Bridging the innovation funding gap: Maximising proof of concept success

Case Study

Bridging the innovation funding gap: Maximising proof of concept success

Date: June 1, 2022

This free good-practice guide for knowledge exchange and commercialisation professionals introduces a new, holistic approach to proof of concept schemes for any sector.

Use the interactive guide to proof of concept awards

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Proof of concept grants enable academic researchers – with input from industry and support from an in-house sector specialist – to demonstrate that their idea has economic potential and can lead to real user benefits.

In this guide, we explain how to source and select the most promising research projects for proof of concept funding and how to support those projects to ensure a maximum chance of success.
Proof of concept projects bridge the gap between academic grants and commercial funding. They can be used effectively to take a project through to Technology Readiness Level 5, so it is better positioned for industry investment or commercialisation.

Our extensive experience in translation has been developed through the Medical Technologies Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) established by the University of Leeds in 2009, and through Grow MedTech, a consortium of six universities set up in 2018.

Through these programmes, and working with our industry partners, we’ve progressed over 250 projects (proof of concept or technology development and demonstration), of which 84 have been taken beyond Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4 – with over 50 products or services reaching the market.

While our approach was developed for the commercialisation of medical technologies, it is relevant to other sectors too. It centred around a strong network of stakeholders, including industry and clinicians; a team of experienced sector-specific innovation managers; and a process and infrastructure that supports and enables academics to take their research forward to commercial application.

How this guide can help you

The job of a knowledge exchange and commercialisation practitioner is never straightforward. With limited time and resources, you’re expected to help identify the most promising projects for translation from a portfolio of potential opportunities. These are likely to span a number of research disciplines and sectors, each with their own translational and regulatory challenges. The academics you work with are often heavily invested in their ideas and technologies and excited about their potential applications and impact. But in reality, you know only a fraction of those ideas will be successfully progressed and adopted by industry.

Our Fail fast or prove it early guide to proof of market funding, published by Grow MedTech, explains how to test the viability of projects at a very early stage. Our Ten steps to building an effective consortium guide shows how to build a strong team with the necessary skills and expertise to take an idea forward.

After progressing through those early stages, technologies inevitably reach a point where academic funding is no longer available, but they are still not ready for innovation funding or industry investment. Proof of concept grants can help to bridge that gap. Their purpose is to advance a technology through to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5 and above to make it ready for commercial investment and commercialisation. For that reason, they are usually more substantial awards, often up to £100k and last for one to two years.

This guide provides practical advice to help you source and select the best technologies for proof of concept funding. It will help you to support and develop projects to maximise their chance of success and follow-on funding.

Five steps to maximise value from your proof of concept scheme


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