CRACK IT Challenges

A challenge-led competition that funds collaborations between industry, academics and SMEs to solve business and scientific 'Challenges' which if solved will deliver 3Rs and commercial benefits, either by improving business processes or developing a commercialisable product.

Who is involved?

The Sponsors - define the Challenges, working with the NC3Rs to set out the business case and 3Rs benefits. Sponsors do not have to be UK-based. Typically they come from the pharmaceutical, chemical or consumer products sectors - although Sponsors from the academic sector including funders and institutions are also welcome. Sponsors are required to provide in-kind contributions and/or funding to help solve the Challenge. In-kind contributions can include access to data, compounds or expertise. In return, Sponsors receive early access to new technologies emerging from the Challenge.

The innovators - the competition is open to SMEs and academics. In most cases multi-disciplinary teams are required.

The funders - the main funder of the competition is the NC3Rs, with support for specific challenges from the public and charitable sectors. Co-funders for past challenges include Alzheimer’s Research UK, Arthritis Research UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK and  the Medical Research Council (MRC). Depending on the Challenge contracts of up to £1 million over three years are available.

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The process

Challenge Development Process

  • Potential CRACK IT Challenges are developed with Sponsors through either an open call or office-led initiatives.
  • The CRACK IT Advisory Panel assess potential Challenges, taking into consideration external reviewer comments, and recommends to the NC3Rs which Challenges to run as competitions.

Competition process

  • The Challenges are published by the NC3Rs and pitched to the wider community for solving.
  • Building teams to solve the Challenges - we provide networking opportunities through the Launch event for potential applicants to identify new partners and to meet the Sponsors.
  • Application and review process:

Two Phase Challenges: This is a two phase application process. Phase 1 supports proof-of-concept studies for up to six months, with proposals assessed by the Review Panel. At the end of Phase 1, the Challenge Panel recommends which project to support in Phase 2 to address the full Challenge requirements. Entry into Phase 2 is dependent on successful completion of Phase 1.

Single Phase Challenges: Proposals for Single Phase Challenges describe plans for addressing the key deliverables detailed in the Challenge brief. This includes an assessment by a Virtual Review Panel with the most promising proposals invited to a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style interview by the Challenge Panel.

Post Award Process

  • Agreements and awards: Prior to award, the successful applicants’ organisation signs an agreement with the NC3Rs. The NC3Rs will have an agreement with the Sponsor(s). An agreement is also recommended between the contractor and the Sponsor(s).
  • Project management: Agreements are milestone-driven with regular Project Management Team meetings to ensure milestones are on schedule and to manage risks.  
Apply to CRACK IT Two Phase Challenges
Information on the application process and eligibility
Apply to CRACK IT Single Phase Challenges
Information on the application process and eligibility
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