28 Feb 2020

Is this the end of the Bio-Medical Catalyst?

Is this the end of the Bio-Medical Catalyst?

Since 2012, the Innovate UK Bio-Medical Catalyst competitions have been a staple source of funding for businesses working on innovative healthcare products, technologies and processes, in the Life Sciences sector.

It has now been over a year since the 2019 Round 1 Bio-Medical Catalyst competitions launched, with no sign of another. So, where has the competition gone, and will it be coming back?

From 2012-2019, the Bio-Medical Catalyst competitions provided over £226 million in funding to over 500 organisations. The programme funded innovative projects over 4 key stages of development:

  • Feasibility Studies
  • Primer Awards
  • Early Stage Research
  • Late Stage Research

The aim of the programme was to support the innovative development in any life science sector or discipline – for example:

  • medical technologies and devices
  • stratified healthcare
  • advanced therapies (gene and cell therapies)
  • digital health
  • drug discovery
  • diagnostics

Historically, the competitions were delivered in pairs of development stages e.g. feasibility studies and early stage, or primer awards and late stage, at regular intervals throughout the year – usually with around £10-£15 million available over each pair.

In the last round, in 2019, £10 million was available across all 4 stages and funded 13 projects in total – a decrease from previous rounds.

Typically, these competitions would receive over 100 applications in each round, so where are those applications for funding going, while the Bio-Medical Catalyst isn’t available?
As the last Bio-Medical Catalyst competition opened in January 2019, the Innovate UK Open Programme rebranded as the Smart Programme in February 2019. The new Smart Programme has had a huge jump in the total number of applications received, compared to when it was branded as the Open – are all the Life Science applications now being submitted for Smart funding?

There is also a correlation between the competition dates – as the Bio-Medical Catalyst ended in April 2019, the amount of Life Science sector projects funded by the Smart April round (closing in July 2019) increased – therefore, perhaps those that were unsuccessful in the last Bio-Medical Catalyst round resubmitted into the Smart instead.

The Smart competition represents an alternative Innovate UK opportunity for Life Science projects to be funded, but it comes with the added risk of being in competition with projects from any industry sector! With over 800 applications submitted each round, all applying for a share of £25 million, the percentage of projects that are successfully funded is less than 10%.

The NIHR have 2 funding competitions that SME’s to apply into – the i4i Programme and the new AI in Health and Care Awards. Both offer regular competitions throughout the year, and the opportunity to apply for funding across all stages of development. Their aim is to support SME-led Med-Tech projects through the development stages, to reach market – just like the Bio-Medical Catalyst.

What’s next?

While there are alternative opportunities available for Life Science businesses, we sure do miss the Bio-Medical Catalyst!

Regrettably, we don’t have a clear answer about why it ended, or whether it will return, but all of our fingers and toes are crossed for it to be re-introduced soon, to provide the Life Sciences sector a themed funding opportunity once again.

In the meantime, if your business is looking for an alternative source of funding, from the Bio-Medical Catalyst, we would love to hear from you.

By discussing your business and project ideas, we can match you to the most appropriate funding opportunities, and help you to build a successful application, maximising your chances of success in competitions such as the Smart, i4i Programme, or AI in Health and Care Award.

We list all current and soon-to-open funding opportunities on our Grant Funding Calls page; or if you’d prefer, you can get in touch with our team, to discuss which competitions are available and suitable for your business.

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