Invention for Innovation

As a translational funding scheme, i4i advances healthcare technologies, devices and interventions for increased patient benefit in areas of existing or emerging clinical need.

We fund collaborative R&D projects in medtech SMEs, universities and the NHS that have demonstrated proof-of-principle and have a clear pathway towards adoption and commercialisation. The aim is to de-risk projects, making them attractive to follow-on funders and investors.

The expected i4i output is an advanced or clinically validated prototype medical device, technology or intervention (see study example below). 

Funding streams

We have three funding streams - Product Development AwardsChallenge Awards and Connect.

All our awards are based on a two stage application process.

What we fund

  • Research and development of medical devices, active implantable devices and in vitro diagnostic devices as defined by the relevant EU directives, across all areas of existing or emerging healthcare needs
  • Research and development of technologies or interventions specified by Challenge Awards themes
  • Product or technology development required to enable a technology for clinical use, which may include manufacturing, intellectual property protection, freedom to operate and market analysis or business case development
  • Research and development of techniques or technologies from a different industry sector, which could have a potential impact if applied in a healthcare setting
  • Feasibility studies if a technology from a sector other than health is being developed
  • Studies to provide data relating to safety and effectiveness of a device including first-in-man and pivotal studies
  • Health economic analyses and clinical utility studies looking at a device’s real-life implementation and use
  • CE marking and other regulatory requirements including any associated safety trials
  • Activities associated with the adoption of new technology
  • Training associated with the implementation of new technology 

Projects must have already demonstrated ‘proof of principle’. Applicants are expected to have generated experimental data to support the case for further development and illustrate technical feasibility. Early stage research or discovery science is not fundable.

Work packages must not include animal studies or work on animal tissues. If animal studies are required as part of the project, we expect applicants to seek parallel funding to cover such studies, details of which can be provided in the application form.

Product Development Awards (PDA)

These awards support any stage of the translational research and development pathway, including the clinical development of laboratory-validated technologies or interventions. Funded activities are described here.

Award specifications:

  • A minimum of two organisations must be involved from either NHS Trust, HEI or SME.
  • Lead applicants must be based in England.
  • Projects may be up to three years in duration.
  • There is no upper funding limit, but costs must be fully justified.

As well as applications that fit our remit, PDA Call 16 also invites applications to the following Highlight Notices and Themed Calls:

Highlight Notices: 

‘Complex Health and Care Needs in Older People’. Relevant research areas include frailty, transitions in care, service delivery and models of care, medicines management/polypharmacy, promoting healthy ageing/preventing ill health and patient-centred decision making.

'Brain Tumours'. This highlight notice indicates the continuing interest of NIHR in receiving research proposals in this area, and it encourages collaborative applications that demonstrate how they build on recent initiatives and investment in the area made by the NIHR, the MRC and other research funders

Themed Calls:

‘Promotion of good mental health and the prevention or treatment of mental ill health’. Proposals are invited for clinical and applied health research that evaluate healthcare interventions, health services, social care or public health measures operating at either the individual, or the population level. Issues of particular interest include proposals that utilise new digital health technologies or investigate their effects.

For further details of Highlight Notices/Themed Calls please visit Please note that the PDA 16 researcher led call is open to all relevant research areas, and does not just include these Highlight Notices/Themed Calls. If your application falls under these Highlight Notices/Themed Calls, please indicate this in the application form in Section 6, Question 1 (What is the problem being addressed?).


Product Development Awards Call 18 Dates

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 24 April 2019 (9am) 31 July 2019 (9am)
Submission deadline 05 June 2019 (1pm) 25 September 2019 (1pm)
Submission outcome July 2019 December 2019 (earliest)

Product Development Awards Call 17 Dates

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 31 October 2018 (9am) 13 February 2019 (9am)
Submission deadline 12 December 2018 (1pm) 10 April 2019 (1pm)
Submission outcome February 2019 June 2019 (earliest)


i4i Connect

i4i Connect is aimed at small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in need of a funding boost to reach the next stage in the development pathway. Offering between £50,000-£150,000 over a 6-12 month period, its primary aim is to help SMEs get to a point where they can apply for further funding, in particular for a full i4i Product Development Award (PDA), or to support projects at any stage of the translational research and development pathway to further de-risk them for follow on investment. This will enable accelerated development of promising medical technologies, in line with recommendations from the Government’s Accelerated Access Review. i4i Connect 2 closed for submissions on 11 September 2018.

Award specifications:

  • Lead applicants must be from an SME.
  • Lead applicants must be based in England.
  • Projects must be £50,000-150,000 in value.
  • Projects must be 6-12 months in duration.
  • Upon acceptance of i4i Connect funding, applicants agree to be bound by the terms of the NIHR standard research contract and are expected to sign the contract within 4 weeks of the award notice or the award may be withdrawn.


Connect Call 2 Dates


Stage 1 (Expression of Interest)

Stage 2 (Business Plan Submission) if invited
Competition launch 07 August 2018 (9am) 02 October 2018 (9am)
Submission deadline 11 September 2018 (1pm) 23 October 2018 (1pm)
Submission outcome October 2018 November 2018 

The funding decision of the first i4i Connect call can be found here. Future calls will be advertised on our website and via NIHR newsletters. 


Challenge Awards

Challenge Awards are commissioned on an ad hoc basis in areas of existing or emerging healthcare need. The expected output is a disruptive technology with the potential to offer improved outcomes for NHS patients. 

Applications for these awards must be based on a working prototype or proven concept with a strong evidence base and comprise the clinical development of laboratory-validated technologies or interventions, requiring minimal preclinical development. Minor or incremental changes to technologies in current clinical use are outside the scope.

Funding will be awarded on a’winner takes all’ basis.

Challenge Awards 2017 and 2018 - Mental Health

Mental illness inflicts a heavy toll on affected individuals, carers and society as a whole. It is the largest single cause of disability and represents 28% of the national disease burden in the UK. Annually this leads to an estimated 70 million working days lost, costing the economy £70 billion a year (OECD 2014).

Applications are invited for the development of innovative technological solutions which can influence the patient care pathway and improve patient outcomes for mental health problems, supporting aspirations as set out in the Five Year Forward View For Mental Health and the Framework for Mental Health Research in the United Kingdom.

Please download the full scope for more information about the 2018 Challenge Awards. Funded activities are described here.

Award specifications:

  • Projects must be between 3 and 5 years in duration.
  • Either the lead applicant and/or a co-applicant must be from an NHS Trust or NHS service provider
  • Projects must include first-in-man or later stage trials.
  • There is no upper funding limit, but costs must be fully justified.

 Challenge Awards Call 8 Dates - Mental Health 

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 01 February 2018 (9am) 23 May 2018 (9am)
Submission deadline 04 April 2018 (1pm) 26 September 2018 (1pm)
Submission outcome May 2018 December 2018

Study example

Professor Robert MacLaren at the University of Oxford is collaborating with the company Retina Implant AG in an i4i funded trial taking place at the Oxford Eye Hospital to implant next-generation electronic retinas in patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), such as Rhian Lewis, enabling them to detect light and recognise objects for the first time in years. Early findings from the trial were reported in January 2016 including on BBC Radio 4's In Touch and BBC 2's Trust me, I'm a Doctor (see clips below, with the In Touch piece starting at 10:20). 



Contact us

We offer a wide variety of assistance during all stages of the research process. If in doubt, please get in touch.