NIHR i4i: Early Cancer Diagnosis Clinical Validation and Evaluation Call

Key Features

The NIHR i4i Programme, in collaboration with the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), invites applications to the Cancer Mission: Early Cancer Diagnosis Clinical Validation and Evaluation Call.

Programme:     NIHR

Award:     Share of up to £1.5 million

Opens: 24th Oct 2023

Closes: 12th Dec 2023

! This scheme is now closed


The NIHR i4i Programme, in collaboration with the Office for Life Sciences (OLS), invites applications to the Cancer Mission: Early Cancer Diagnosis Clinical Validation and Evaluation Call. Proposals must demonstrate how the selected innovation will increase the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stages 1 and 2. Proposals aiming to directly address health inequalities in stage of cancer diagnosis are particularly sought.

The Cancer Mission: Early Cancer Diagnosis Clinical Validation and Evaluation Call is a one-stage call inviting applications for projects up to 36 months in duration, with no upper funding limit.

The call will be open to organisations which are UK legal entities, that have an innovative solution with the potential to increase the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stages 1 and 2. This call is open to small/medium commercial entities, NHS and Third Sector Service Providers, charitable organisations, local government bodies, as well as universities and research institutions.


The aim of the call is to support the clinical validation and evaluation of breakthrough technologies that can increase the proportion of cancers which are detected earlier in the disease course and/or target health inequalities in stage of cancer diagnosis.

Funding will be deployed to facilitate the generation of evidence on safety, test performance characteristics, clinical efficacy and/or effectiveness that can support regulatory approvals requirements and subsequent clinical implementation or implementation research.

The expected objectives of this investment are to:

  1. Improve patient outcomes – innovative technologies to support earlier, more efficient and faster diagnosis. This is an area of unmet healthcare need (as set out above). This will increase the effectiveness of an existing public service and improve cancer survival.
  2. Reduce the economic cost of healthcare through earlier diagnosis by utilising innovative technologies to detect cancer earlier and reduce the proportion of cases requiring the expensive, longer-term therapy that is necessary for treating late-stage disease.
  3. Reduce health inequalities in cancer detection and diagnosis by harnessing innovations that will reduce inequalities in early diagnosis rates, tackling a contributor of the socio-economic life expectancy gap by decreasing inequalities in cancer outcomes.
  4. Position the NHS as a strong innovation partner able to drive and inform the development of innovative diagnostics and services by testing innovative products and care models to support wider uptake.
  5. Support the commercialisation of innovative life sciences technologies in the UK and stimulate wider investment into R&D from the private, charity and philanthropic sectors.
  6. Improve understanding and research into oncology and supporting the UK’s position as a leader in cancer research – the outputs created through R&D will stimulate the development of a rich evidence base for the further development of new treatments and services. In addition, R&D funding may support further training opportunities to ensure that the sector has right skills to harness the potential of new technologies in the future.

Areas in Scope

Types of eligible innovations include, but are not limited to, medical devices, in vitro diagnostics, NICE classified Tier C digital health solutions, software, artificial intelligence, behavioural interventions and new models of care.

Applicants may wish to consider the following (non-exclusive) potential solutions to improving early diagnosis of cancer:

  1. Identifying and testing asymptomatic patients who are most at risk. This includes innovations that:
    • Proactively case find and/or risk stratify populations for whom there is no current screening programme.
    • Use risk stratification to more effectively target, improve uptake/adherence, or reduce unwarranted variation in existing screening programmes.
    • Screen asymptomatic individuals at risk.
  2. Encouraging early symptomatic patients to self-assess and present to primary care or other appropriate services. This includes innovations that:
    • Proactively identify those with early signs and symptoms that put them at high risk.
    • Improve awareness/vigilance of the signs and symptoms of cancer (including non-specific symptoms), particularly for those cancers, or specific populations, where early presentation is still very low.
    • Encourage patients to self-present, including in populations that typically under refer.
  3. Support ongoing engagement and completion of diagnostic pathways.Decision support and assessment of risk in early symptomatic patients presenting to primary care. This includes innovations that:
    • Risk stratify patients or diagnose patients that present with less severe and non-specific symptoms.
    • Support GP decision making and reduce unwarranted variation in referrals (to increase appropriate faster referral and early diagnosis rates, whilst being mindful of avoiding unnecessary referral and attendant cost).
    • Identify and alert clinicians to changes in a patient’s presentation, behaviour or symptomatology, or repeated attendances, that warrant consideration.
  4. Detection/diagnostic technologies for use in referral contexts for patients with non- specific symptoms or under suspicion of particular cancers which lack optimal diagnostic pathways and approaches.
  5. Approaches to address existing inequalities in stage of cancer diagnosis between socioeconomic, geographic, demographic or other subpopulations. Applicants may find it helpful to refer to the Core20PLUS5 approach for further information on population groups.

Funding is available for validation and evaluation of the potential to detect and diagnose earlier, in an NHS setting, either directly in individuals or in samples/data taken from these.

This can include, but is not limited to, funding for:

  • Validation of markers, technologies or approaches in clinical samples or patients.
  • Evaluation of markers/tests/technologies/approaches in a clinical setting, intended to deliver evidence on performance characteristics (e.g., sensitivity, specificity, positive or negative predictive value), impact on stage of cancer diagnosis, impact on referral pathways and service demand.
  • Clinical utility studies covering e.g., usability, tolerability and user acceptance.
  • PPIE activities.

Though not limited to these approaches, this call could be suitable for:

  • Innovations that have been already in use or clinically tested outside the UK, but that still require clinical validation and evaluation for cancer in the NHS settings.
  • Repurposing of approaches from a cancer area to another (e.g., biomarkers well validated for different cancers, but needing more evidence in a new area; extend new pathways to other cancers, etc.),or from other therapeutic areas to cancer diagnosis and detection.

For further information on this funding call, please see here


Applicants are welcome from:

  • Organisations which are a UK legal entity and include Higher Education Institutions (HEI), including universities and research institutes.
  • NHS and social care service providers, including Trusts, primary care and community care providers and tertiary care centres.
  • Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs with a staff headcount no greater than 250 and an annual turnover no greater than €50 million, including start-up or spin-out companies).
  • Not-for-profit organisations, including charities and Community Interest Companies.

Specialist services or expertise may be brought into the team through consultancy or sub-contract arrangements with appropriate justification. Collaborators and sub-contractors may be based outside of the UK if the required expertise or service cannot be reasonably contracted from within the UK. Involvement of international companies as subcontractor and/or collaborator, if working with a lead UK partner, are welcomed.

Applicants must review the NIHR standard research contract before application submission and agree in principle with its core terms and conditions as they are non-negotiable.

Applicant organisations can be based anywhere in the UK, and the proposed research must take place in the UK and show potential, and be appropriate, for roll out across the UK.

To support the growth of innovators in this field, applications from early career researchers and innovators are particularly welcomed. They can apply as either the lead or joint-lead applicant together with a senior colleague fulfilling the other role.

Consultation with individuals who have current or lived experience is expected.

Multidisciplinary project teams, involving relevant collaborations between technology developers, data scientists and clinical staff, are particularly welcome. The lead organisation should be best placed among the project parties, to lead the research, and either own or have full access to the background IP.

Budget and Duration

The call encourages proposals putting forward innovative solutions. To support this, there is no upper funding limit. Proposed projects may be of up to 36 months in duration.
We would expect the majority of applications to request up to £1.5m funding, however applicants are discouraged from compromising their ideas to meet this guideline, and applications will be considered on the overall merit and value for money they provide. Proposals may request smaller or larger funding amounts that reflect the scope and duration of the proposed project. Each proposal will be judged on its merits and value for money.
NIHR funding covers 100% costs for commercial entities, not-for-profit organisations, local government bodies, and primary care providers: 100% of the direct research costs for NHS service providers, and 80% FEC for higher education institutions.

Support for Applicants and Awardees

Support with research design and forging partnerships is available to all prospective applicants through the NIHR research support services, detailed below. All prospective applicants are encouraged to engage with these services at the earliest opportunity.

If you are considering applying and you are new to research or are not from a research institution, please do contact the appropriate NIHR research support services for free advice and support in finding potential research partners. This support is also available for experienced researchers, free of charge.

* Please note that the RSS service is only available to applicants based in England. Applicants with a project partner based in England are able to access the service, but if you are based in the UK but outside of England and are not partnered with an organisation based in England you may wish to explore the below services. The NIHR Business Development Team is available to all UK based applicants, and you may wish to contact them in seeking a partner based in England.

Other organisations that may be able to support projects include:

Key dates and Contacts

  • Launch event: 6 October 13:00 (launch event recording)
  • Q&A Session: 6 November 15:00 (registration page)
  • Launch: 24 October 2023, 13:00
  • Deadline for submission of applications: 12 December 2023, 13:00
  • Assessment & Shortlisting: December 2023/January 2024
  • Peer review (if shortlisted): Mid-February 2024
  • Interview Committee: Mid April 2024
  • Projects start: July 2024

For any enquiries email:

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.