SBRI: Enhancing medical supply chain resilience with drones

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of £500,000, inclusive of VAT. They will deliver projects that enhance understanding of how drone solutions can help improve resilience in healthcare supply chains, including NHS logistics.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £500,000

Opens: 1st Nov 2023

Closes: 20th Dec 2023

! This scheme is now closed


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).


The aim of the competition is to fund projects that will enhance the understanding of how drones can augment healthcare logistics operations and improve the resilience of medical supply chains. Projects may also explore other related use cases, for example organ transport, medical device supply.

In your proposal you must include one or more of the following:

  • cost benefit analyses of drones compared to existing logistics operations
  • standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • support to specific care pathways (for example cancer), services (for example pathology)
  • policy aims for example, improving prevention, enabling community care and reducing health inequalities
  • compliance with medical distribution regulations, for example good distribution practice

Your project must demonstrate engagement with potential end users for the use of drones in healthcare settings and activities beyond the funded project.

Your project can include a flying or operational demonstration as part of your outputs. It can also focus on research activities for example, feasibility studies that create new understanding of how drones can support healthcare logistics.

Your proposal must show how you will:

  • evaluate approaches and contribute to the existing evidence base
  • improve the provision and implementation of drone activity or services

Your project must:

  • engage with relevant stakeholders
  • demonstrate an understanding of SOPS
  • identify a clear route to market
  • demonstrate the technical, development and market feasibility of your proposed innovation
  • have any permits and licences in place to carry out your project

We welcome projects that coordinate with existing drone medical projects, for example, those funded under the Innovate UK Future Flight Challenge. Further information can be found under the UKRI Future Flight Challenge website.

Contracts will be given to successful applicants.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

Portfolio approach
We want to fund a variety of projects across themes, technological maturities and geographical location. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific Themes

Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

  • how drones can augment healthcare logistics and improve supply chain resilience
  • cost benefit analyses of drones compared to existing logistics operations
  • standard operating procedures (SOPs) for drones to supply medical products
  • demonstrating how drones could support specific care pathways for example, cancer
  • demonstrating how drones could support services for example, pathology
  • demonstrating how drones could support policy aims for example, improving prevention, enabling community care and reducing health inequalities
  • compliance with medical distribution regulations, for example good distribution practice
  • maintaining medical product integrity during drone flight
  • other use cases such as organ transport, medical device supply
  • middle mile logistics with long range or bulk goods movements
  • local compared with national drone networks
  • regulatory considerations, including aviation and medical

Research Categories

Your project can cover either Technical Feasibility Studies or Prototype development and evaluation.

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.

Your project will work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution and produce a final report of your outcomes.

You can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.


Projects must:

  • start by 1 April 2024
  • end by 31 March 2025
  • last up to 12 months

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your contract if you are successful.


To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

This competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can engage specialists or advisers. The project and delivery against the project milestones will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.


Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • do not include or engage directly with at least one NHS organisation or medical distribution company
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
  • do not evidence the potential for their proposed innovation to generate positive economic or societal impact
  • do not comply with the eligibility requirements
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions

Funding Costs

A total of up to £500,000, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this competition.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to apply a ‘portfolio’ approach.

The contract is completed at the end of the competition and the successful organisation is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and suggest you seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs inclusive of VAT must not exceed £100,000.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £100,000.

Research and development (R&D)

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy Control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

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.