Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: BBSRC Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe)

BBSRC ICURe Explore trains, funds, and supports research teams to determine whether there is a market for products or services that utilise their bioscience-based ideas, research, science, and technologies.

Funding is available to ‘get out of the lab’ and validate commercially promising ideas in the marketplace. The training and support activities are carried out in a blended format, providing accessibility to a wide range of applicants.

Who can apply

How does it work?

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) takes the scientific method and applies it to commercialisation. Over a three-month period you will learn how to use this approach to test what your potential customers think about your idea, product, or service. In addition, you will receive training and interview practice, carrying out over 100 interviews across the marketplace and acquiring transferrable business and social skills.

Past participants say that having ICURe Explore support, training, and funding to spend on customer discovery has dramatically changed their perspective on their innovation.

The research underpinning the bioscience innovation, products or services being carried forward for market exploration by the team must be building on a previous BBSRC or other UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) grant.

What does it include?

  • funding of up to £15,000 for market discovery activities and business advisor support
  • cover for up to three months of the entrepreneurial lead’s salary, to fully support the time commitment for customer discovery activities while participating in the programme. Please note there is a salary cover cap of £20,000
  • access to experts in bringing research to market, including weekly one hour coaching clinics
  • access and proactive connections to our network of entrepreneurs, investors, and funders
  • game-changing online delivery with opportunities for face-to-face interaction and networking
  • four-day intensive bootcamp, delivered in a ‘blended’ format with two days in-person and two days online, where you will learn how to talk about your technology to customers, develop a hypothetical business model, and identify your customers’ pain points. You will also create a detailed plan of your customer discovery journey
  • three months of market validation using online software platforms, video conferencing and marketing tools, and face-to-face meetings where possible. This will involve targeting direct engagements with over 100 business leaders
  • one day online pitch training where you will learn how to pitch your research to potential customers and investors
  • the opportunity to pitch to an experienced panel of funders, mentors, investors and other stakeholders to help accelerate the impact from your research. The panel will give feedback on commercialisation pathways best suited for your project, which can include carrying out further public or private sponsored research, exploring licensing opportunities, or seeking public or private funding for spin-out
  • selected teams will have the opportunity to access further financial support and apply for various follow-on funding pathways from UKRI. Teams eligible for spin-out support will be required to identify their roles in the future company; any personnel change will need to be assessed for suitability by BBSRC and their delivery partners, NxNW

BBSRC ICURe Explore is open to research teams in all UK universities, BBSRC-funded institutes and approved public sector research enterprises (PSREs).

BBSRC ICURe Explore teams are composed of four individuals:

Entrepreneurial lead

Any research or technical research staff member, including, but not limited to, PhD student, technician, PDRA, fellowship and group leader positions, who receives their salary or stipend from an eligible university, PSRE or institute. This individual must be able to commit full-time for the duration of the programme starting the week of the bootcamp, and have approval of their institute, organisation, or funder.

Associated science advisor

A researcher who can provide intellectual support to the entrepreneurial lead throughout the course of the programme. For example, an interdisciplinary project may require input from outside the research group.

Technology transfer representative or professional

An individual from the team, either from or contracted to the research organisation, leading on the commercialisation of the intellectual asset with appropriate technology transfer expertise.

This individual must:

  • be able to attend essential bootcamp sessions as well as the options roundabout
  • provide support for the entrepreneurial lead and team during the programme
  • provide continued support for further commercialisation activity following the programmes conclusion

Business adviser

A motivated individual from a relevant industrial sector who can offer expert guidance and support. Teams are strongly encouraged to name a business adviser in their application. Please contact the ICURe administration team if identifying a suitable advisor is a barrier. Teams are responsible for any agreements or financial arrangements that may be needed with their business advisers.

We are committed to improving diversity across our programmes and are actively seeking applications from under-represented groups, including women, people of colour, those living with disabilities and those from the LGBTQI+ communities. We also actively encourage applications led by non-Russell Group universities. The spread across different target market sectors will also be considered when selecting applications to ensure broad portfolio coverage.

Please note that we cannot accept applications based upon a research project that has previously been through the ICURe Explore programme.

What we're looking for

The research underpinning the bioscience innovation and the products or services being carried forward for market exploration by the team must be building on a previous BBSRC or other UKRI grant.

The technology, product or service must be either:

  • biological in nature
  • interact with a biological entity
  • involve a biological process
  • address a biological challenge

We welcome applications from across the biosciences, including:

  • agriculture and food
  • healthy ageing
  • engineering biology
  • industrial biotechnology
  • innovative tools and technologies underpinning biological research

What we will not fund

Applications based on medical or clinical devices and therapeutics being developed solely for a specific end-point clinical utility (including diagnostics) will not be accepted. For example, if an applicant is developing a technology specifically for diagnosing or treating a specific disease, they would not be eligible for BBSRC ICURe. However, if the applicant also aims to investigate other market opportunities for this technology outside of the health sector, for example for livestock, or if this technology can be pivoted and used as a platform technology then they would be eligible for BBSRC ICURe.

Applicants are strongly advised to contact us if they are unsure whether their application would fit the scope of the funding opportunity.

How to apply

The application form can be accessed from the links on the ICURe website.

How we will assess your application

All applications will go through a competitive selection process and the Entrepreneurial Lead and Associated Science Advisor will be required to participate in individual scheduled video interviews as part of that process.

Your application must have been agreed with your organisation prior to applying, including that you can commit to the programme fulltime.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

Luca Mannocchi


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