Giving yourself the best chance in NIHR innovation funding applications

Jon Scales, NIHR Research Adviser, explains the 3 key pitfalls to avoid when applying for innovation funding

Published: 24th February 2023

As an innovator, funding is essential in helping you develop your product, scale your business and gather evidence to show an innovation’s value.

The NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme aims to support the preclinical and clinical development of early-to-late stage HealthTech to progress them closer to NHS use. To be considered for the programme  medical technologies must have demonstrated proof-of-concept and address existing or emerging patient need.

As the NIHR lead for NIHR i4i in the eastern region I see plenty of applications, pitches and innovators who go on to deliver fantastic patient impact. However, I also see so many innovations fail to progress because they make common mistakes which I suspect may apply to a lot of application processes.

Here are the three most common mistakes innovators make when applying for funding (and more importantly the questions you should ask yourself to overcome them):

Failing to clearly explain the clinical problem or healthcare need and/or to provide adequate evidence of this gap.

How important is the problem?  How many people does it affect in the UK? What are the shortfalls in current care provision or clinical solutions?  What are the current outcomes?

Not adequately describing the proposed solution, including where it fits into the care pathway and how it will impact patient outcomes and the NHS.

You need to describe your proposed solution in straightforward language.  What will it do? how does it work?  Why will it deliver a more optimal outcome than current solutions?  How will it fit into the NHS care pathway?  What will it cost?  Will it save money?  Will it save lives?  Will it cut waiting lists?

Being unclear about the pathway to delivery

What is the trajectory to market-ready device?  What are the regulatory requirements required to licence your innovation as a medical device?  Where will the next tranche of funding come from?  How will take up within the NHS be driven? How will it be taken to market?

Get in touch

If you are considering making a funding application, get in touch with Health Innovation East to see how they might be able to support you. You can also come along to our Insight to Innovation Workshop for innovators to understand NIHR funding options, where I will be sharing my tips for a great application and share some case studies from previous successful applicants.

About the author

Jon Scales is a Research Adviser with the NIHR Research Design Service.  He has over 15 years advising on healthcare research and innovation funding within the NHS.  He advises on the development of funding applications across the whole range of NIHR research programmes and leads on the flagship invention for innovation MedTech funding stream within eastern region.

You might also like…

Active+me Aseptika class cardiac rehab
Does it work? Three considerations for getting innovation evaluation right

Sophie Castle-Clarke, Principal Advisor at Health Innovation East, explains how we measure the impact of our projects through robust evaluation.

Read more…

Philip Shelton, Principal Advisor - Commercial Lead at Health Innovation East
State your case: 7 questions every innovator needs to ask themselves

Philip Shelton, Principal Advisor – Commercial Lead at Health Innovation East, explains the essential questions innovators need to answer to develop a winning business case.

Read more…

Dr Louise Jopling Health Innovation East Commercial Director
The importance of a winning value proposition (and how to develop one)

How can innovators best articulate their value to patients, health and care services? Dr Louise Jopling, Commercial Director at Health Innovation East, explains.

Read more…

Share your idea

Do you have a great idea that could deliver meaningful change in the real world?

Get involved