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Companies, especially SMEs, can face significant challenges to introduce their new and innovative products into the NHS. The complexity of public procurement, patient safety and a risk averse culture across multiple organisations can be daunting. The Innovation Nexus aims to provide a single source of resource that can help companies, particularly SMEs, understand the steps that need to be taken to support their business planning and engage with the NHS more easily, thus progressing the adoption of their innovation at pace and with fewer unanticipated obstacles.

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i4i Connect: funding for SMEs to accelerate medical technology development

Are you looking to climb onto the next ladder of success with your business?

The NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme is launching a new funding stream - i4i Connect - aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in need of a funding boost to reach their next stage in the development pathway.

Offering up to £150,000 over a 6-12 month period, i4i Connect will help SMEs get to the point of eligibility for a full i4i award or, down the line, follow on-funding. This will enable accelerated development of promising medical technologies, in line with recommendations from the Government’s Accelerated Access Review.

Martin Hunt, NIHR i4i Programme Director said:

“SMEs have told us that there is a gap in funding both in the early stage of development and for completed projects that do not have all the data to effectively access the follow-on funding marketplace. i4i Connect will support teams through either of these stages of development with a fast turnaround of funding - vital for SMEs needing to maintain momentum.

“The NIHR will provide a maximum of £150,000 short term funding for SMEs with innovative technologies in the pipeline. This new funding will help SMEs get to the next stage of investment, supporting accelerated development to ensure technologies benefit patients sooner.”

NIHR’s i4i Programme is a translational funding scheme that supports healthcare technologies, devices and interventions for patient benefit in areas of existing or emerging clinical need. The aim is to de-risk projects, making them attractive to follow-on funders and investors. i4i Connect is specifically tailored for SMEs at this later point of product development, as well as in the early stage to provide support on the pathway to full i4i funding, with an NHS or academic partner.

Ian Mawhinney, CEO at SME Rapid Rhythm Ltd said:

 "The funding and support we received from the i4i Programme was integral to the successful development of our Rapid Rhythm System - a diagnostic ECG for rapid diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation, a major cause of stroke.

“UK SME’s are a real source of innovation in healthcare. It's great to hear the NIHR are launching funding specifically to meet the needs of SMEs, and I think it will be very well received within the community.”

Richard Stubbs, CEO Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network said:

“Speeding up access to groundbreaking medical technology is a vital component of a transformed, sustainable NHS. SME innovators are developing the health technologies of our future, and funding such as the NIHR’s i4i Connect will support them by bridging the gap between early stage development and market readiness.”

i4i Connect launches in addition to the £86m funding commitment made this month by the UK Government for healthcare SMEs to develop new medicines and technologies for use in the NHS.

The i4i Connect funding call will launch 16 August, SMEs will have until 13 September to submit an expression of interest. Successful applicants will then be invited to submit a business case and video pitch. Full details of the programme, key dates and application process will be on the i4i webpage.