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 demonstrate 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). 

*New funding stream 'i4i Connect' for SMEs*

Funding streams

We have two funding streams - Product Development Awards and Challenge Awards.

In 2017 we will also be running an additional SME funding stream, i4i Connect.

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


  • R&D towards medical devices, active implantable devices and in vitro diagnostic devices as defined by relevant EU directives
  • R&D towards technologies or interventions specified by Challenge Award themes
  • Product development to enable a technology for clinical use including around manufacturing, IP protection, freedom to operate and market analysis, business case development
  • Feasibility studies or R&D of techniques or technologies from a different industry sector with potential impact if applied in a healthcare setting
  • 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


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.

Essential requirements:

  • 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.
  • Project start dates must be between 1 December 2017 and 1 January 2018.
  • 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 will be withdrawn.

i4i Connect Call Dates

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 16 August 2017 (9am) 27 September 2017 (9am)
Submission deadline 13 September 2017 (1pm) 18 October 2017 (1pm)
Submission outcome 27 September 2017 08 November 2017


Product Development Awards (PDA)

These awards comprise both early and late stages of R&D including the clinical development of laboratory-validated technologies or interventions. Although no funding limit is imposed, applicants must fully justify all costs. The funding period is for up to three years.

Lead applicants may be from academia, industry or an NHS organisation.

Essential requirements: 

  • Any R&D activities must be within scope 
  • A minimum of two organisations must be involved from either NHS Trust, HEI or SME.
  • Lead applicants must be based in England
  • Work packages must not include animal studies
  • Projects must have progressed beyond basic research and have demonstrated proof-of-concept. 

PDA Call 15 also invites applications to the NIHR 2017 Highlight Notice ‘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. For further details please see If your application falls under this highlight notice, please indicate this in the application form in Section 6, Question 1 (What is the problem being addressed?).

Product Development Awards Call 16 Dates

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 25 April 2018 (9am) 01 August 2018 (9am)
Submission deadline 06 June 2018 (1pm) 26 September 2018 (1pm)
Submission outcome July 2018 December 2018 (earliest)

Product Development Awards Call 15 Dates

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 01 November 2017 (9am) 14 February 2018 (9am)
Submission deadline 13 December 2017 (1pm) 11 April 2018 (1pm)
Submission outcome February 2018 July 2018 (earliest)

Product Development Awards Call 14 Dates

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 26 April 2017 (9am) 02 August 2017 (9am)
Submission deadline 07 June 2017 (1pm) 27 September 2017 (1pm)
Submission outcome July 2017 December 2017 (earliest)


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 late-stage 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. 

Current Challenge Award - Mental Health 2017 and 2018

Mental illness inflicts a heavy toll on affected individuals, carers and society as a whole. It’s 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 conditions. Download the full scope for more information about the 2017 and 2018 Challenge Award, essential requirements are as for Product Development Awards plus:

  • Projects can be up to 5 years in duration
  • Applications must include one collaborator from an NHS Trust or NHS service provider.
  • Projects must include first-in-man or later stage trials. 
  • We will not consider applications focused on neurodegenerative conditions including Parkinson's, Dementia, Alzheimer's and Huntington's.

 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 (earliest)

 Challenge Awards Call 7 Dates - Mental Health 

  Stage 1 Stage 2 (if invited)
Competition launch 11 Jan 2017 (9am) 24 May 2017 (9am)
Submission deadline 05 April 2017 (1pm) 27 September 2017 (1pm)
Submission outcome May 2017 December 2017 (earliest)


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).