Introduction to Grant Funding for Digital Health Startups

On Monday 3rd of July Health Foundry welcomed Tom Kennard and Alex Chalkley, directors of Granted Consultancy who ran an informative workshop and series of 1-2-1 surgeries for our members on how to access grant funding as digital health startups. Granted Consultancy have expertise in securing funding for R&D and business growth achieved through an in depth knowledge of the grant funding sector and a proven approach that has led to over £25m of funding secured for clients in five years.  

Tom and Alex shared their top tips on how to write a successful grant application (as well as what grants are currently available for digital health) so here we go!

The Idea

The starting point for any grant application is a clear statement of the idea (concept), the problem you are trying to solve, and your solution. Tom suggested that you try and distil this into one clear paragraph so that grant makers can get a picture of the concept straightaway. Be clear about where your company fits into the healthcare system. Where possible use quantifiable data ( 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from poor mental health), rather than broad statements, and reference any sources of data where possible.

Competition and Novelty

The second step Alex proposed is to explain the novelty of the product and its competition. Here you will articulate the features of your product but also its benefits and any competitive advantage you have. A useful diagram to include is a competitive analysis quadrant where you assess the competition against two important metrics eg time and money. Alex also suggested working out the cost-benefit of your solution to illustrate its Return on Investment (ROI) either from the perspective of time savings or cash savings to the healthcare system.

Current Stage of Development and IP

Tom and Alex then spoke about the need to determine your current stage of development and IP. This can be measured in relation to the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) on a 1 to 9 scale with 9 being the most mature technology. It's beneficial for the grant maker to understand where the business relates to the TRL and is good practice to show how it's going to develop - "I am currently at TRL 1 and will be at TRL3 by the end of the grant period". A handy tool for figuring out what TRL your innovation is at is Pathway to Innovation - a free tool that helps you identify where you are in your 'innovation journey', and what further work is required to move your innovation forward (and who might be able to give you support or funding).


Having a comprehensive knowledge of the market for your solution is the next step in the process. Tom and Alex suggested looking at both the market as a whole eg the total market for x is y, but also extrapolating the addressable market that you realistically are going after (subset of y). Don't just say that you will capture x% of the market - be able to justify your calculations with data and research.


Next your grant application should look at the impact that your solution will have. Tom and Alex explained that companies can articulate this in two ways: firstly, the impact that the grant will have on the company, and secondly, the wider societal, economic and potentially environmental impact that your technology will have. 

Need / Challenge

Tom and Alex suggest the next phase is to think about the business need and the technology challenge that your users or clients are facing and again clearly articulate how your solution addresses these. A handy tip was to quote from policy documents like the Five Year Forward View or the Accelerated Access Review. Also look at your proposal through the lens of the funder themselves: what are their priorities and needs? How does your solution solve them?

Project Plan / Commercialisation 

The last stage in the process was having a clear project plan with a view to making your solution commercially viable. The plan should demonstrate research and technology developments and give clear deliverable and measurable milestones that the funder can measure your progress against. A simple GANTT chart can be a useful way of demonstrating your route to market. Don't forget to address any deficiencies in your team at this stage - Tom and Alex suggested gathering a core group of advisors that you can name check in your application that will help you hire for the skills you need to deliver your plan.

Current Funding Opportunities

Lastly, Tom and Alex concluded by suggesting some current funding opportunities that digital health startups can access now.

SBRI Healthcare  is a bi-annual funding competition (organised around specific ‘themes’. It's a two-stage competition with a 3 month decision turnaround. Phase 1 funding is up to £100k to undertake a 6 months feasibility study and Phase 2 offers up to £1m for 12-18 months development. The next round will be launched end of July with a likely deadline in September 2017 and the focus will be screening, accelerated diagnosis and management of cancer. 

Innovate UK has up to £15 million for game-changing, cutting-edge or disruptive innovation projects that leads to new products, processes or services. Projects can fit in with any of Innovate UK’s priority sectors which includes health and life sciences. Deadline for registration is 9 August 2017 and total project costs can range between £25,000 and £1 million. Projects can last between 6 and 36 months.

Eurostars supports international innovative projects led by R&D-performing SMEs in Europe. Eurostars is a joint programme between EUREKA and the European Commission and the programme is open until 2020.

With The SME Instrument SMEs that are EU-based or established in a country associated to Horizon 2020 can now get EU funding and support for innovation projects that will help them grow and expand their activities into other countries – in Europe and beyond.

The NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) fund health and care research and translate discoveries into practical products, treatments, devices and procedures. They have a number of relevant funding programmes including i4i which funds collaborative R&D projects in medtech SMEs, universities and the NHS for increased patient benefit in areas of existing or emerging clinical need.

Wellcome Trust funds projects in biomedical science, population health and product development and applied research.

Lastly Tom and Alex reminded us that digital health startups who have been around for a while and who have spent significant amounts on R&D should be claiming R&D Tax credits.

You can find out more about Grant Consultancy and the services they offer here. Thanks again to Tom and Alex for sharing their knowledge and time!