Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: BBSRC-NC3Rs Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) Explore

Apply for funding to ‘get out of the lab’ and validate commercially promising bioscience-based ideas, research, science and technologies.

BBSRC ICURe Explore funds, trains and supports research teams from:

  • UK universities
  • BBSRC-funded institutes
  • approved public sector research enterprises

This cohort is a collaboration between BBSRC and NC3Rs.

In this round, the programme will support market exploration for emerging technologies, products and services that offer the realistic possibility of replacing the use of specific in vivo models or refining animal studies in line with the NC3Rs mission that align with BBSRC’s standard ICURe scope (see the scope section).

Who can apply

BBSRC-NC3Rs ICURe Explore is open to bioscience teams in all UK universities, BBSRC-funded institutes and approved public sector research enterprises.

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, UK Research and Innovation or NC3Rs grants.

We will specifically support market exploration for emerging technologies, products and services that offer the realistic possibility of replacing the use of specific in vivo models or refining animal studies in line with the NC3Rs mission that align with BBSRC’s standard ICURe scope (see the scope section).


ICURe Explore teams must be composed of four individuals:

Entrepreneurial lead

Any research or technical research staff member who receives their salary or stipend from an eligible university, public sector research enterprises or institute.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • PhD students
  • technicians
  • postdoctoral research associates
  • fellowship and group leader positions

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.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

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.

What we're looking for

How does it work?

The BBSRC ICURe Explore programme 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.

What does it include?

The programme includes:

  • 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 bioscience research to market, including weekly one hour coaching clinics
  • access and proactive connections to our network of bioscience 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. You will learn how to talk about your bioscience 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 bioscience research to potential customers and investors
  • the opportunity to pitch to an experienced panel of bioscience investors, funders, mentors 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 UK Research and Innovation (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, North by North West Partners and The Helix Way


This BBSRC-NC3Rs ICURe Explore funding opportunity will specifically support market exploration for innovators of emerging technologies, products and services that offer the realistic possibility of replacing the use of specific in vivo models or refining animal studies in line with the NC3Rs mission.

Only technologies and tools that have been developed with previous BBSRC, UKRI or NC3Rs research grants will be eligible to apply for this funding opportunity. Please note, NC3Rs CRACK IT awards are not eligible.

The technology, product or service must fall within BBSRC’s remit.

We welcome applications from across the biosciences, including:

  • agriculture
  • food and nutrition
  • ageing
  • veterinary science
  • engineering biology
  • industrial biotechnology
  • innovative tools and technologies underpinning biological research

Innovations may include:

  • new models, tools and technologies in line with 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animals in research) principles that accurately reflect human or animal physiology across the life-course, enabling the advancement of discovery and translational health research
  • new tools that would improve the use of research models and their predictive power
  • new innovations that enable improved animal welfare during a research animal’s lifetime

Previous examples of research areas co-funded by BBSRC and NC3Rs for the development of non-animal technologies include:

  • the mechanistic understanding of ageing across the life-course
  • the development and testing of novel veterinary vaccines
  • a more accurate study of microbial diversity and functions of the microbiota on both specific organs and whole systems
  • the study of complex neurological pathways and systems across the life-course
  • the development of novel alternative approaches for the study of bovine tuberculosis

The examples above are provided to orientate applicants to understand the scope of this funding opportunity.

Watch this webinar on Vimeo about how to strengthen your 3Rs case to find more guidance on how to write about the 3Rs.

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) fall outside BBSRC’s remit and are not eligible for this funding opportunity. This includes applications focused on non-animal technologies for use primarily as a disease-focused model, or for human toxicological and safety assessment purposes; and those developing a technology for diagnosing or treating a specific disease.

However, if the applicants aim to investigate other market opportunities for these technologies or if this technology can be pivoted and used as a platform technology for discovery research then they would be eligible. We suggest you expand on these possibilities and approaches within the application form to provide a clear understanding of which bioscience challenge you are addressing.

We strongly advise you to contact us if you are unsure whether your application would fit the scope of the funding opportunity. Please refer to the details in the Contact section.

How to apply

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

Please note, confidential information should not be submitted in the application.

How we will assess your application

All applications will go through a competitive selection process. 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


Additional info

Additional note on the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animals in research)

Some research and innovation (R&I) continue to rely on the use of animals as models and as subjects. Public funds must be invested in high quality R&I that meets the ethical and welfare expectations of the UK public.

BBSRC supports, develops and disseminates the 3Rs principles, which provides an ethical framework for performing more humane animal research. BBSRC expects all its funded researchers to understand, promote and integrate the principles of the 3Rs. This builds on BBSRC’s established policy on the use of animals in bioscience research and expectations that BBSRC-funded research should be reported using the NC3Rs ARRIVE guidelines. BBSRC works with NC3Rs and other UK Research and Innovation councils to support research and the development and implementation of policies surrounding the use of animals in research.

The NC3Rs is the UK’s national organisation established in 2004 to provide scientific leadership on the development and implementation of 3Rs approaches. Although established as a national organisation much of NC3Rs’ work is international and delivered through collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders from academia, industry, research funders and regulatory bodies. NC3Rs’ mission is delivered primarily through research and innovation funding that enables the development, validation and application of new technologies and approaches that reduce the use of animals or improve their welfare where they are still required. The latter is referred to as refinement and it applies not only to the scientific procedures that are conducted on animals but also how they are bred, transported, housed and cared for.

Find more information about how NC3Rs delivers its mission.

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.