This funding opportunity is to establish a number of large-scale, multidisciplinary research hubs, drawing on expertise across the engineering and physical sciences and health research community to build and develop strategic research capabilities of importance to one or more of the following health challenges:
- improving population health and prevention
- transforming prediction and early diagnosis
- discovering and accelerating the development of new interventions
These challenges are described in more detail in the new health technologies strategy.
The hubs will support partnerships across the wider research and health landscape, bringing together complementary expertise to co-deliver advancement in their strategic research area.
A strategic research capability is that which builds on UK research strengths in areas of computational, engineering, mathematical or physical sciences in order to maintain and advance research capacity for future health technologies. It is your responsibility to advocate for how the research and partnership activities will help build important new capabilities needed to meet one or more of the health technology challenges.
Funded hubs will be expected to undertake the following:
World leading research programme in a health technologies strategic research capability
The hub research programmes should focus on advancement and development of novel engineering and physical sciences research to advance the strategic research capabilities underpinning the future healthcare technologies portfolio. Hub applications should address at least one of the three health technologies challenges.
It is expected that the initial submission will contain a core leadership team, key collaborators and plans for the initial research programmes, which may evolve over time.
Public and patient involvement and engagement (PPIE) and partnership working
PPIE is a key cross cutting theme of the new EPSRC health technologies strategy. We expect all hubs to integrate PPIE at all stages of the research and innovation process.
To ensure we support high quality research where research outcomes can benefit users, industry and have maximum impact in the health sector, we are looking for clear evidence of genuine, substantiative partnerships with co-creation, co-delivery and embedded engagement with patients, people with lived experience and health professionals throughout all hub projects and activities.
Proposals will be required to provide a PPIE and partnership working plan as part of their submission.
As leaders in the community, hubs will be expected to develop a clear plan for translation and maximising impacts from the research outputs, products and technologies developed throughout their lifetime.
Hubs will have a strong vision and be leaders within the landscape, driving forward the research agenda in their area and connecting with other players in the community, including:
- health professionals
- other public investments
The hub is expected to deliver added value (be more than the sum of its parts) by demonstrating strong connectivity between all hub partners and where appropriate the wider UK community and offering additional facilities, training and development than that which is already provided by individual institutions.
Hub partnerships and impact should span all scales, building on the successes of previous similar investments to deliver impact in regional economies while also playing a national role in an international context. Hubs should bring together the right people and organisations from places across the UK, to tackle the challenges relevant to their chosen research area.
Hubs will provide supportive and inclusive environments with a strong ethos of skills development for hub members.
What is a hub?
A typical hub will include the following:
- a physical or virtual centre, comprising multiple institutions but based around a lead institution
- a hub director (academic) with a proven track record of managing large investments and excellence within their discipline or sector
- a wider leadership team from across relevant disciplines and sectors with a track record of excellence within their field
- a management team including a hub manager and administrative team as required to ensure efficient running of the hub
- a named lead for each of PPIE and partnership working and translation and impact
- research staff distributed across the project. Funding cannot be requested from these grants for PhD studentships or related funding. However, students funded from other sources can be incorporated into the broader project plan, provided that PhD students’ work is not part of the critical path of the hub’s research
- appropriate advisory and governance structures including an independent advisory board
It is expected that management of hubs will require more investigator time (whether for the principal investigator or distributed across the team) than standard UK Research and Innovation grants.
Funding opportunity objectives
The hubs will:
- deliver a programme of high quality, multidisciplinary research of importance to one or more of the challenges outlined in the EPSRC health technologies strategy
- create a critical mass of research capacity in a particular area, driving forward the national research agenda to actively build a wider research and innovation ecosystem
- act as UK leaders in the field on behalf of the wider research landscape. Hubs will be expected to engage with relevant research partners throughout their lifetime
- embed PPIE throughout the hub aims, objectives and operations, considering the context of each hub’s specific research area.
- engage with a diverse range of relevant partners to ensure research is co-created and co-delivered with users
- ensure a clear route to translation for research outcomes by developing a translation and impact action plan which considers the specific translation context and challenges within the hub’s research area and community
Due to the scale of these awards, significant collaboration and leverage (cash or in-kind) will be expected from project partners (for example, business, public sector, third sector).
The aim of this funding opportunity is to fund a portfolio of health research and partnership hubs that collectively will make a significant contribution to the the three high level challenges identified in the EPSRC strategy for health technologies.
Applications may cover more than one challenge area however you should indicate the primary challenge you wish to apply against. It is envisaged that not all hubs supported will be in a single research or geographic area and EPSRC will look to support a balanced portfolio from the highest quality proposals received.
Improving population health and prevention
This challenge focuses on the need for novel techniques that optimise health, eliminate and prevent disease. Prevention includes promoting wellbeing in a population, addressing the determinants of health as well as the causes of disease and enabling people to have a better quality of life.
Transforming prediction and early diagnosis
Addressing all aspects of health from physical, mental and environmental, this challenge focuses on the need for novel techniques that optimise patient-specific illness prediction, early and accurate diagnosis.
The aim includes reducing the incidence of disease, intervening before full symptoms develop, as well as reducing the impacts of multiple long-term illness and strengthening the ability to take exactly the right steps to combat disease at precisely the right time.
Scientific, mathematical, and other techniques, from biomarker identification, research into medical imaging and risk stratification to predictive modelling and real-time, evidence-based decision-making, will all play a role.
Discovering and accelerating the development of new interventions
This challenge focuses on the need to produce safer, more targeted treatments and interventions fit for the future. This challenge includes therapies, for example advanced therapies, as well as physical interventions such as provision of prostheses to surgery and radiotherapy, which is fundamental to tackling impairment by restoring function, repairing damage, and eliminating disease.
Developing novel treatments and therapies which could be personalised and designed for the setting in which they are being delivered for example, home, community or acute care is of key importance.
We will not fund
Proposals must lie primarily within the remit of EPSRC and be within the scope of this funding opportunity. Any proposals that EPSRC deems out of remit or out of scope may be rejected without reference to peer review.
While EPSRC does not fund clinical trials, that is, studies that involve large numbers of animals or patients, costs may be requested for proof of concept (PoC) studies where initial data from a small number of tests is being gathered to validate and inform the continual development of the technology developed as part of the project.
Read about PoC studies in healthcare.
The total EPSRC funding available for this funding opportunity will be £40 million with the possibility of additional funding from EPSRC depending upon the response. We expect to fund four hubs with a possibility of further support. Funding for each hub will be up to £10 million, awarded over six years.
Grants are expected to be awarded with an earliest start date of 1 September 2024. We will award 80% of the full economic cost of the project, and your organisation must agree to find the balance.
This funding opportunity is intended to be the first in a series of planned funding opportunities for health technologies hubs over the coming years.
Equipment costing £10,000 to £400,000 in value inclusive of value added tax (VAT) is available through this funding opportunity. Smaller items of equipment (individually under £10,000) should be in the ‘Directly Incurred – Other Costs’ heading.
EPSRC approach to equipment funding.
You are expected to work within the EPSRC framework for responsible innovation.
Applicants planning to include international collaborators on their proposal should visit Trusted Research for guidance on getting the most out of international collaboration while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information