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Midlands ICURe

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 Goes Online

Due to the current circumstances we have updated ICURe to allow customer discovery activities to be undertaken using remote working. We will also be carrying out the training activities online, This means that the programme is more accessible to a wider range of applicants, and we encourage applications from those who may have been unable to participate in previous years.

ICURe Success in Numbers

  • 312 teams have been trained, producing 92 (29%) spinout companies
  • The University of Warwick has entered 17 teams, 12 (70%) went on to form spinouts
  • They secured £7.6m in proof-of-concept funding
  • In 2018-19, Midlands ICURe trained and supported 41 teams from 22 universities
  • 12 of these (46%) 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 £35,000
  • 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.
  • Game changing online delivery
  • 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 (week commencing July 6th, 2020)

Intensive 5 day online 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.

Pitch training

1 day online pitch training to teach you 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.

Business planning support

Following the options roundabout, selected teams will receive 3 further months of support to plan their new business, attract investment, apply for follow-on funding from InnovateUK and form their start-up company.

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. With the change to on-line delivery and remote customer discovery, this ICURe programme is suitable for applicants who would be unable to travel extensively.

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 12pm GMT 5th June 2020

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 02476 575562


Team Applications

The programme will accept applications from teams based at all UK universities for Cohort E. 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 E starts w/c 6th July 2020.

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 the whole bootcamp and options roundabout and be willing to support the programme throughout the 3-month period.
  • 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 the bootcamp and options roundabout as well as support the ECR and team 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: given the changing circumstances around travel and face-to-face meetings, ICURe Cohort programmes and allowable expenses will continue to evolve during 2020-2021. 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 E - Key Dates

  1. Applications close - 5th June 2020
  2. Notice of acceptance on the ICURe scheme - w/c 22nd June 2020
  3. ECR's Pre-Bootcamp teleconference to discuss programme and expectations - 29th June, 2pm
  4. 5-day online Bootcamp – w/c 6th July 2020. Please hold these dates in all team members' diaries when you apply. The ECR will be required to attend 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).
  5. 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.
  6. The ECR (plus optional one other team member) must attend an Options Roundabout Training day w/c 28th September 2020 either online or at a venue to be confirmed which supports the preparation of the final presentation to the panel.
  7. The Team will deliver their ‘ICURe Journey’ final presentation to the Options Roundabout Panel w/c 5th October 2020 (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.

Application Process

Please contact for the application form or download here. ICURe Application Form - Cohort E

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. Sections with * must be completed. 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.

Completed applications should be sent to before the closing date of 5th June 2020.


Application Deadline Cohort E

5th June 2020

For further information contact