Research funding

Call now open

The LEAP Hub is welcoming applications for research projects. Projects may seek funding between £30k and £100k and may additionally request time of Hub research staff.  Funding decisions will be made by 15th October 2024, projects must commence before the end of December 2024, and the maximum duration of any project is 18 months.

Key information

Opening date: 17th June 2024
Closing date: 1st September 2024
Contact: leap-dh-hub@bristol.ac.uk

Call guidance

Eligibility and further details
Assessment criteria (coming soon)
Full call document download (coming soon)

 

Application

The funding call application form will be available from 17th June 2024.

Research themes

Care outside of the hospital

Digital technologies have huge potential to help prevent or reduce the time people need to spend in hospital. This supports wellbeing and is a priority for health services. This can be achieved through health and social care services that support people in their own homes and communities (such as virtual wards). Digital health (and care) opportunities include:

  1. Technology for remotely monitoring patients (or people accessing care and support).
  2. Technology that enables high-quality remote patient consultations.
  3. Technology to ensure a safe, warm, dry home environment where patients can be safe and in good health.
  4. Technology to support a necessarily more mobile health and social care workforce.

Further, these technologies can help deliver new services in our region’s relatively under-utilised town centres, including community pharmacies, community diagnostics centres and establishing pop-up clinical services in former retail locations. Digital health (and care) opportunities include:

  1. Low cost, portable diagnostics and imaging devices able to operate with limited bandwidth.
  2. Decision support tools and AI-assisted diagnostic and imaging tools.

Service and resource planning

Health and social care are resource-constrained activities – the NHS and social care workforce operates very close to capacity and is difficult to expand in response to short- or long-term demand. Resources such as staff, facilities, ward space and ambulances all need to be planned in a dynamic, responsive and joined-up manner. Digital health (and care) opportunities include:

  1. Scheduling and queuing algorithms to help plan/allocate staff time/availability, or the use of resources such as hospital beds and ambulances.
  2. Research to improve processes and decision-making, including operations research and optimisation.

Frailty, fall prediction and fall prevention

Falls are a leading case of hospital admission in older adults and a major priority for the Hub’s partner organisations. Predicting and thereby preventing injury such as hip fracture could help many older adults remain independent and well in their own homes. Digital Heath (and care) opportunities include:

  1. Wearable and video analytics to predict risk of falling.
  2. Technologies that support the delivery of interventions, including physiotherapy, rehabilitation, social care and support.

Smartphone and wearable technologies

Consumer electronics including smartphone, wearable and video technologies put powerful computing and sensing capabilities in the hands of patients and health & social care professionals alike. Digital health (and care) opportunities include:

  1. Predicting exacerbations of chronic conditions.
  2. Image and video analytics for conditions such as eye health, hearing loss, cardiovascular health and skin lesions.
  3. Facilitating remote interaction between professionals and patients.
  4. Evidencing benefits and side-effects of new therapies and interventions, from pharmaceuticals to physiotherapy, to talking therapies and social care support.

Frequently asked questions

Please send any questions about the call to leap-dh-hub@bristol.ac.uk and we will aim to answer them as soon as possible and add to the FAQ list.

The Remit of Projects

Q: Are multidisciplinary projects acceptable?

A: Yes. We recognise that effective, impactful, research in Digital Health regularly involves multidisciplinary collaboration. You should therefore ensure that the project team includes the appropriate skillsets to deliver the research.

Q: Are non-collaborative projects acceptable?

A: Yes, however the Hub has a stated mission to bring partners together, and this is an assessment criterion for this call, so a project not involving collaboration between organisations may be less competitive than others.  

Q: Are projects that create publications in health or social sciences acceptable?

A: Yes, indeed many engineers and computer scientists publish in those venues. Wherever published, the publications themselves should be describing new findings in engineering and computer science, rather than the straightforward application of well-known techniques. Publications may also be describing insights beyond computer science and engineering.  

Q: Will the Hub fund qualitative research?

A: Yes, and indeed there is a long tradition of qualitative research within health, social sciences, engineering, design (HCI) and computer science.

Q: Does my project require ethics?

A: if your project involves work with human research subjects (whether patients, students, members of the public, professionals, other research, via social media, face-to-face or online) then it will require ethical review either by the lead institution or by an NHS organisation. The proposal should set out plans for ethical review and explain how this is accommodated in the timeline.  Where the proposed project will be operating under an existing ethical permission, the reference number and review body should be stated in those plans.

Q: I have a research idea that I’d like to commercialise, is this suitable for funding?

A: all projects are required to generate publishable new knowledge, so commercialisation cannot be a sufficient or primary goal in itself, although moving an idea towards successful commercialisation can certainly be one of the objectives.  The Hub also has an entrepreneurial fellowship scheme which may be of interest.

Eligibility and Partnership

Q: Can projects involve NHS partners?

A: Yes, projects including NHS partners will likely be very competitive. However NHS organisations cannot lead (see above). Projects can certainly address the priorities of NHS partners and they can be a central part of the leadership team for the bid, including co-leading in decision-making. EPSRC rules do allow the costs of NHS organisations to be included in the bid costing, and it will be the responsibility of the lead organisation to ensure that the requested funding passes to NHS partners, as agreed.

Q: Can projects involve social care organisations?

A: Yes, however they cannot lead (see above). Projects can certainly address the priorities of social care organisations and they can be a central part of the leadership team for the bid, including co-leading in project decision-making. Due to EPSRC funding rules the costs of social care organisations cannot be included in the bid costing, although expenses of participating in the research, such as travel to research meetings, can be reimbursed. Social care organisations can also receive research outputs and arising IP from the projects, such as licenses for software and any necessary background IP – the lead institution is encouraged to make those available to partners in due course so that impact is achieved. Some social care organisations are charities – see below.

Q: Can projects involve charity partners?

A: Yes, however charities cannot lead (see above). Projects can certainly address the priorities of charity partners and they can be a central part of the leadership team for the bid, including co-leading in project decision-making. Due to EPSRC funding rules the costs of charity organisations cannot be included in the bid costing, although expenses of participating in the project, such as travel to research meetings, can be reimbursed. Charity organisations can also receive research outputs and arising IP from the projects, such as licenses for software and for necessary background IP – the lead institution is encouraged to make those available to charity partners in due course at minimal or zero cost.

Q: Can projects involve industry?

A: Yes, however they cannot lead (see above). Projects can certainly address the priorities of companies and future plans for products and services. Companies can be a central part of the leadership team for the bid, including co-leading in project decision-making. Due to EPSRC funding rules, companies can either:

  • Declare themselves as a project partner, submitting a letter of support explicitly describing any in-kind (e.g. staff time for advisory or research participation) or cash contribution to the project. Project partners cannot receive funds from Hub beyond expenses of participating in the research, such as travel to research meetings

OR

  • Undertake a limited amount of paid work performing a specific task within the project as a subcontractor

The Hub encourages appropriate involvement of industry in the projects through one of the models above – therefore the details of the proposed arrangements should be detailed in the application and will be assessed as part of peer review. For the avoidance of doubt, the relationship with the industry partner is the responsibility of the lead institution, including compliance with UK Subsidy Control rules and internal/external procurement rules.

Q: Can companies own arising IP from the project?

A: Companies are very likely to be important to achieve impact and benefit to the public/patients from the research. Regardless of the company’s role in the research project, they can receive research outputs and arising IP from the projects, such as licenses for software and for necessary background IP – the lead institution is encouraged to make those available to industry partners in due course so that impact is achieved. Although the expectation is that all research results are published, companies can request a short delay in order to seek protection for IP. We encourage that conversation to happen between the company and the lead institution at an early stage.

Q: Can projects be led by a PhD student?

A: no (see eligibility above).

Q: Can projects be led by a postdoctoral member of staff at a University?

A: yes, provided they meet the other eligibility criteria outlined above.

Q: Can projects be led by a professional or technical services member of staff at a University?

A: yes, provided they meet the other eligibility criteria outlined above.

Q: Can patients or members of the public be applicants of part of the project leadership team?

A: yes. EPSRC rules allow for the reimbursement of necessary expenses of attending meetings.

Q: We have recently purchased a new digital health technology and wish to apply for funding to evaluate its use, is this eligible?

A: As described above, Hub projects are required to produce publishable new knowledge in engineering and physical sciences (including computer science). It may be difficult for a purely evaluation project to achieve these outputs, however if the evaluation methodology involves novelty and rigour (e.g. could be publishable in, say, a HCI venue) then this may be possible.

Q: We are a company and wish to apply to the Hub for funding to achieve regulatory approval of our product. We are happy to work with a lead university but is this work suitable for funding?

A: As described above, Hub projects are required to produce publishable new knowledge in engineering and physical sciences (including computer science). It will be difficult for a commercialization project to achieve that, since the knowledge generated is likely to be proprietary rather than publishable. However, regulation is itself a research field, and some of the challenges around the regulatory approval of new technology (such as AI) could indeed create publishable insights – it is up to the proposal to explain that potential.