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Midlands ICURe

Midlands ICURe Programme

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.

In the year to 31 March 2019, the University of Warwick and Queens University Belfast, supported by Innovate UK, will work alongside the programme’s original delivery partner SETsquared Partnership to run and grow the programme across the UK. The Midlands ICURe programme, led by Warwick, is open to all universities, but with a regional emphasis covering the mid-UK, from Wales to East Anglia. Further background from Innovate UK is here.

The Midlands ICURe programme will support up to 24 projects in two cohorts. Projects which emerge through the ICURe process and have the potential to form new start-up companies will be eligible to receive additionally up to £15,000 to develop their business plans.

The ICURe process

I thought I knew my target market for my technology. But this programme has helped our team gain real feedback from potential customers and is dramatically changing the way we view our approach to research commercialisation.” – SETsquared ICURe Pilot Programme Participant.

ICURe has four stages in its process:

1. Business Model Generation

ICURe kicks off with a 3-day residential bootcamp for the teams (4 days for the Entreprenurial Leads) during which they 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 ECR as “Entrepreneurial Lead”, his or her Senior Researcher and a business adviser. Technology Transfer Office (TTO) staff are strongly encouraged to be a 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.

2. Market Validation

The next step is for the ECR 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. ICURe funding buys out the ECR’s time and provides sufficient funds for the ECR to travel to conferences or key target markets to meet with companies and experts who can help validate the business model.

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 ECR 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, seeking public or private funding for spin-out, for those projects that have demonstrated strong market potential by the end of the market validation.

Those teams that are assessed as having demonstrated evidence of significant market demand that could lead to a license or the creation of a spin-out will proceed to the next stage.

The other teams will leave the ICURe process, but the ECRs 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.

4. Business Planning

Those teams with the potential for licensing or spin-out will get up to £15k of additional funding to take part in a business planning bootcamp and then three months of preparing a business plan they can use with investors and to apply for translational grant funding, including from 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.

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:

  • Up to £15k towards Early Career Researcher (Entrepreneurial Lead) salary costs (including on costs, i.e. university pension and NI contributions). Salary provided will match the Early Career Researcher’s current salary. There is no additional amount paid.
  • Entrepreneurial Lead’s travel, subsistence and accommodation required to conduct face-to-face interviews and attend trade shows during Stage 2 - Market Validation.
  • Travel costs and accommodation for team members to attend ICURe events (bootcamp, training days/support and Options Roundabout Presentation).

Those teams going on to prepare business plans will receive a budget of up to £15k for Stage 4. This will be for buying out the Entrepreneurial lead’s time for three months.

Applying to join the ICURe Programme

The 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. You should therefore contact the ICURe delivery team most conveniently located to you, either southern UK (SETsquared University of Southampton), Midlands (University of Warwick), northern UK (Queens University Belfast).
There are no restrictions upon which discipline, HE institution or part of the UK that can apply as long as they have the required, eligible team members.

Requirements of the team are as follows:

  • Post Doc Junior Researcher/Entrepreneurial Lead. Must be an early career researcher and be able to commit full-time for 3 months on the programme and MUST be employed by the university for the length of the programme.
  • Senior Researcher. MUST be able to attend the bootcamp and options roundabout. Also, generally to support the programme throughout the 3-month period.
  • Business Adviser. Motivated to offer expert guidance and support. Teams are encouraged to name an adviser in their application, however, if needed, we will help the team recruit a business adviser from a relevant industrial sector as a third team member.
  • TTO Representative (shadow team member). Additional expert advice and essential link between the team and the university.

Midlands ICURe Cohort B - Team Expectations

The competition for Cohort B is now CLOSED. Teams which have been offered a place on the programme will be required to meet the following expectations:

  1. Pre-Cohort B Bootcamp teleconference to discuss programme and expectations for the Entrepreneurial Lead w/c 17 September 2018
  2. 3-day residential Cohort B Bootcamp - 26-28 September 2018. Please hold these dates in all team members' diaries when you apply.
    The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) will be required to attend an additional preparation day on 25 September before being joined by the Senior Researcher (SR), Business Adviser and TTO Representative on 26 September. 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 EL and SR roles can only be undertaken by one person per role (i.e. time cannot be split between two staff).
  3. After the Bootcamp, the EL will spend 3 months travelling to meet with target companies and organisations to test the business model. The EL will have bi-weekly teleconferences with the Programme Manager and other programme teams during this period. Formal monthly reporting is required.
  4. The whole team including TTO will then attend a Cohort B Options Roundabout Training day w/c 10th December at a venue to be confirmed which supports the preparation of the final presentation to the panel.
  5. The Team will deliver their ‘ICURe Journey’ final presentation to the Cohort B Options Roundabout Panel w/c 17th December (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

Applications for Midlands ICURe cohorts A and B are now CLOSED. 

Please complete the application form clearly and concisely, remembering that the review panel may not be experts in the field of your technology. Please ensure you follow the word count guide and complete all sections. Please send your application to

Before sending 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. See the Timeline below.

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.

Midlands ICURe Cohort A Programme Timeline

  Application Deadline 18 May 2018 - CLOSED
  Notification of successful applicants 4 June 2018 - COMPLETED
  Business Model Bootcamp 12 - 15 June 2018 - COMPLETED
  Options Roundabout Training day 5 September 2018 - COMPLETED
  Options Roundabout 12/13 September 2018 - COMPLETED

Midlands ICURe Cohort B Programme Timeline

Application Deadline 24 August 2018 - CLOSED
Notification of successful applicants 17 September 2018 - COMPLETED
Business Model Bootcamp 25-28 September 2018 - COMPLETED
Options Roundabout Training day 11 December 2018 - COMPLETED
Options Roundabout 17 -18 December 2018 - COMPLETED

Midlands ICURe - Investor Showcase Events

Date Location
12th March 2019 The Shard - London
19th March 2019 IET, Austin Court - Birmingham

For more information, contact

ICURe Guidance for TTOs