Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Expression of interest: digital health hub pilot scheme

Start application

The expression of interest closing date has changed to 28 June at 16:00, to allow applicants more time to discuss applications with their collaborators.

EPSRC will be holding an information webinar about this funding opportunity on 31 May between 10:00 and 12:00. This will be an opportunity to ask questions. The webinar will be recorded for those unable to attend. Please register to attend the webinar (SmartSurvey). Registration closes on 12 May at 16:00.

Apply for funding to create a digital health hub.

Hubs should promote knowledge and skills sharing across healthcare, academia and business, and drive innovation in digital health.

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply.

Your project must be a collaboration between academia, the healthcare sector and business.

Up to £8 million in total is available for projects lasting up to three years. Your hub’s full economic cost can be up to £4 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

Standard EPSRC eligibility rules apply. Research grants are open to:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments
  • NHS bodies with research capacity.

Check if you are eligible.

You can apply if you are a UK resident and are either:

  • employed at the submitting research organisation at lecturer level or equivalent
  • on a fixed-term contract that extends beyond the duration of the proposed project, and the host research organisation is prepared to give you all the support normal for a permanent employee
  • an EPSRC, Royal Society or Royal Academy of Engineering fellowship aimed at later career stages
  • on a fellowship under other schemes and have contacted EPSRC to check eligibility, which is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Holders of postdoctoral level fellowships are not eligible to apply for an EPSRC grant.

If you are currently restricted under the repeatedly unsuccessful applicants policy, you will only be able to submit one full proposal as either a principal investigator or co-investigator during the 12-month restricted period.

This funding opportunity is also subject to the EPSRC policy on repeatedly unsuccessful submissions.

To help us manage demand, you can submit only one proposal as principal investigator.

What we're looking for

We’re inviting applications for funding for a digital health hub, focused on promoting the transfer and sharing of knowledge and skills, enabling new partnerships to form, and creating a space for new research ideas and digital technologies to be developed.

We have been working with Innovate UK to identify the digital health skills requirements for academics and business. This is a pilot opportunity for proposals to create a digital health hub to address these requirements.

Funding is available to support hubs for up to three years in this first phase. There will be an evaluation stage halfway through the programme to review options for progressing successful hubs to a second phase.

We plan to continue working with Innovate UK to build on this initiative which could include links to future Innovate UK funding opportunities.

We’re looking to provide funding for a knowledge and skills digital health hub, focused on:

  • increasing skills and capacity in the development of digital health and care solutions across academic disciplines, healthcare and industry
  • allowing co-creation of solutions with users across healthcare, such as patients, carers and clinicians
  • enabling the accelerated translation of digital technologies into the healthcare space and rapid commercialisation of emerging digital technologies
  • building new partnerships between industry, healthcare, social care, users of digital technologies and academia
  • increasing the sharing of knowledge between industry, healthcare and academia
  • providing a mechanism for fostering leadership in digital health and care.

We are committed to investing in a diverse and connected portfolio of projects and welcome applications that support regional and national research and innovation agendas.

We expect any EPSRC-UKRI funding to leverage appropriate expertise and co-investment from industrial partners as well as other project partners.

Industrial engagement

Industrial engagement will be an important component of the hub. It will:

  • allow companies to co-create research programmes and mitigate some of the risk of undertaking fundamental and early-stage research that could give a company an advantage in the future
  • enable access to skilled academics and health professionals to enable faster development of better digital tools for health.

User engagement

We want to make sure that the research we support through our healthcare technologies theme has the greatest chance of achieving a positive impact in human health. Early end user engagement is particularly important to the successful design of research which will have long term impact.

In your proposal, you should demonstrate that your application is being co-created with relevant stakeholders. This may include:

  • service users
  • industry
  • clinicians
  • policy makers
  • practitioners, including allied healthcare workers.

We expect hubs to incorporate a range of different expertise that will enable any digital technologies developed to consider issues around responsible, trustworthy and equitable digital technologies.

What we expect from a hub

Entrepreneurial environment

The hub should create an entrepreneurial environment in which researchers, health and care professionals and businesses can:

  • network
  • build partnerships
  • share knowledge and ideas to scope applications, business models and routes to market for new digital health technologies.

Enable skills and knowledge sharing

The hub will need to provide a mechanism for building and sharing knowledge and skills between businesses (small and medium-sized enterprises and larger) across academic disciplines, and with the health and care system. This could be through:

  • vocational training
  • continuing professional development courses
  • secondments
  • workshops
  • seminars.

The types of skills and knowledge we have identified through community consultation as being important are:

  • understanding of the whole regulatory pathway
  • understanding the medical and care environment and working with healthcare professionals
  • identifying user needs and working with users
  • data security, ethics and data privacy
  • data collection, access and integration
  • industrial relationships
  • understanding of NHS infrastructure and systems
  • evidence of efficacy and procurement
  • user design
  • technical software development and data science skills.

Hubs should consider collaborations with other training programmes and centres available in the UK which promote knowledge and skills sharing in digital health and provide a mechanism to join up with these.

A list of other centres of excellence and training courses can be found in the digital health skills survey report in the ‘additional information’ section.

Digital health innovation strategy

You will need to provide a clear strategy for technology-based, market-led innovation in digital health where there is clear evidence of a strong business and user need, across primary care, prevention and self-management.

For tips on successful innovation, take a look at our impact and translation toolkit. It provides an overview of some of the barriers you may face when applying your research to solve challenges in human health and wellbeing.

Hubs are expected to establish and exploit strong connections with patients and the public to ensure that research and solutions are:

  • easier for the public, and health and care professionals to use
  • developed with an understanding of unmet needs and health inequalities
  • fit for an inclusive, prosperous and sustainable society.

Early stage research focus

There should be a focus on pre-competitive research. Research at the hub should be mainly novel research in information and communications technology (ICT), mathematical sciences and engineering to develop innovative digital technologies for health.

Hubs can include costs for funding pilot research studies. These should be interdisciplinary projects formed from the collaborations made at the digital health hub.

The pilot studies will enable collaborations formed through the digital health hub to work together and create new digital technologies for health and care.

Addressing unmet health needs

There must be a focus on the research and development of digital health solutions that address unmet health needs. This may include communicable or chronic diseases, or promoting wellness through prevention to benefit public health.

Your application should be in line with one of the grand challenges of our healthcare technologies theme, which are:

  • ‘Developing New Therapies’ which focuses on the need to produce safer, more targeted treatments fit for the demands of the decades up to 2050 and beyond
  • ‘Expanding the Frontiers of Physical Intervention’, providing the potential to enhance established techniques and develop pioneering new approaches to interventions, delivering high precision, minimal invasiveness and maximum impact
  • ‘Transforming Health and Care Beyond the Hospital’, meeting the need for novel technologies that enable timely interventions beyond hospital settings and helping people to manage their own physical and mental health
  • ‘Optimising Disease Prediction, Diagnosis and Intervention’, addressing both physical and mental health with techniques that optimise patient-specific illness prediction, accurate diagnosis and effective intervention.

Funding available

There is up to £8 million available through this funding opportunity to support multiple projects expected to last up to three years in duration. Your hub’s full economic cost can be up to £4 million. EPSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

We anticipate that proposals for hubs may be small or large scale depending on the need and costs involved.

Equipment over £10,000 in value inclusive of value added tax (VAT) is not available through this opportunity. Smaller items of equipment with individual costs under £10,000 should be listed in the ‘directly incurred, other costs’ heading in the Je-S application form.

EPSRC guidance for equipment funding.

Responsible innovation

EPSRC is fully committed to developing and promoting responsible innovation. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also:

  • unintended consequences
  • questions
  • ethical dilemmas
  • unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor. We encourage our research community to do likewise.

You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation given on the EPSRC website.

Read the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.

If you are planning to include international collaborators on your proposal, you should use the Trusted Research guidance.

This provides information and advice on how to get the most out of international collaboration whilst protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information.

Read the Trusted Research guidance for more information about secure international research collaboration.

How to apply

Expression of interest

To apply, you will need to submit both an ‘expression of interest’ and a full proposal.

The ‘expression of interest’ form must be submitted by 16:00 on 28 June 2022.

The full proposal must be submitted by 16:00 on 11 August 2022.

You should prepare and submit your expression of interest using the short web form on the research councils’ SmartSurvey system.

EPSRC will acknowledge receipt of your expression of interest. Expression of interest responses will be used to give us an indication of the level of interest and enable us to identify reviewers and panel members more efficiently.

The information provided through this process is not intended to unduly constrain the content of the proposal, nor will it inform how proposals are decided.

Full proposal submission

Although proposals may be multi-institutional, only one application form should be submitted for each bid. Joint proposals on separate Je-S forms will not be accepted.

You should ensure you are aware of and comply with any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place. You need to allow sufficient time for creation of a Je-S account if needed and for the proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route well in advance of the deadline.

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When applying, select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: EPSRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: standard
  • call/type/mode: pilot EPSRC digital health hubs.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

After completing the application, you must ‘submit document’, which will send your application to your host organisation’s administration.

Your host organisation’s administration is required to complete the submission process. You should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process between submitting your proposal to them and the funding opportunity closing date.

EPSRC must receive your full proposal application by 16:00 on 11 August 2022.

As well as the Je-S application form, you must also submit:

  • a case for support (eight pages: two about your track record and six about the scientific case, addressing what we are looking for in a hub)
  • a work plan (of no more than one page)
  • a justification of resources (of up to two pages)
  • CVs (of no more than two A4 sides each) for:
    • named postdoctoral staff
    • researcher co-investigators (namely research assistants who have made a substantial contribution to the proposal and will be employed on the project for a significant amount of time)
    • visiting researchers
  • letters of support from all project partners included in the Je-S form (there’s no page limit, but they must be on headed paper, signed and dated within six months of the proposal submission date).

You can also submit a cover letter. This is optional and there is no page limit. It is not seen by peer review and should be used to highlight any important information to EPSRC such as reviewer conflicts.

You should attach your documents as PDFs to avoid errors. They should be completed in single-spaced Arial 11 font or a similar-sized sans serif typeface.

Please ensure you adhere to the above attachment requirements when submitting your proposal.

Any illegible, missing, over length or unnecessary attachments may result in your proposal being rejected.

For more information, read our advice on writing EPSRC proposals.

Ethical information

We will not fund a project if we believe that there are ethical concerns that have been overlooked or not appropriately accounted for. All relevant parts of the ethical information section must be completed.

You can find out more by reading the guidance on providing ethical information.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Expression of interest responses will be used to give us an indication of the level of interest and enable us to identify reviewers and panel members more efficiently.

Full applications will initially be assessed by postal peer review. Applications will then progress to a prioritisation panel. Successful applicants will then be invited to interview.

The submitted full proposals will be assessed through postal peer review. Reviewers will be assessing applications against the full proposal assessment criteria detailed below.

Applications that receive sufficient support from reviewers will be taken to a prioritisation panel. The panel will assess proposals against the full proposal assessment criteria to produce a rank ordered list. A selection of the top proposals will then be invited to attend an interview panel.

It is anticipated that:

  • the prioritisation panel will take place in December 2022
  • decisions will be made after an interview panel in March 2023.

In the event of this funding opportunity being substantially oversubscribed as to be unmanageable, EPSRC reserves the right to modify the assessment process.

The balance of content in the proposal must be within the remit of EPSRC, although we welcome engagement across the disciplinary and innovation remit of UKRI.

You can find out more by reading about the EPSRC remit.

Assessment criteria

Vision and excellence of the centre (primary criterion)

Proposals will be assessed based on:

  • the demonstrated added value of the hub, including:
    • how the hub will promote early commercialisation and realisation of the digital health technology potential
    • evidence of market demand and potential
    • the approach to optimising technology development and commercialisation, exploiting research excellence
  • relevance to the UK research base and potential to provide the UK with unique capability
  • novelty, relationship to context, timeliness, and relevance to identified stakeholders
  • ambition, adventure and transformative aspects or potential outcomes
  • suitability of proposed methodology and appropriateness of the approach to achieving impact.

Fit to this specific funding opportunity (secondary criterion)

This part of the assessment is based on the alignment of the research programme to the aims and objectives of the funding opportunity. We are looking for:

  • the demonstration of appropriate mechanisms to build skills and knowledge in digital health including:
    • appropriate mechanisms for training and upskilling, for example through vocational training
    • evidence of training and knowledge sharing mechanisms addressing unmet skills needs that are not currently being addressed elsewhere in the UK.

Importance (secondary criterion)

This must include:

  • evidence of how the proposed hub contributes to:
    • maintaining health of other research disciplines
    • addressing key UK societal challenges
    • current or future UK economic success or enabling future development of a key emerging industry or industries
  • how the hub meets national strategic needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world leading research activity
  • how the work of the hub complements other UK research funded in digital health and care, including any relationship to the EPSRC portfolio
  • the hub’s ability to address an unmet health need.

Applicant and partnerships (secondary criterion)

This must include evidence of the ability to deliver the proposed project based on the:

  • appropriateness of the track record of the applicants
  • balance of skills of the project team, including collaborators
  • team’s ability to create a shared environment to enhance collaboration, leading to the creation of critical mass
  • team’s ability to establish and exploit strong connections with all relevant stakeholders including patients and the public
  • team’s ability to build new partnerships between academic disciplines, businesses, and healthcare professionals.

Resources and management (secondary criterion)

This must include:

  • the effectiveness of the proposed planning and management
  • the appropriateness and justification of the requested resources including:
    • any equipment requested
    • the viability of the arrangements described to access equipment needed for this project, and particularly on any university or third-party contribution
    • any requested activities to either increase impact for public engagement or to support responsible innovation.

Interview-specific criteria

Applicants invited to interview will be assessed using additional criteria.

Vision and leadership

The panel will consider how well the applicant demonstrates an ambitious vision and ability to provide effective leadership of the hub.

Facilities and environment

The level of access to facilities and equipment to meet the needs of the hub’s vision will also be assessed.

Feedback

Feedback will be provided in the form of reviewer comments, plus information on the panel provided on Grants on the Web.

Reviewer information

Nominating reviewers

As part of the application process, you will be invited to nominate up to three potential reviewers who you feel have the expertise to assess your proposal.

Please ensure that any nominations meet the EPSRC policy on conflicts of interest.

For more information about the reviewer selection process, please see the ‘related content’ links.

Guidance for reviewers

When completing your assessment, please make sure you complete the section marked ‘call-specific criteria’ to address the ‘fit to call’ criterion.

Read information about the EPSRC peer review process and guidance for reviewers.

Read EPSRC guidance on reviewing standard grants.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this opportunity

Katherine Freeman, EPSRC Senior Portfolio Manager

Email: healthcare@epsrc.ukri.org

Include ‘Digital health hub funding opportunity’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Digital health hubs background

Digital health research and innovation comprises the challenge-led and user-led design, development and evaluation of novel digital solutions for wellness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The digital health research and innovation environment is rapidly growing and the UK government has invested in several digital health initiatives. Digital approaches have been prominent in several health and health innovation strategies.

Digital health and care is a strategic priority for EPSRC, and we have identified a need to build knowledge and skills in this area.

The digital health hubs initiative is aligned with emerging priorities in EPSRC’s draft delivery plan, especially ‘transforming health and healthcare’, and ‘artificial intelligence, digitalisation and data: driving value and security’. It is also aligned to the UK’s wider digitalisation agenda.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 179KB)

Expression of interest SmartSurvey application

Survey results (PDF, 398KB)

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