NHS Cancer Programme: Innovation Open Call 3

NHS England has launched a new round of its funding competition for innovation in the early detection and diagnosis of cancer.

Opportunity Details


Registration Opens


Registration Closes



Projects will be 100% funded up to the total value of £4M (excluding VAT) over a maximum of 24 months.



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Based on the Rapid Cancer Registration Dataset, the proportion of cancers diagnosed at an early stage has started to improve for the first time in a decade. However, there is recognition that this improvement needs to accelerate. The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) set ambitions for cancer; that by 2028, 75% of people will be diagnosed earlier, at stage one or two, and an extra 55,000 people will survive cancer for five years or more.

Applications are invited for innovations or new approaches that will detect cancers earlier and increase the proportion diagnosed at stage one or two. The competition aims to fast-track high quality, proven, late-stage innovations into front-line settings, as well as address implementation evidence gaps.

The competition is open to all types of innovation, including but not limited to, medical devices, in vitro diagnostics, digital health solutions, behavioural interventions, software, artificial intelligence, and new models of care.

The NHS is committed to tackling health inequalities. Applications for projects that tackle health inequalities in the early diagnosis of cancer are welcomed. All applicants are required to consider the impact of their innovation on health inequalities and to develop appropriate mitigations.

Innovations will be 100% funded up to the total value of £4M (excluding VAT) over a maximum of 24 months.

The competition is led by the NHS Cancer Programme with support from SBRI Healthcare and the Accelerated Access Collaborative. The support of Cancer Alliances plays a key role in enabling spread and adoption.

  • The NHS Cancer Programme Innovation Open Call is open to single organisations from across the globe
    that have a demonstratable partnership with an NHS organisation. Additional engagement with Cancer
    Alliances and/or Health Innovation Networks is encouraged.

    The competition is open to single organisations (contracts are executed with individual legal entities) based in the UK or EU from the private, public and third sectors, including companies (large corporates and small and medium enterprises), charities, universities and NHS Foundation Trusts, as long as a strong implementation and commercial strategy is provided.

    Organisations based outside the UK or EU with innovations in remit for this call can apply as subcontractors of a lead UK/EU based organisation or via a UK or EU subsidiary. However, due to the nature of the projects supported, all proposals are expected to have partnerships in place with at least one NHS organisation, if they are not already led by one, and engage with appropriate suppliers to cover the expertise required for the successful delivery of the project.

  • The competition is open to any mature innovation with proven safety and efficacy that is ready for realworld testing and roll out and that meets the following requirements:

    • CE mark or equivalent regulatory approval obtained (if required for your innovation), and / or
    • In use in at least 1 NHS provider in standard routine care (non-research)

    All successful applicants are required to commission and deliver a comprehensive independent (service) evaluation to demonstrate the impact of the innovation in a real-world setting through cost-effectiveness and health outcomes. The evaluation should also consider the barriers and enablers to implementation, as well as resources required for large-scale commissioning. Further guidance on the evaluation requirements be available on the competition webpage from w/c 5 February 2024.

    At the end of the project, the innovation should be embedded into practice in a number of NHS locations, there should be a high-quality independent evaluation report, and a well-defined plan for further work and/or scale-up, as appropriate.

  • The following innovations will be excluded from this round of the NHS Cancer Programme Innovation Open Call:

    • Innovations that are in the ideation/creation phase and have not yet sought regulatory approval and do not have an evidence base. Types of regulatory approval include CE marking, DTAC (Digital Technology Assessment Criteria) and UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed). National guidance on regulatory approvals can be found here.
    • Treatments, including small molecules therapeutics, drugs, vaccines and gene therapies.
    • Workforce training solutions.
    • Wellness or wellbeing digital applications.
    • Innovations that do not comply with GDPR policies.
    • Innovations that will exacerbate health inequalities (including digital exclusion or data inequalities) and inequity of access to care or innovations which have not appropriately mitigated against exacerbating health inequalities.
  • NHS Cancer Programme Innovation Open Call projects must involve implementing and evaluating the
    feasibility of a solution in the NHS in England.

    National projects involving multiple NHS sites are preferred, however smaller scale projects will also be considered if the reason for the smaller project is adequately justified (i.e., to reduce health inequalities, or the total target patient population is small). The project should be an implementation study in real world settings, without requirements for a control arm or intervention vs non-intervention arms (comparator data can be included from retrospective data, an equivalent real-world data set or literature). Projects funded could focus on both initial real world implementation studies and regional/national implementations to generate real-world implementation evidence in different settings/patient populations in order to scale up an intervention.

    Further information on eligibility and scope is in the challenge brief.

  • A briefing webinar will be held on Tuesday 6 February 2024, 3pm-5pmSign up here.

    An online innovation matchmaking event will be held on Tuesday 12 March 2pm- 5pmSign up here.

    Applications open on Monday 8 April 2024 and close on Wednesday 29 May 20241pm.

    If you would like help with your application, you are welcome to contact the Innovate UK KTN Health team.


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