The ICURe programme

Up to £35,000 of funding to ‘get out of the lab’ and validate your commercially-promising ideas

The ICURe (“Innovation-to-Commercialisation of University Research”) Programme trains, funds and supports teams led by university early-career researchers (ECRs) to determine whether there is a market for products or services that utilise their research, science or technology. Up to £35,000 of funding is available to ‘get out of the lab’ and validate these commercially-promising ideas in the marketplace.

NxNW ICURe will fund selected proposals to prove market demand for research with funding of up to £35k for the 3-month Market Validation stage. And if approved an additional up to £15k for business plan development. The funding is to support intense market assessment with the Early Career Researchers taking on the role of the Entrepreneurial Lead to have meaningful conversations with at least 100 prospective customers, regulators, suppliers, partners and competitors to validate the commercial potential of their research. 

ICURe has four stages

Stage 1. Business Model Generation

NxNW ICURe kicks off with a 3-day residential bootcamp for the teams during which the academics are helped in forming a hypothetical business model for the commercialisation of their research. The team also has to produce a budget and action plan for the next stage, Market Validation.

Each team comprises the early career researcher as “Entrepreneurial Lead”, his or her Senior Researcher and a business adviser. Technology Transfer Office staff are encouraged to be a proactive part of the team as a “shadow” member. Their skills and expertise regarding understanding university process and policy are essential to getting the best out of the programme.

Stage 2. Market Validation

The next step is for the early career researcher Entrepreneurial Lead to spend approximately three months intensively testing the business model by having meaningful conversations with at least 100 prospective customers, regulators, suppliers, partners and competitors to validate the commercial potential of their research. NxNW ICURe funding buys out the researcher's time and provides sufficient funds for the researcher to travel to tradeshows or key target markets to meet with companies and experts who can help validate the business model. It does not provide any funding for the Senior Researcher to carry out market validation visits.

Stage 3. Options Roundabout

On completion of this first-hand market research, the team presents to a panel of experts and investors on the results of the Market Validation stage and what the early career researcher learned about the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for the business model. The panel feeds back on the opportunity based on the market evidence and their expertise and assesses the development options for the next stage.

The options proposed can include carrying out public or private sponsored research, exploring licensing opportunities or seeking public or private funding for spin-out for those projects that have demonstrated strong market potential by the end of the market validation.

All early career researchers will have benefited from the training, the industry network they have established and the feedback they have gained that can shape the next stage in developing their research.

Stage 4. Business Planning and securing funding

Those teams with the potential for licensing or spin-out may get up to £15,000 of additional funding to take part in a business planning training and then three months of preparing a business plan they can use with investors and to apply for translational grant funding including ring fenced funds from Innovate UK.

If there is a strong case, commercialisation staff from the universities and university incubators, will work with each team so that they can be fast-tracked into creating a start-up company.


The NxNW ICURe programme will accept applications from teams based at all UK universities. The ICURe delivery partners will actively recruit from their regions, but where timings or other factors dictate will accept applications from other regions



*ICURe applications will re-open in spring/summer 2020*

If you are successful with your application and are offered a place on the programme, your team will be required to meet the following expectations:

1) Pre-Bootcamp teleconference to discuss programme and expectations for the Entrepreneurial Lead
2) 3-day residential Bootcamp: The Entrepreneurial Lead will be required to attend across all days. The Senior Researcher and Business Adviser must join at later points over the 3 days. Please note, due to the venue and delivery arrangements for the bootcamp, we are not able to accept additional team members to attend. Also, please note that the Entrepreneurial Lead and Senior Researcher roles can only be undertaken by one person per role (i.e. time cannot be split between two staff).

3) The Entrepreneurial Lead will have bi-weekly teleconferences with the Programme Manager and other programme teams and monthly reporting is required.

4) The Team will attend Options Roundabout Training day which supports the preparation of the final presentation to the panel.

5) The Team will deliver their ‘ICURe Journey’ final presentation to the Options Roundabout Panel (each team will be allocated a slot on one of 2 days). The Options Roundabout panel will make a recommendation to the team on commercialisation options they feel are most appropriate for the project/team at that stage. 

Application Process

*ICURe applications will re-open in spring/summer 2020*

Please complete the online application form clearly and concisely, remembering that the review panel may not be experts in the field of your technology. 
Before submitting in your application, please ensure all members of the team are available on the dates of the cohort bootcamp. You will hear whether your application has been successful only a very short time before the bootcamp. 
Once the application is submitted, the ICURe application review panel will consider all applications and identify the projects that best meet the ICURe programme requirements.
If you have an idea for ICURe but need a Business Adviser, researchers are now able to post ideas and engage with our community of Business Advisers and entrepreneurs

Applications for spring/summer 2020 opening soon

ICURe will fund selected teams to prove market demand for their research with funding of up to £35k for the 3-month Market Validation stage.