SBRI Open Innovation Competition on Reducing Drug Related Deaths

The UK and Scottish Governments have together launching a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Open Innovation Competition via Innovate UK.

Reducing fatal overdose using drug overdose detection, response and intervention technology

Competition 1 – SBRI: Overdose detection, response and intervention feasibility

Competition 2 – SBRI: Overdose detection, response and intervention demonstration

Launch Event Video:

Drug Death Launch Video


In support of the UK’s Drugs Strategy, From Harm to Hope, and Scottish Government’s National Mission on Drugs, the UK Office for Life Sciences (OLS) and the Scottish Health Industry Partnership (SHIP), part of the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office, are funding an innovation competition to develop disruptive innovative solutions that focus on detection of, response to and intervention in potentially fatal drug overdose episodes.

Funding is being provided to support innovators to accelerate the development and deployment of disruptive solutions to prevent drug related deaths and harm from overdose events. The challenge is being run in close consultation with the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive to increase the potential for uptake and use of the innovations in all UK healthcare systems.

Drug-related deaths (DRD) have been on an upward trend for the past decade. In England and Wales, the rates of drug misuse deaths have been steadily increasing since 2012 to the highest number since records began in 1993. Similar trends are also present in Scotland, where drug misuse deaths have increase by 4.5 times since 2000 and Northern Ireland, where deaths have almost tripled since 2010. The reasons behind this are complex and differ by drug type however the overall trend is driven primarily by deaths involving opioids and by an increase in deaths involving other substances like cocaine and benzodiazepines, and by polydrug use.

Scotland had the highest age-standardised rate of drug-misuse deaths at 25.0 per 100,000 population, Northern Ireland had the second highest rate at 9.4, followed by Wales at 7.2 and England at 5.2. Statistics from National Records of Scotland (2021) show that Scotland has the most severe DRD problem in Europe, with the number of deaths increasing year on year from 2013 to 2022.

The Challenge

This open innovation challenge call specifically provides an opportunity for companies, working in partnership with test bed research partners across the UK, to develop disruptive innovative solutions.

Challenge Description:

To support development and testing of innovative solutions that focus on detection of, response to, or intervention in potentially fatal overdose occurrences using innovative digital, technologies and therapeutic solutions.

The priority areas below are not exhaustive:

  • Use of discrete digital technology for easy use by people who use drugs in clinical and non-clinical settings
  • Simple alert / responder pathways that created effective responses to potentially fatal overdose events
  • Enhance the ability to remotely self-monitor by people who use drugs
  • Improve equity of access, detection and response in this vulnerable population through connected and safe digitalised platforms
  • Enhance live intelligent data gathering processes, surveillance
  • Enhance innovative intervention therapeutics as antidotes to overdose episodes.

Potential innovative mechanisms and technologies could:

  • Wearable devices / patches
  • Remote monitoring
  • GPS receivers
  • Smartphone apps
  • Decentralised application environments
  • AI and machine learning
  • Virtual reality and augmented reality
  • Gamification
  • Data analytics
  • Innovative therapeutics.

Long term vision

The goal of innovation and development of initiatives is to:

  • Increase timely detection and response of potential fatal overdose episodes
  • Increase timely intervention of potential fatal overdose episodes
  • Increase in SAS calls of near fatal overdose events
  • Increase in A&E admissions of near fatal overdose events
  • Increase in early and timely intervention and support from relevant agencies
  • Increase in referral to appropriate treatment
  • Reduction in fatal and non-fatal overdose episodes.

Such initiatives will work with the regional innovation infrastructure and relevant stakeholders including local, regional and national NHS Boards and Trusts, Health and Social Care Partnerships and Alcohol and Drug Partnerships where appropriate, to provide solutions which are readily tested, evaluated and reported in 12-18 month timescales to affect wider national strategies and NHS adoption.

Project details

Two Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competitions will be funded by OLS and SHIP under the UK Addiction Healthcare Mission, UK LSV, and Scottish Government National Mission to reduce drug related deaths and harms. OLS and SHIP are investing up to £5,000,000 including VAT across two competitions.

Competition 1 – feasibility studies

A two-phase competition to develop drug overdose detection, response and intervention technologies. Phase 1 for feasibility testing for prototype development and evaluation is for projects with costs up to £100,000 including VAT.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. The decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1 and assessment of a separate application into a subsequent phase 2 competition. Only the successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in phase 2. Phase 2 will be for projects with costs up to £500,000 including VAT.

Competition 2 – demonstration projects

For technology already at an advanced stage of development, near ready to be deployed in a real-world environment. This is a single-phase competition.

There is a preference for projects at an advanced stage of development, near ready to be deployed in a real world situation. Projects will be expected to undertake the necessary evaluations demonstrating the prototypes in real world situations. For projects already at an advanced prototype stage, evidence of certification of the appropriate EN / ISO standard and regulatory approval, or plans to achieve this must be provided. Projects showing high potential but at an earlier stage of development may also be considered.

It is your responsibility to ensure you are submitting your application to the correct competition for your project. You will not be able to transfer your application and it will not be sent for assessment if it is out of scope.

Your project’s total eligible costs must include all costs associated with any subcontractors and VAT. Successful applicants receive 100% funding and access to advice from the NHS Scotland innovation hubs.


Projects must:

  • be any type of organisation of any size, registered in the UK, European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) that can demonstrate a credible and practical route to market
  • Work in conjunction with a test bed research partner to develop the solution
  • Work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors
  • Acquire evidence suitable for future product approval across all of the UK health systems (Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England)
  • Provide details of certification and compliance with relevant standards, accreditation and regulatory approval for well-developed prototypes. To lead a project, you can:
  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

We encourage proposals that bring together sector specialists and include a co-design and co-production element with the expertise of people with lived experience, people who use drugs and their families.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only. SHIP and OLS reserves the right not to award any contracts. SHIP and OLS give no guarantee or warranty as to the nature, or number of projects funded.

Test Bed Requirements

As part of an application, project applicants must engage with a suitable research partner site to serve as the 'test bed' to develop the proposed solution, gain relevant clinical and non-clinical advice and to determine the extent of required work within the test bed. Suitable test beds could include the NHS Scotland Regional Test Beds (North of Scotland, West of Scotland and Health Innovation South East Scotland), or patient research body equivalent located in England (for example, NIHR infrastructure and AHSNs), Wales (Life Sciences Hub Wales, Health and Care Research Wales) or Northern Ireland (DARN), though applicants can propose any other suitable UK based alternative.

How to contact the NHS Scotland Test Beds:

North of Scotland:

West of Scotland: Website Link

Health Innovation South East Scotland: Website Link

How to contact test bed research partners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

National institute for health and care research (NIHR infrastructure) Website Link

Academic health science networks (AHSNs) Website Link

Life Sciences Hub Wales Website Link

Health and Care Research Wales Support and Delivery Service Website Link

Drug and alcohol research network (DARN) Website Link

Additional funds are available to test bed research partners to fund project management support, data access, clinical advice, and Digital and Information Governance input, if this cannot be provided by existing test bed research partner infrastructure for all projects. Test bed research partners can access up to £10,000 per Phase 1 project and £25,000 per Phase 2 project.

Further Information

Further information on the challenge and test bed research partners can be found at SBRI Reducing Drug Deaths - Supplementary Information for Applicants Link to Supplementary Information

A briefing event to support the competition launch will be held 11:00 – 13:00 Friday 10 February 2023. Link to briefing event registration

Information on the competitions and details on how to apply are available at:

Competition 1 – SBRI: Overdose detection, response and intervention feasibility

Competition 2 – SBRI: Overdose detection, response and intervention demonstration