Call 2: DMS (Digital Design and Manufacturing Systems) and Physical Devices - closed

This theme seeks to investigate novel ways to exploit the potentials and advantages of digital design and manufacturing, sometimes referred to as the 4th industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.

About this call

DMS is characterised by:

  • The exploitation of advanced digital software and telecommunication systems
  • The use of digital tools to enable the semi-automated capture of patient / user data
  • The remote, redistributed or semi-automated computer-aided design of typically custom-fitting or personalised Assistive Technology products.
  • Flexible, adaptable, on-demand and or redistributed manufacture closer to or at the point of care

Without AT, people are at risk of being excluded, isolated and economically and socially marginalised, making their health problems worse[i]. Despite healthy levels of innovation, societies still lack equitable AT provision globally, and NHS services lack resources. One of the most critical shortages is in personnel – there are simply too few clinicians able to prescribe and design AT and conventional manufacture is too labour intensive and time-consuming.

Current AT provision often requires an iterative hands-on design and manufacturing approach and this process is often time consuming. Although, face-to-face contact is crucial to provide the best clinical care, minimising contact has the potential to alleviate the burden of travel and the need to take time away from work or caring responsibilities, which incur the costs of travel and lost earnings. In addition, most AT interventions are one-off and custom-made, making users dependent on only one device. Replication, repair or replacement requires the whole process to be repeated. These situations can be massively exacerbated for users in remote locations and low-resource environments.

What kinds of projects do we want to fund?

The theme for this funding call is Digital Design and Manufacturing Systems (DMS) and Physical Devices. All applications should be directly and strongly aligned to this theme.

Please note that if your proposal includes sensors and data science for communications devices it might be better to wait for the third funding call.

It is important to recognise the depth of knowledge, training, skills and expertise that underpins the design and manufacture of AT. The exploitation of the potentials and advantages of DMS must aim to empower clinicians and providers of AT rather than aiming to make them redundant. We are seeking proposals that seek to capture knowledge and expertise, empower clinicians and therapists by providing them with tools that can provide an order of magnitude gain in efficiency and responsiveness, driving down cost, accelerating processes, eliminating waste and improving the experiences of the user and the clinicians.

We are funded by EPSRC, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, so the kinds of projects we are looking to fund are engineering and physical sciences projects that fall within in the remit of what EPSRC fund. We are looking to fund projects that are at an early research stage rather than a commercialisation or implementation stage; technologies at low TRL (Technology Readiness Level) probably TRL 2 or 3, so just beyond the initial idea. 

We want fundamentally research-driven ideas that will then enable a shift in the design of a particular design or service. We are looking for projects that will facilitate a transformation – ideas that will produce a step change.

Projects should have a multi-disciplinary, co-creation approach. This is very important. There should be involvement of industry, stakeholders, service providers, service users, clinicians etc. as appropriate to your project.

Projects should be deliverable for around £60k. The idea is to fund a few months of research to prove enough to allow you to apply for much bigger funding.

We are particularly keen to fund proposals that demonstrate clear plans for how the work will lead to a full proposal to be submitted to a UK funder at a future time. 

Applications led by early career academics/researchers are particularly encouraged.

Lead applicants must qualify for EPSRC funding.

Process for applications and funding

Agenda Setting and Collaboration workshops

We are holding Agenda Setting and Collaboration workshops on 22nd June 2022 (Agenda Setting) and 23rd June 2022 (Collaboration) for people who may be interested in submitting an application.

The workshops are designed to help you understand the theme of the call and what we are looking to fund. If you are interested in submitting an application, or may be, we would encourage you to attend.  More information and how to register.

We recognise that some people don’t flourish in workshop-type environments, so it is not compulsory to attend the workshops in order to apply.

If you have accessibility requirements or other requirements to enable you to participate in the workshop, please let us know by 6th June 2022  either on the registration form or by emailing TIDAL@ucl.ac.uk

Submission, review and selection of proposals for funding

  • Proposals will be peer reviewed by at least 2 reviewers. Applicants will have the opportunity to respond to reviewer comments before funding decisions are made by the Steering Committee and TIDAL N+ team.
  • We expect at least one proposal to be developed and funded for each theme. Our aim is to fund two.
  • Full details of the call and application process can be found in the Information for Applicants and FAQs below.


Full details of the workshops and how to register.

Key dates

  • The draft timetable for the funding call is as follows. 
  • Dates for the agenda setting workshop, collaboration workshop, and deadlines for submitting expressions of interest and full proposals are confirmed.
  • Other dates may change but we aim to keep as close to this timetable as possible.  We will make any further updates to the timetable on the website.
  • Where there are differences between the dates on the website and dates in the Information for Applicants, assume that the dates on the website are the most up to date: 

22nd June 2022 - Agenda-setting workshop at 10 am to 12.00 pm. Online.

23rd June 2022 - Collaboration workshop 10 am to 12.00 pm. Online.

7th July 2022 5pm BST - Deadline for expressions of interest to be submitted.

4th August 2022 5pm BST - Deadline for full proposals to be submitted.

8th August – 26th August 2022 - Review of proposals.

w/c 29th August 2022 - Shortlisting notices and reviewers’ comments sent to applicants.

8th September 2022 - Deadline for applicants to respond to reviewer comments.

11th October 2022 - Panel makes final decisions on which projects to fund.

13th and 14th October 2022 - Emails sent to applicants with funding decision

17th Oct 2022 to 3rd Feb 2023 - Contracting process.

February 2023 - Projects begin. (They may begin earlier or later depending on how long contracting takes. A project can begin as soon as the contract with UCL has been signed by the lead applicant’s institution.)


[i] Smith et al., ‘Assistive Technology Use and Provision During COVID-19: Results from a Rapid Global Survey’, International Journal of Health Policy and Management, vol. 0, Nov. 2020, doi: 10.34172/ijhpm.2020.210