addition, you are expected to present your project to our committee at the end of the development period.
What projects have been funded?
Development Awards (Broadcast, Games and Film)
'Caster Semenya: Too Fast to Be a Woman' was broadcast on BBC Two in February 2011. The documentary follows the story of Caster Semenya and her ban from athletics over claims about her gender, and the way in which society and the medical profession treats people born intersex. The film was commissioned by the BBC (production funding of £160 000 had been awarded) after a Broadcast Development Award* allowed the film makers to travel to South Africa and secure exclusive access to Semenya as well as further researching the condition with a variety of scientific consultants.
Available Light Productions co-produced a two-part series for BBC Four, entitled 'Health Before the Health Service'. Their 60-minute film used amateur films shot by doctors and other health professionals of their working and domestic lives in the years before the establishment of the NHS in 1948. The series aired in September 2012.
Dr Kevin Fong investigates some of the world's most dangerous, diverse and demanding emergency medicine environments to uncover the science of saving lives in ‘Extreme A&E’ The four-part series from Dragonfly Film and Television was commissioned by Channel 4 and broadcast in April 2012.
Mindful Films won a Broadcast Development Award* to create a film following the work of Wayne McGregor, Choreographer in Residence at The Royal Ballet. It contrasts his work at The Royal Ballet with his work for his own dance company, Random Dance, in which he took a group of dancers to the Cognitive Research Department of the University of California, San Diego, for a month-long experiment on group cognition and the nature of creativity. The film follows McGregor's process to reveal how biomedical research feeds into a work of art. Out of the work on this experiment, McGregor created a new dance work ('Dyad 1909') that was staged at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. In addition, ITV1's 'South Bank Show' featured McGregor and the new ballet from his Random Dance group in December 2009.
Dr James Niven, Medical Officer of Health for Manchester in 1918, and his attempts to combat the spread of influenza - now remembered as Spanish Flu - form the basis of 'Spanish Flu: The Forgotten Fallen', which was broadcast in August 2009 as part of BBC Four's 'War Beneath the Skin' season. 'The Forgotten Fallen' received a Broadcast Development Award* in 2007, and its makers researched the subject using resources from the Wellcome Library, along with other libraries and museums. Although scenes in the film were created for dramatic effect, the drama is rooted in surviving records from the period.
Channel 4's popular ‘Food Hospital’ series was complemented by a website created with funds from a Broadcast Development Award* in 2011. The website provides a comprehensive resource which reviews the research and evidence behind the claims that certain foods have causal effects on medical conditions.
People Awards - production funding
Fayju, an independent games company, has linked with University of Essex biochemistry researcher Dr Jody Mason to create an interactive game - 'Cascade' - to convey Alzheimer's disease pathology at the cellular level, as well as potential therapeutic intervention approaches. With an ageing population and the number of people with dementia set to double every 25 years, it is clear that without better therapies, young people of today will become the carers of those with Alzheimer's disease tomorrow. Through an informal and unconventional approach, this game will seek to engage players with an understanding of the mechanisms of the disease progression and the drugs and methodologies being researched to try to halt it.
‘Ping Pong’ follows pensioners from across the planet as they compete in the World Over-80s Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia. Eight players from four continents, with a combined age of 703, show us what it's really like to grow old and be a world-class athlete. Ultimately, the film challenges what we expect of old age, from retirement, care homes, and mental and physical health issues to death and loneliness. Through intimate and candid portraits, 'Ping Pong' is a cross-cultural exploration of the physical, social, ethical and psychological issues we face as we grow old.
Channel 4 commissioned ‘Katie Piper: The Science of Seeing Again’, a documentary following acid-attack victim Katie Piper as she underwent stem cell therapy to try to restore the vision in one of her eyes. The film, which also explored some of the wider issues around stem cell treatment, was broadcast at in February 2012 and drew more than 1.5 million viewers.
‘Lost & Sound’ is a documentary about the great human love affair with music. It weaves the science of music and the brain together with hearing research, and follows three individuals as they journey deep into sound, through a prism of deafness, to discover how music acts on their brains and bodies. Can they have the musical futures they hope for? Part scientific odyssey, part moving adventure into sound and silence, this creative documentary by a partially deaf film maker tackles questions relevant to anyone who's ever listened to music, and gives a provocative glimpse of what our own future might look like as the population ages, the world gets louder and the likelihood of experiencing deafness increases.
Film maker Geoffrey Smith was part-funded by a People Award to make a BBC documentary, ‘The English Surgeon’, a humane and startlingly honest look at our expectations of doctors and the moral and ethical dilemmas they face in a day's work (broadcast on BBC Two in March 2008 to 800 000 viewers). British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh first visited Ukraine in 1992 and found medical cases that haven't been seen in Britain for the past 60 years - the consequences of an underdeveloped medical system caught in political upheaval. Since his first visit he has collaborated with a colleague, Igor Kurilets, to set up a clinic. Despite resistance from Ukrainian authorities, they have run a thriving centre for neurosurgery in Kiev since 1993. 'The English Surgeon' covers one of Marsh's trips to the clinic, a 12-day visit during which he sees many patients whose conditions have become severe through lack of medical attention. Prizes for the film included the main prize at Hotdocs in Toronto, Four Screens in Paris, ZagrebDocs, the Shanghai TV Festival, the main Jury Prize of the Silverdocs Festival in Washington DC, and Docudays in the Ukraine.
‘Words from Captain Scott’ is a landmark film for ITV1 that aired in March 2012. A century ago Captain Robert Falcon Scott set out with his companions for the South Pole. They never returned. In a drama documentary to mark the 100th anniversary of this epic expedition, a cast of actors (including Dougray Scott and Alistair McGowan), relatives and contemporary figures tell this remarkable story through the letters, diaries and accounts of Captain Scott and his men. The story of a desperate struggle to stay healthy and strong in the face of some of the toughest conditions on Earth, it was an adventure that would ultimately take them beyond the limits of human endurance.
Award-winning actors John Hurt and Phyllida Law are the stars of the short film ‘Love at First Sight’, about dementia. Set in a residential care home, it shows a day in the life of 70-year-old Arthur, who falls in love with the 'new' resident, a beautiful woman called Ruth. Written, produced and directed by a team of experienced film makers, 'Love At First Sight' portrays a different side of living with dementia, emphasising people's retained emotional memory, and the lasting love between two people.
Dr Bertolt Meyer explores the medical and scientific breakthroughs that enable doctors to replace some of the most intricate parts of the human body in the 90-minute TV special ‘How to Build a Bionic Man’. Commissioned by Channel 4, the film looks at the startling advances in replicating complex physiological processes: from a robotic limb controlled by the mind to a tiny capsule that mimics the human pancreas. The film aired in February 2013.
‘Mission to Lars’ is a documentary feature film about Tom Spicer, who has fragile X syndrome, his brother William, his sister Kate, and the journey they take to find Tom's hero, Lars Ulrich, the drummer from Metallica. In trying to help their profoundly learning-disabled brother achieve his obsessional dream, Will and Kate end up learning about fragile X syndrome and the effect of the fragile X (FMR1) gene on their brother and, more widely, on their family. The film (produced by Mission Films and the Spicer siblings) toured cinemas around the globe in 2012.
‘Here’s Johnny’ focuses on the life and work of graphic artist Johnny 'Deadstock' Hicklenton. Renowned for his contribution to several legendary comics (2000AD/Dark Horse/Judge Dredd), Johnny was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. Drawing has always been the most important aspect of Johnny's life, and the film uses his drawings to graphically illustrate how MS has affected his life and therefore his art: for Johnny, to draw is to live. Spanning over four years, the film follows Johnny on his journey as he tries to balance the demands of his life with the effects of MS. Produced by Animal Monday, the film toured festivals and had its television debut on More4 in February 2009.
People Awards - outreach and dissemination funding
‘Donor Unknown’ combines the impact of film, television, online and workshops to explore a 21st-century tale of identity, genetic inheritance and family. As a generation of children born through donor conception search for their biological fathers, 'Donor Unknown' follows three of them on their extraordinary journey to discover who they really are. Alongside the film's release, a programme of special screenings with Q&As was supported by the Wellcome Trust.
‘After the Apocalypse’ is a documentary film that tells the story, in Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, of the battle between the boss of the city's maternity clinic - Dr Tolemkhan Nurmagambetov - and a pregnant local woman, Bibigul Balargazinova. The area has a higher than average level of birth defects - which the local people attribute to the fact that it was a nuclear test site in the 1950s. Dr Nurmagambetov believes these defects should be bred out of the population by the introduction of a 'genetic passport'. He urges Bibigul, who appears to have a genetic condition, to have an abortion. She refuses. The film raises important issues about genetics and biomedical ethics, and was granted a People Award to support the nationwide public premiere of the film, followed by an interactive satellite discussion where a Q&A was held with leading genetics and ethics specialists.
Large Broadcast Awards
In autumn 2011, the Large Broadcast Award Committee funded ‘Secret Universe: Journey Inside the Cell’, a one-hour microbiological documentary told from within the spectacular three-dimensional world of a single cell. This CGI adventure was broadcast on BBC Two in October 2012 and is accompanied by a website allowing users to explore the cell in more detail. This project had also received a Broadcast Development Award* in 2009.
Scaled up to human size with the sperm played by real people, ‘The Great Sperm Race’ tells the story of human conception as it's never been told before, using helicopter-mounted cameras, world-renowned scientists, CGI and dramatic reconstruction to illustrate the extraordinary journey of sperm. With the microscopic world of sperm and egg accurately scaled up by 34 000 times, we see the human-sized heroes negotiate some of the world's most striking landscapes when the epic proportions of the vagina become the Canadian Rockies and the buildings on London's South Bank symbolise the intricacies of the cervix. With 250 million competitors, it is the most extreme race on Earth and there can only be one winner. The film aired on Channel 4 in March 2009, and a complementary game was produced (still available online). This project had also received a Broadcast Development Award* in 2007.
In a 75-minute special edition of ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’, comparative anatomist Joy Reidenberg and presenter Mark Evans fly out to New Zealand to join a team of experts and dissect a rare specimen of a giant squid. They also dissect a bizarre octopus that inhabits the 'midnight zone', a kilometre beneath the waves, where there is no light at all. ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’ is a BAFTA-winning series produced by Windfall Films. This particular special was broadcast on Channel 4 in October 2010. An interactive website accompanies the series, having been supported by a People Award.
*The Broadcast Development Awards have been renamed to the Development Awards (Broadcast, Games and Film).
Deadlines and contacts
The forthcoming deadlines for the Development Awards (Broadcast, Games and Film) are:
- 19 July 2013 (17.00)
- 18 October 2013 (17.00)
Decisions will be made approximately two months after the relevant deadline.
All non-games applicants for the 26 April 2013 deadline must be available to attend Sheffield Doc/Fest on 14 June 2013 to pitch their idea in front of a live audience.
All games applicants for the 26 April 2013 deadline must be available to attend the Develop in Brighton Conference on 10 July 2013. Successful games applicants will have to pitch their idea with the aid of the prototype developed with this Award in front of a live audience and panel of publishers and funders.
You can contact us at
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T +44 (0)20 7611 8806