Coronavirus: Funding For Innovators Fighting the Pandemic
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COVID-19: Funding For Innovators Fighting the Pandemic

Governments, trusts and private companies are all launching funding schemes to tackle the Coronavirus. Here’s the full list of what’s available to businesses, and how to apply.

Updated: 28 May 2020

The UK government and the EU are moving quickly to fight the Coronavirus. They are launching new grants, competitions and funding schemes to encourage companies to join the fight. 

Here are the initiatives that have been launched so far. These will run alongside existing and lucrative schemes like R&D Tax Credits, Innovation Grants and Patent Box. 

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Funding Opportunities



Business-Led Innovation in Response to Global Disruption (Innovate UK)

Area: Various

Deadline: CLOSED

Innovate UK has established a £20 million grant competition to help companies “focus on emerging or increasing needs of society and industries” during and after the pandemic.

This competition will fast-track innovations that could save jobs, maintain the competitiveness of British industry, and prevent further economic turmoil. Companies can claim 100% of their project costs, up to £50,000.

Who can apply?

The scheme is open to businesses whose projects demonstrate “both realistic and significant benefits for society or an industry that has been severely impacted and/or permanently disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The applicant project must have eligible costs between £25,000 and £50,000, be able to start by 1st June at the latest and last for no longer than six months.

This grant is de minimis state aid, meaning there are restrictions on how much funding this project may have already received. Full details on this, and all other criteria, are available here.

How do I apply?

You can start the application process at the link below.

There are three stages to the process – project details, application questions, and finances. A complete breakdown of what will be asked and what’s expected in each section is available here. Innovate UK also suggests reading its guide to submitting an application before you begin.

Click this link to get your application started. 

Call for Code Global Challenge 

Area: Various

Deadline: July 31, 2020

The Call for Code challenge invites developers, analysts and data scientists to build solutions to mitigate the damage of climate change and COVID-19. Solutions must employ one or more of IBM’s Systems or Cloud Services to be eligible for the $200,000 grand prize. Second and third place prizes of $25,000 and $10,000 will also be awarded. 

Dubbed ‘the largest tech-for-good challenge of its kind’, the competition was established by David Clark Cause and Founding Partner IBM, in partnership with United Nations Human Rights and The Linux Foundation. 

Who can apply?

This competition is open to a range of teams, institutions, specialisms and solutions from around the world. There are two tracks to this competition – one for climate change, and one for COVID-19. Applications will be judged separately, but according to the same four criteria:

  • Completeness and transferability
  • Effectiveness and efficiency
  • Design and usability
  • Creativity and innovation

How do I apply?

Applicants should fill out the webform, here. Note, successful applications will be subject to a code review.  

Official Website

Call for Technology Partners (SCDIA)

Area: Digital Solutions 

Deadline: CLOSED

NHS Digital and the Local Government Association are offering match funding of up to £300,000 for digital projects designed to help local governments improve information sharing and support the most vulnerable in their communities.

Delivered through the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerator, or ‘SCDIA’, the funding is targeting digital approaches which support adult social care, and that can help deliver services effectively and safely.

Successful applicants will collaborate with councils in the design and discovery phase of their solution’s development.  

The call for ideas is open until April 24th. 

Who can apply?

This call is for technology suppliers who, with support from a local authority, could quickly deliver a new service to help the community during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The key judging criteria for applicants are:

  • Will this solution support remote access to public sector services and help in the current climate?
  • Is this a shared challenge – i.e. can you envisage 20 other councils facing the same issue?
  • Is it digital-led transformation?

Where can I apply?

The application is a relatively straightforward online questionnaire that takes 20-30 minutes to complete, according to SCDIA. You can find the questionnaire here

Official Website

Coronavirus Therapeutics (LifeArc) 

Area: Therapeutics

Deadline: CLOSED

Medical research charity LifeArc has launched a £10 million call for treatments and therapeutics that can be deployed rapidly against COVID-19. The scheme will fund the repurposing of drugs which are “generic, already licensed, or are in late-stage development for another indication”. 

With an effective vaccine up to two years away, LifeArc says there is a need for new treatments which could bring down the mortality rate of the disease. Grants will be awarded rapidly and cover the costs of trialling medicines. 

Who can apply?

LifeArc is accepting applications from academics, NHS employees and companies that have therapeutics “that could be repurposed or repositioned” to treat COVID-19. 

The scheme is designed to accelerate the availability of these treatments, so applications should be for “material that is ready for testing” which could be available within a year.

LifeArc has published a detailed set of criteria and preferences for applicants on its website

How do I apply?

Applicants must fill out a 12-part application and send it to

The deadline for applications is 6 April 2020. Decisions and awards will be announced the week of 27 April. 

Official Website 

COVID-19 Grants Programme (Pfizer)

Area: Medical Education and Process Improvement

Deadline: CLOSED

Pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer has launched a $5 million grant programme targeting innovation against the Coronavirus. The programme has two tracks: Track A is improving educational programmes for healthcare providers, and Track B is enhancing systems-of-care and medical institutions.

Pfizer is expecting individual grants to be worth between $20,000 and $250,000. The programme is open to organisations from around the world and will close on May 22, 2020.

Who can apply?

This scheme is looking for “healthcare providers and health systems managing patients with COVID-19”

How do I apply?

Organisations can apply at this microsite. Pfizer has issued the following instructions:

  • For the question “What type of request are you submitting?”
    select Response to a Request for Proposal (RFP)
  • For the question “Are you replying to a Request for Proposal as
    part of the Competitive Grant Program?” select Yes
  • Select the following Competitive Grant Program Name: 2020
    GMG G- COVID-19
  • Select the following Primary Area of Interest: Support for Health

A complete guide to applying is available here.

Official Website 

COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (Wellcome Trust)

Area: Therapeutics

Deadline: N/A

Working alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Wellcome Trust has launched The Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a new initiative funding therapies for COVID-19.

Having amassed $125 million in seed funding last month, the Accelerator will support the “research, development, assessment and manufacturing” of drugs which can fight this disease. Three grants of $20 million have already been awarded to institutions in the US and UK.

The Accelerator is offering funding and support to 3rd party researchers. However, it won’t be launching a traditional ‘funding call’. Instead, interested parties are being asked to contact to learn about the funding process.

Official Website

Expansion of Innovate UK

Area: Various

Deadline: N/A

The government is investing another £750 million in Innovate UK to support “the most R&D intensive small and medium-size firms”. £200 million will go to its existing customers on an opt-in basis. It is likely this money has already been allocated to the organisation but will be ‘accelerated’, meaning paid out sooner than planned. 

Innovate UK is making a further £550 million in grants and loans available to existing customers, while 1,200 firms that haven’t received support before will be granted £175,000. 

The first of these payments will be made in mid-May. 

Who can apply?

Most of this money is going to existing Innovate UK customers. It’s unclear how the money will reach them. The money may be made available for follow on funding for current projects coming to an end. Whatever the case, we assume Innovate UK will be getting in touch with eligible companies directly. We’ll update this blog once we know more. 

We also don’t know how the £175,000 will reach this new cohort of 1,200 businesses. There are a couple of options. Innovate UK might simply pick from companies that have applied before. Or it might increase the prize money for open competitions. There may also be new, rapid response competitions for short, lower-value projects such as the recent COVID19 focussed one. We’ll update this article once we know either way. 

How do I apply? 

We’re not sure at this time. There are a few possibilities, but we’ll update this blog once we know for sure. 

Headstart Funding for COVID-19 Solutions (EIT Health)

Area: Various

Deadline: CLOSED

EIT Health is offering up to €50,000 to support the development of innovative products and services in the healthcare space. This is part of EIT’s Headstart Programme; a funding accelerator with a focus on MedTech. 

EIT Health is looking to fund digital technologies with “the potential to enable the community and health systems to fill in the gap until COVID-19 vaccines are ready.” To qualify, solutions must have technology readiness level eight – or TRL-8 – meaning “a complete and qualified system”.

Who can apply?

Headstart is looking for startups and scaleups with a well-developed prototype that’s moving towards launch. Companies must be incorporated and have an estimated value of less than €1 million. 

EIT Health is targeting digital technologies in the following areas: 

  • AI-driven mHealth
  • Wearables, devices and sensors 
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Epidemiology
  • Hospital support
  • Mental health support

A full set of guidelines is available here

How do I apply?

Before applying you need to contact Rosemary Gallagher, the EIT Health Business Creation Manager for the UK and Ireland. Ms Gallagher will give you a letter confirming a relationship has been established between your company and EIT.

Once you have the letter, you need to apply through the EIT Health Optimy Registration platform. You’ll need to create an EIT Health e.V. user account if they don’t already have one. 

The deadline for applications is April 14. Evaluations will take between April and May, with selections announced between May and June. 

Helping the Department for Transport Gather Data (Innovate UK)

Area: Analytics

Deadline: N/A

Innovate UK is looking for companies that could help the Department for Transport gather data on social distancing in the UK. The announcement was made in a tweet by Karla Jakeman, Innovate UK’s connected transport innovation lead. 

Who can apply?

Information is sparse. All we know is that this opportunity is for any company who can help the Department for Transport with its objective. 

How do I apply?

If you think you’re eligible, you should send Karla Jakeman a message on Twitter. You can reach her on Twitter at @Karla_Jakeman.

Alternatively, you can contact Innovate UK at 

Innovating Against Isolation (TechForce 19)

Area: Digital Solutions

Deadline: CLOSED

NHSXthe NHS department driving digital transformation – has launched TechForce19. This is a competition aimed at innovators who can help the elderly, the vulnerable, and people in self-isolation during the pandemic. 

Winners will receive a cash grant of up to £25,000 to test their technology. Up to 20 winners will be selected overall, making a total prize pot of £500,000.

Who can apply?

NHSX is looking to fund digital solutions in three main areas: Remote Social Care, Optimising Staffing in Care and Volunteering Sectors, and Mental Health. 

A more specific list of eligible technologies is on the TechForce19 website

NHSX is looking for solutions that can launch in the next few weeks. Solutions for clinical problems, or that require integration with NHS systems, won’t be considered. 

How do I apply?

First, you will need to fill out a relatively straightforward questionnaire, which will check your eligibility against a set of ‘minimum application requirements’ and four technical criteria. The criteria are solution feasibility, company credibility, impact, and digital maturity. 

In the interest of speed, NHSX has set the bar pretty low for their requirements. You can find a full list of them here

Suppliers which meet the requirements will be invited for an online interview. If you pass the interview stage, you’ll undergo some due diligence, then move onto selection and contacting.  


After the testing period, NHSX and its partners will work out which technologies they will roll out to the public.  

Rapid Sanitising Technology (DASA)

Area: Disinfectants and sanitation

Deadline: N/A

The Defence and Security Accelerator, DASA, has launched an Open Call for technologies which can sanitize ambulances rapidly.

It currently takes up to 45 minutes to sanitize an ambulance. Far too long given the circumstances. DASA is looking for technologies that could dramatically reduce this time.

Who can apply?

DASA is looking for innovations that are ready for rapid deployment.

Solutions that are “mobile, allow ease of operation and maintenance, are robust and reliable” are particularly attractive, as are technologies that can be used on other service vehicles.  

DASA has published a range of other preferred criteria, which is available here

How do I apply?

You can apply via the website.

The first stage of your application is entirely online and has five steps:

  • Selecting the competition you’re applying for
  • Summarising your proposal 
  • Providing details of your innovation, including what you are going to do and how you are going to accomplish it
  • Giving details of the finance and delivery schedule of your technology
  • Reviewing your application 

Your submission then gets sent to an expert assessor who will decide whether to move forward.

DASA has revealed that candidate technologies will undergo a practical assessment at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) Porton Down, and will be tested in a live demonstration on an ambulance. 

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