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Innovate ICURe - Midlands Delivery Team

ICURe - Commercialising University Research

Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) is 3 month customer discovery programme designed using lean start-up methodology and funded by Innovate UK.

ICURe 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.

An independent evaluation of the pilot programme was carried out by Ipsos Mori and as well as finding evidence of improved commercial awareness and skills amongst the participants, it also found that participation in ICURe increased the likelihood that teams pursued a spin-out or a licensing deal from 15% to 79%. The full report can be seen on the government website here.

ICURe Success in Numbers

  • 525 teams have been trained, producing over 200 spinout companies
  • The University of Warwick has entered 21 teams, 14 (67%) went on to form spinouts
  • They secured £8.5m in proof-of-concept funding
  • Since 2018 Midlands ICURe has trained and supported 105 teams from 39 universities
  • 39 of these (37%) succeeding in going through to the spinout business planning stage

How does it work?

ICURe takes the scientific method (hypothesise, test, evaluate) and applies it to business ideas. You will learn how to use this approach to test what your potential customers think about your idea, product or service. In addition the ECR’s will receive training and interview practice, carrying out over 100 interviews and acquiring transferrable business and social skills. Past participants say that having 3 months of support, dedicated time and funding to spend on customer discovery has dramatically changed their perspective on their innovation.

What does it include?

  • Funding support up to £30,000
  • Support to cover 3 months' salary and customer discovery activities. Selected teams will have the opportunity to access further support and apply for up to follow-on funding from InnovateUK.
  • Access to experts in bringing research to market
  • Access to our team of experts and proactive connections to our network of entrepreneurs, investors and funders.
  • Programme allowing you to work flexibly enabling connection with customers world wide.
  • Access to market Intelligence
  • Support of the development of a personalised report which will include data about your potential customers, competitors and suppliers plus a comprehensive overview of the intellectual property landscape for your sector.

The ICURe process

Bootcamp Training #1

Intensive 5 day bootcamp where you will learn how to talk about your technology to customers, develop a value proposition and identify your customers’ needs. You will also create a detailed plan for your customer discovery journey.

3 months of Market Validation

You will plan and execute 3 months of tailored customer discovery for your idea, product or service based on face to face meetings where possible or online software, video conferencing and marketing tools. You will receive coaching clinics from experts in taking research ideas to market. This will involve targeting direct conversations with over 100 business leaders.

Customer fit Bootcamp

To focus on what has been learned so far, what might be the next steps and which customer segment(s) should be the target in the remaining market discovery phase.

Route to Market Bootcamp

To focus on what has been learned so far, what might be the next steps and which route to maket segment(s) should be the target in the remaining market discovery phase.

Pitch training

1 day training reflecting on the market discovery to how to pitch your ideas to potential customers and investors.

Options Roundabout Pitches

The opportunity to pitch to an experienced panel of funders, stakeholders and investors to help accelerate the impact from your research.

Commercialisation planning Support

Following the options roundabout, selected teams will receive a further 3 months of support to:-

  • Plan their new business, attract investment, apply for follow-on funding and form their start-up company; or
  • Find existing business to licence their technologies; or
  • Secure collaborative research funding.”

Who is eligible?

ICURe is open to all University early career researchers (from PhD to post-doctoral researchers) from across the UK. To apply, each early career researcher needs to build a team that includes their Principal Investigator, an Entrepreneurial Business Advisor and a representative from their University Technology Transfer Office (TTO).

We are committed to improving diversity across our programmes and are actively seeking applications from under-represented groups.

We cannot accept applications from a team in respect of a project or ECR that has previously participated and benefitted from the ICURe programme.

How do I apply?

The application form can be accessed from the link below. You will be asked a series of questions about you, your team and your project. All applications will go through a competitive selection process. You must have engaged with your University Technology Transfer Office (TTO) and your Principal Investigator prior to applying. Help can be given in finding a suitable business mentor if required.

Deadline for applications to be received is 19th October 2022

If you have any further questions please direct them to the Midlands ICURe team, details below.

Programme Manager: Cath Whitaker, 07957 363389

Programme Administrator: Selina Forsythe 07385 083391

Email: opens in a new window

Team Applications

The programme will accept applications from teams based at all UK universities. There are no restrictions upon which discipline, HE institution or part of the UK that can apply as long as they have the required team members.

Midlands Cohort I Bootcamp starts 7th November 2022.

Team Requirements:

  • Post Doc/ Junior Researcher –must be an early career researcher and be able to commit Full-Time for 3 months (plus an additional 3 months if selected for Business Planning) on the programme starting the week of the bootcamp and MUST be employed by the university for the length of the programme. The period will end on the week of the Options Roundabout.
  • Senior Researcher – MUST be able to attend bootcamps and options roundabout, be willing to support the programme throughout the 3-month period and support any commercialisation recommendation of the Options Roundabout Panel.
  • Business Adviser motivated to offer expert guidance and support. Teams are strongly encouraged to name an adviser in their application, from a relevant industrial sector. If you do not already have an appropriate person, the ICURe team will provide assistance to help you identify one.
  • Technology Transfer Officer – MUST attend bootcamps and options roundabout as well as support the ECR during the ICURe programme and continue to support the further commercialisation following the ICURe programme.


Successful applicants to the ICURe programme will receive a budget of up to £35k for Stages 1 through 3.

This funding is not a grant, and there is no money paid up front. Money will be drawn down against expenditure through your university’s research commercialisation office. If this is not agreed then the team will not progress on the programme.

Eligible expenses covered by the programme are:

  • Early Career Researcher’s Salary costs (including university pension and NI contributions). Salary provided will match the Early Career Researcher’s current salary. There is no additional amount paid.
  • Early Career Researcher's travel (where possible), digital resources required to conduct interviews and find contacts, resources and assistance to validate possible markets where travel is not possible, attendance at trade shows (including online events) during Stage 2 – Market Validation.

Those teams going on to prepare business plans will receive a budget of up to £15k for Stage 4 to fund the ECR's salary for a further three months.

Please note: Definitive eligibility with respect to travel and resources during Stage 2 will be that agreed in the budget and action plan at the end of the relevant Bootcamp Training. Expense eligibility criteria may vary for each team and each cohort dependent on circumstances.

Midlands Cohort I

  1. Applications window 15th September to 19th October 2022
  2. Notice of acceptance on the ICURe scheme - 31st October 20252
  3. 5-day Bootcamp – 7th - 11th November 2022. Please hold these dates in all team members' diaries when you apply. The ECR will be required to attend in across all five days, the Senior Researcher, TTO and Adviser MUST join the second day onwards, i.e. 3 days. Please note, the ECR and SR roles can only be undertaken by one person per role (i.e. time cannot be split between two staff).
  4. Immediately after the Bootcamp, the ECR will spend 3 months contacting and holding online meetings with target companies and organisations to test the business model. The ECR must be employed full-time on the programme for 3 months until the last date of the Options Roundabout. The ECR is required to attend bi-weekly teleconferences with the Programme Manager and provide regular reports.
  5. Customer Fit Bootcamp – 7th - 8th December 2022. 
  6. Route to Market Bootcamp – 5th - 6th January 2023.  
  7. The ECR (plus optional one other team member) must attend Options Roundabout Training 18th January 2023 which supports the preparation of the final presentation to the panel.
  8. The Team will deliver their ‘ICURe Journey’ final presentation to the Options Roundabout Panel 25th or 26th January 2023 (each team will be allocated a slot on one of the 2 days. The Options Roundabout panel will make recommendations to the team on commercialisation options they feel are most appropriate for the project/team at that stage.

Midlands Cohort J - timings to be confirmed

Application Process

Please complete the application form clearly and concisely, remembering that the review panel may not be experts in the field of your technology. Before sending in your application, please ensure all members of the team are available on the dates of the cohort bootcamp and your TTO is aware and supportive of your application. You will hear whether your application has been successful only a very short time before the bootcamp.

Link to Cohort I atendance confirmation

Link to apply to Midlands ICURe Cohort ILink opens in a new window

Applications should be submitted before the closing date of 19th October 2022.


Cohort I

Applications Now Open!

Click here to apply

For further information contact