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Funding Strategy

NIC Document

Summary


Selecting and obtaining funding to support your project can be complex, time consuming and challenging. This guide provides a broad view of funding bodies to allow you to start developing a funding strategy tailored to your own circumstances. In brief
  1. Funding overview
  2. Funding issues to consider
  3. Funding considerations and mistakes
  4. A question of strategy
  5. Case study

Introduction

At first sight it may seem that many funding routes lie open to your new technology or product. In practice, most new innovations only reach the market after navigating a number of these approaches. It is critically important to successfully engage with different funding vehicles at the right time. Many innovators spend a great deal of valuable time seeking funding, but fail because they have not understood the full context and motives of the funding provider.

Funding overview

Before considering the detail, is it important to take a step back and consider how and why a particular fund is in place. These are the main funding categories to consider:
  • Charitable funding (driven by the motives of the charity)
  • Research funding (supporting the research base and driving forward the scientific boundaries)
  • Innovation stimulus funding (encouraging enterprise to create wealth and jobs and addressing challenges of the day)
  • Combination research/innovation funds (combining the above two) and
  • Investment funding (individuals and institutions seeking a return on an investment). In general, the last three groups are the recommended categories of funds to target because they are motivated by directly supporting enterprise or innovative activities

Funding issues to consider

Use the following questions to consider which funds to shortlist for your situation and innovation:
  • Is it a grant, or an investment that must be paid back?
  • Public funding programmes are either open or have deadlines that must be recognised and planned for Some public funds have topics of focus – your ideas must fit within their vision Scale of the fund you are looking for Duration of the project
  • Do you have, or are you happy to work with, other partners?

If the fund requires:

  • Innovation – do you have it?
  • Business case – do you have one?
  • Technical solution – can you define it credibly?
  • Ensure you have a clear understanding of your partners and their motives
  • Clear and well defined relationship between commercial players
  • Keep your eye on service providers
  • Keep in mind that the majority of grant funding is partial funding, meeting anywhere between 10-100% of the project costs.
  • When a project is not fully funded, the funding body will look to understand where the remaining funding will be sourced.

Funding considerations and mistakes

  • You can apply a wide variety of funding processes when you’re starting a product development project. It is vitally important to understand that all of these different sources have:
  • Different remits in terms of the format of project they will support (e.g. high-end research, product development)
  • Different political issues and policies in terms of funding recipients
  • A multitude of subtle differences in how to obtain and execute the funds

Applicants frequently make a number of common mistakes with these funding applications:
  • They try to bend the requirements of funds to meet their circumstances – always ensure you can fit the fund requirements as closely as possible
  • It is all too easy to underestimate the effort required to obtain these funds – be prepared to put in the significant effort that is needed in these often highly competitive processes
  • Before starting on what can be a very time-consuming process with no guarantee of success, always take a harsh look at your idea/concept to ensure it has a genuine chance of success.
  • The input of impartial, experienced people, or professional support can be very helpful at this stage

Case study

A small to medium scale healthcare company is seeking to gain market share and create a new commercial opportunity in the orthopaedic implant sector. This innovative concept is centred on the use of highly detailed patient-specific biomechanical computational modelling of each patient’s musculoskeletal system. The aim is to provide a software tool to be used by surgeons either before or during surgery, to speed up implantation and reduce errors. Early research has shown that the technology works in principle. Further development is needed, but is beyond the company’s current resources and technical competence.

Comment:

  • The concept is still a number of years away from realisation, with a number of technical hurdles to overcome and as a result it is too early for investment funding
  • As a result, public funding is going to be targeted
  • The concept needs a number of competences to provide individual problem solutions (e.g. computation, biomechanics, mathematical) so the support could be one large project or a number of smaller projects
  • A provisional set of partners are available that can provide the technologies/skills needed. Due to the level of integration needed during development, it is decided that one larger-scale project is the best option for this concept.

Bespoke Plan

Review and investigate the larger scale funds which are supportive of advanced information technology and/or modelling in healthcare. These opportunities are likely to come from: The BIS TSB programme; and The EC FP7 thematic programme under the ICT thematic area.