Of all the NIHR funding programmes, Invention for Innovation (i4i)* is arguably the one hardest to give advice on. In my experience this tends to be due to two reasons:
These two points are clearly related in both directions. We get few cases because we are unfamiliar and we are unfamiliar because we get few cases. Most RDS advisers are based in academic departments, so we don’t routinely engage with SMEs and innovators. But over the last year we have been trying to address this challenge.
Each local office of the RDS now has an i4i Champion; an experienced advisor with extra i4i training. The champion will support i4i applications in their area and engage with the SME community via local and national events. In doing so, they should help to remedy points 1 and 2 above.
I’m the i4i Champion for Greater Manchester and I was at the NIHR Medtech Roadshow earlier this year. It was a great event with a focus on supporting SMEs to apply for NIHR funding. Look out for similar events in your area and find out who your local i4i Champion is if you need more support.
I’m still learning but some key messages for any potential i4i applicant should consider:
As always, engage with the RDS as early as possible – no such thing as too early!
*note: i4i is actually three programmes under one name. The NIHR website contains a really good overview of the particularities of each scheme – I won’t try to reproduce that. Your local RDS team can also help you target the correct scheme if you are unsure.