SBRI: Increasing access to and capacity in Occupational Health: Phase 1

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of £1 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop innovative solutions that increase access for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the self-employed (SE) to Occupational Health Services (OHS).

Programme:     SBRI

Award:     Share of up to £1 million

Opens: 30th Jan 2023

Closes: 15th Mar 2023

! This scheme is now closed


This is a Small Business Research Initiative(SBRI) competition jointly funded by Department of Work and Pension (DWP) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

There is currently a wide variation across the UK in access to occupational health services (OHS), with Large employers five times more likely to offer services than small employers.

The aim of this competition is to increase access for micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the self-employed to occupational health services. These groups are underserved by the current OHS provision and this competitions support will allow OHS providers to better utilise the capacity they have to serve this new demand.

Expert support such as occupational health services can be a critical component in helping supporting individuals remain in and return to work. It helps in reducing unnecessary sickness absence, supporting employers to retain valuable staff, increasing productivity, and enabling individuals to live better for longer.

Innovation, particularly in relation to service models that work for SMEs and the self-employed, with greater use of technology have an important role. It can help to ensure the market has the capacity and capability to deliver these services and increase employer demand for OHS.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2 SBRI phase competition. The decision to proceed with the invitation only phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1.

Only the successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in a potential phase 2.

In applying to phase 1 of this competition you are entering into a competitive process.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possibly competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.


The aim of this competition is to increase access for the self-employed, micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to occupational health services (OHS). These groups are underserved by the current OHS provision and this competitions support will allow OHS providers to better utilise the capacity they have to serve this new demand.

Your proposal must show how you will:

  • increase access to occupational health services for the self-employed, micro and SMEs
  • improve the provision of occupational health services so that the market can better utilise their capacity to serve the needs of more self-employed, micro, and SME businesses
  • evaluate approaches and contribute to the existing evidence base

In phase 1 your project must:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the principles of occupational health (OH) service provision
  • engage with occupational health service providers
  • engage with the self-employed, micro businesses and SMEs as potential users of OH services
  • produce an evidence-based theory of change and demonstrate its sustainability
  • evaluate your proposed approach and develop metrics that contribute to the existing evidence base
  • identify a clear route to market
  • demonstrate the technical, development and market feasibility of your proposed innovation
  • describe how your innovation is addressing challenges in OH provision and access.
  • establish ongoing collaboration between all members of the project team
  • formalise any required ethical approvals, data sharing agreements and contracts
  • include a milestone at one month before the project end for submission of a costed high level plan for a potential phase 2

At this stage contracts will be given for phase 1 only.

You must define your goals in your application and outline your plan for a potential phase 2 project. This is part of the full commercial implementation in your phase 1 application.

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

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

  • improving the take up of occupational health services by the self-employed, micro businesses and SMEs through new ways of delivering occupational health
  • the utilisation of new technologies

Phase 1: technical feasibility studies

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

In phase 1 the supplier will work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

The outline plan for the potential phase 2 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 improvements on products, processes or services.


Projects must:

  • start on 1 June 2023
  • end by 31 January 2024
  • last up to 8 months


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. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.


SBRI will not fund projects that:

  • do not demonstrate significant support and engagement from the occupational health sector
  • do not demonstrate sufficient support and engagement from the self-employed or groups representing them
  • do not demonstrate sufficient support and engagement from micro and SME employers or groups representing them
  • do not comply with the eligibility requirements
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions
  • include clinical trials, clinical studies, or fundamental research
  • require regulatory approval
  • involve the development of early-stage technologies
  • do not have relevance across the OH sector including SME providers
  • do not evidence the potential for their proposed innovation to generate positive economic or societal impact
  • are at late stage design development progressing an existing product or service towards final version

Funding Costs

A total of up to £1 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to phase 1 of this competition.

Phase 1 feasibility study R&D contracts will be up to £100,000, inclusive of VAT, for each project for up to 8 months.

The potential Phase 2 will be invitation only to selected successful applicants from Phase 1. Up to £1 million, inclusive of VAT is planned to be allocated for Phase 2. Phase 2 projects can have costs up to £250,000 inclusive of VAT and last up to 12 months.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations between the phases
  • adjust the timing between the phases
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach

The contract is completed at the end of phase 1 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

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

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.