Independent review recognises SBRI Healthcare programme as ‘the best role model’


SBRI Healthcare, an NHS England funded programme that supports innovative companies to solve healthcare problems, welcomes the release of an independent review by David Connell which examines how the UK government can maximise the impact of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The independent review titled ‘Leveraging public procurement to grow the innovation economy: an independent review of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)’ provides SBRI Healthcare and NHS England an excellent validation to the credibility, key benefits and management of the programme.


The report sought to highlight the ‘well managed programme’ at NHS England and identified the experienced team working on defining challenges that need addressing. David Connell identifies the NHS England programme as ‘the best role model’ and recommends the programme led by the AHSNs be developed and built upon.


Karen Livingstone, National Director of SBRI Healthcare, said: “I was delighted to read the report by David Connell: Leveraging Public Procurement to Grow the Innovation Economy released today as part of the government’s industrial strategy to recognise the impact and provide greater validation of the programme to the NHS, industry and patients.”


Key recommendations from the report include:

 1: A New Central SBRI Fund 

Government should plan for the annual value of SBRI contracts awarded by spending departments to grow to around £250m per annum over six years. Assuming well established SBRI programmes continue to be funded directly by departments at roughly current rates, this equates to Central Fund expenditure growing to £120m by 2020/21 and £200m by 2023/24.

 2: A National SBRI Fund Board

The fund should be overseen by a small National SBRI Board reporting to the Cabinet Office and comprising officials bringing commercial, innovation and operational perspectives from the public sector, including Innovate UK, together with individuals from the private sector with business and venture finance expertise.

3: Phase 1 and Phase 2 Funding Guidelines

SBRI contracts financed through the central fund must be sufficient to take projects to a meaningful milestone. The amounts required will depend on the task. But in general programme guidelines for Phase 1 and Phase 2 contracts (£50 - £100k, and £250k - £1m respectively) should be closely adhered to.

4: Selective New Phase 3 Contracts for Evaluations and Trial Deployments

SBRI programme bids should include an element for Phase 3 funding where appropriate.  However, contracts should be awarded very selectively, and only when the viability of the technology has already been well demonstrated and there is strong interest in an operational scale evaluation by prospective customers.

5: Embedding Best Practice Innovation Programme Management within Departments

The National SBRI Board should ensure that the SBRI programmes it funds are fully embedded within departments and operated in a systematic manner using best practice, innovation programme management processes. They must be directed, managed and supported in a way that maximises the probability of commercial procurement and commercialisation of successful developments.

 6: Transparency, Monitoring and Evaluations

All SBRI programmes receiving central funding should be required to provide details of awards, including recipients, contract amounts and summary project descriptions through a publicly searchable database similar to SBIR’s TECH-Net. Future monitoring information obligations should be included in SBRI contracts with companies.


About David Connell’s ‘Leveraging public procurement to grow the innovation economy: an independent review of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)’


This independent review by David Connell examines how government can maximise the impact of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI):

  •  by improving procurement outcomes for government
  •  by supporting and stimulating innovation by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), boosting the UK’s innovative capability
  • and by supporting the development and commercialisation of new technology-based products and services in the UK.

The accompanying documents set out the evidence and data that BEIS provided to support the independent review, along with annexes providing a literature review, case studies and SBRI usage statistics.

As part of the independent review of SBRI, government held an online consultation seeking views on how SBRI can be improved to help more small businesses turn their innovative ideas into technology-based products.

Read the full report on GOV.UK website.

About SBRI Healthcare

SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Healthcare is an NHS England funded programme that provides funding to innovative companies to solve healthcare problems. The SBRI Healthcare team works closely with clinicians and frontline NHS staff to identify key challenges from within the NHS, focussing on specific areas recognised as important by NHS England and the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN). The programme aims to improve patient care, increase efficiency in the NHS, and support the UK economy by helping smaller companies grow.

The SBRI Healthcare programme is based on taking a two-phased development approach. Projects start with an initial feasibility study and can then move on to detailed product development. Phase 1 contracts for feasibility testing are valued at up to £100,000 and last for six months. Phase 2 contracts for prototype development are worth up to £1 million and can extend over two years. Each contract is 100% funded by SBRI Healthcare and while the public sector has the right to license the resultant technology in certain circumstances, its intellectual property remains with the company.

The programme’s network of innovative companies extends throughout the UK. Since launching in 2009, £69 million has been awarded to over 150 companies developing solutions for major NHS challenges such as cancer detection, dementia care, mental health in young people and self-management of long-term conditions. SBRI Healthcare supported companies are already making an impact; Open Bionics has recently initiated the world’s first clinical trial in 3D printed bionic hands and Owlstone Medical is collaborating with Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to evaluate breath biopsy in improving the early detection and diagnosis of many different cancer types.


About AHSN Network

There are 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England, established by NHS England in 2013 to spread innovation at pace and scale – improving health and generating economic growth.

Each AHSN works across a distinct geography serving a different population in each region. As the only bodies that connect NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry, AHSNs are catalysts that create the right conditions to facilitate change across whole health and social care economies, with a clear focus on improving outcomes for patients.


Eastern AHSN (Academic Health Science Network) turn ideas into health impact by bringing together all partners in the health sector to develop and deliver innovative care.

Eastern AHSN