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Small Business Research Initiative announces new name


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The new name reflects that Contract for Innovation is able to offer fully funded research and development (R&D) contracts to innovative organisations of all sizes.

The programme was established in 2005 and is supported by Innovate UK. It aims to solve critical public sector challenges and drive economic growth in the UK by awarding 100% funded R&D contracts to innovative organisations.

The name change signals that organisations of all types and sizes are encouraged to apply for public sector R&D contracts through Contracts for Innovation programmes. This includes private-sector companies, research institutes, universities and third-sector organisations.

Funding competitions that meet public sector needs

Innovate UK works with public sector organisations to use procurement to open and manage funding competitions that address specific public sector challenges that currently do not have readily available market solutions.

Several major government departments and agencies have used Contracts for Innovation to procure cutting-edge new solutions.

Examples include:

  • Department of Energy and Net Zero
  • Department of Health and Social Security
  • Department for Transport
  • Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs
  • devolved administrations
  • NHS England
  • Defence and Security Accelerator
  • UK Space Agency
  • Atomic Energy Authority
  • Network Rail

Supporting economic growth through public sector procurement

Since 2008, Contracts for Innovation has facilitated UK businesses’ receiving over £1.8 billion of public sector R&D contracts.

There is no minimum or maximum size of award or contract duration, and organisations retain their intellectual property.

Contracts for Innovation is part of a public sector procurement culture shift towards creating a simpler and more flexible commercial system that better meets the UK’s needs.

The initiative opens up public procurement to more businesses and organisations, embeds transparency through the commercial lifecycle and reduces the high costs and risks of developing new products.

Continues to stimulate UK economic growth

Dr Ian Brotherston, Interim Deputy Director for Innovation Funding at Innovate UK, commented:

Contracts for Innovation will continue to stimulate UK economic growth by harnessing the power of government procurement to accelerate innovation, which solves currently unmet public sector needs.

We are working closely with the Cabinet Office and Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to make innovation central to public sector procurement.

If you are a public sector organisation struggling to find readily available market solutions to meet a specific challenge, contact Innovate UK to find out how Contracts for Innovation can meet your needs.

Offers a collaborative process

Joy Browning, Project Manager for the NHS Wales Pathology Challenge, commented:

Contracts for Innovation offers a collaborative process where solutions are co-created by industry, academia and the public sector.

In our experience, people often find it so refreshing when they understand the challenge model of procurement, as they can focus on understanding the issues rather than worrying about what a solution might look like.

Reviewing the applications is exciting because the proposed solutions are so unique – you never know what you’ll get.

Creating groundbreaking services and products

Dr Ian Brotherston, Interim Deputy Director for Innovation Funding at Innovate, UK, added:

Galen AI shows how we can support innovators to address the challenges facing the world today while improving the UK’s public services.

By developing innovation-led solutions, we can create groundbreaking services and products which collectively bring sustainable prosperity to economies, people, and the planet.

Further information

Case study: Ibex Medical Analytics

Ibex Medical Analytics is one of the many organisations transformed by Contracts for Innovation support. In April 2021, they responded to a public sector challenge to improve the turnaround time for the clinical review of prostate biopsies.

NHS Wales Pathology reviews over four million glass slides holding prostate tissue samples from 100,000 men in Wales each year. However, it is expected that the number of men biopsied will double by 2030, the tests performed are increasingly complex, and there is currently a shortage of Pathologists.

Ibex Medical Analytics proposed a robust, validated, clinically assured artificial intelligence (AI) technology solution to automatically analyse digital images of pathology samples and identify urgent cases for clinicians to review.

The Galen AI platform has led to a 13% increase in prostate cancer detection and is now undergoing further testing within six health boards. The ambition is to make this technology part of routine prostate cancer testing, support clinical teams, and assess if it can also be used to diagnose additional cancers.

Top image:  Credit: LaylaBird, E+ via Getty Images

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