Opportunities for SMEs

Are you an SME looking for research funding from the NIHR?

We encourage applications from SMEs and are launching i4i Connect specifically to support SMEs with targeted funding to bridge the gap between early stage development and market readiness.

Our programmes of research span the research innovation pathway, from innovation and product development, to evaluative research including large-scale clinical trials. To date, the NIHR has funded over 200 projects involving SMEs as either lead or co-applicants. SMEs may apply for funding as a lead organisation in collaboration with NHS and/or academic partners or as co-applicants. 


Which funding schemes are SMEs eligible for?

Applying as a lead applicant

Our Invention for Innovation (i4i) and Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) programmes accept applications from SMEs as lead applicants collaborating with an NHS and/or academic partner.

Invention for Innovation (i4i) funds medtech projects 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. A new scheme for SMEs - i4i Connect - is also launching to provide a funding boost to reach the next stage in the development pathway, offering up to £150,000 over a 6-12 month period to get to the point of eligibility for a full i4i award or, down the line, follow on-funding.

Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) funds research that covers a wide range of new and repurposed interventions, such as diagnostic or prognostic tests and decision-making tools, therapeutics or psychological treatments, medical devices, and public health initiatives delivered in the NHS. EME studies evaluate the clinical efficacy of an intervention once proof of concept has been established in humans.

Other programmes that you may also apply to as a lead applicant are: 

Public Health Research (PHR)
Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR)
Health Technology Assessment (HTA)

Applying as a co-applicant

As an SME you can also apply to the above-mentioned programmes (i4i, EME, PHR, HS&DR and HTA) as a co-applicant. You may also apply to the following programmes as co-applicants:

Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB)
Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) and its complementary scheme Programme Development Grants


Are you an SME looking for a collaborator?

Finding a suitable collaborator is much like finding a suitable customer. Whether you are applying as a lead applicant or as a co-applicant it is important you collaborate with the appropriate expertise from an NHS and/or academic partner to improve your chances of gaining funding and successfully completing your research project.

The NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) provides potential partners, including the life sciences industry and charities, with a direct and simplified route to a wide range of experimental medicine facilities and expert NIHR investigators. NOCRI works with organisations to help them to navigate through the NIHR and, where required, form partnerships and collaborations to bring new treatments to patients faster.

Please contact the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) to help find a suitable collaborator. 


What support can the NIHR provide SMEs in preparing an application?

It would be beneficial to talk to the Research Design Service (RDS), the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) and the individual research programme ahead of preparing your application. This will help you establish that you are eligible for funding, provide aid in finding collaborators and assist you in completing the application form. 

The RDS provides support for all aspects of developing a grant application including, health economics, research design, research methods, identifying funding sources and involving patients and the public. Their advice is free of charge.

Further information on applying to the NIHR can be found on the How to apply for funding page. 


What support can the NIHR provide SMEs for clinical trials?

We provide advice on eligibility for support through our Clinical Research Network (CRN) and the Study Support Service it provides regarding regulatory submissions, attribution of costs, completion of costing templates, exploration of recruitment pathways, Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training, access and local intelligence to optimise delivery of your research.

Our Site Identification Service enables you to gather expressions of interest from all 240+ NHS organisations and 10,000+ General Practices in England.   


Contact us

For more information and to find out how the NIHR can support your company, get in touch: