Early Detection and Diagnosis Primer Award

About this scheme

Key information

Career level
Early career researcher
Mid-career researcher
Established independent researcher
Non-clinical researcher
Research area
Early diagnosis
Final submission
Committee review
Funding period
Up to 1 year
Funding amount
Up to £100k
Supports researchers at all stages to develop early, novel and outside-the-box ideas and collaborations to build and make progress in the ED&D field.

To stimulate and develop the early detection and diagnosis (ED&D) field, we're encouraging early-career researchers, scientists new to ED&D and/or cancer research, as well as established ED&D researchers to apply for Primer Awards.

You should:

  • Have some postdoctoral experience or equivalent
  • Be scientists, clinicians or healthcare workers in UK universities, medical schools, hospitals, or research institutes

Scientific remit

With this award, we're challenging you to consider how you can utilise skills and techniques in innovative ways to accelerate ED&D research. Primer Awards provide seed funding to develop new relationships, ideas and lines of research, and the generation of pilot data.

The award aims to encourage scientists at all career stages to engage with the early detection and diagnosis of cancer field. It will support new and exploratory research ideas and/or pilot studies of high scientific risk and potential reward. It supports the development of new partnerships and exploration of highly novel concepts, involving researchers from any research area, including from non-traditional cancer fields.

Areas that could be considered include:

  • Development of novel technology to address an area of need in the ED&D of cancer field
  • Development or modification of existing technology from other research fields or sectors, to be applied to an early detection and diagnosis of cancer question
  • Innovative and ‘out-of-the-box’ lines of investigation within ED&D
  • Establishment and development of new collaborations or consortia to tackle an ED&D area of need
  • Bringing individuals and skillsets into ED&D which have not previously been applied there
  • Preliminary research to establish proof of principle in any area of ED&D remit

Funding can contribute towards generating pilot data for a new and exciting idea, establishing and developing new collaborations, testing a new technology or using an existing technology in an innovative way. We envisage that data generated or collaborations established through a Primer Award will form the basis for a more extensive future project within ED&D.

Out of remit

Proposals for research in these fields are likely to be ineligible for this funding scheme:

If you are unsure which funding scheme is most appropriate for your research, please get in touch to discuss your proposal.

The award will provide up to 1 year of flexible seed funding up to £100k. Funding could cover:

  • Salaries for postdocs or technical staff
  • Experimental expenses
  • Associated running expenses
  • Equipment
  • Collaborative travel and networking costs
  • Training courses
  • People exchange

We are also giving applicants to this funding scheme the opportunity to opt-in to a new multi-journal pilot project on Registered Reports.

How to apply to this scheme

Application process

  1. We strongly recommend you contact the Early Detection and Diagnosis office for an informal and confidential discussion of your proposal. We will advise you on eligibility, remit and funding options.

  2. Submit your application through our online grants management system (Flexi-Grant). Your final application must be approved online by your host institution.

  3. Your application will be considered by the Early Detection and Diagnosis Committee.

Due to the high volume of applications, our feedback letter will be limited compared to our standard project and programme awards.

Before you begin your application

You must read:

The Early Detection and Diagnosis Primer Award aims to catalyse growth of the ED&D field and encourage engagement with the research area. Your application may concern experimental work to gather pilot data and may consider the development of novel technologies, using existing technologies in innovative ways and/or innovative models or ideas within ED&D. The Primer Award may evaluate the impact of ED&D policies or interventions as well as explore health systems research for ED&D. You could also use the Primer Award to establish a new collaboration or access training to develop skills and standing in the ED&D field.

We welcome proposals from a broad range of fields, including:

  • Biomedicine
  • Engineering
  • Physics
  • Statistics
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Informatics
  • Computer and data sciences
  • Policy research
  • Behavioural Science
  • Health systems research
  • Health economics

Whatever the nature of your proposal, the benefit of the project to advancing the ED&D field should be clear. This could be in the form of generating pilot data leading to a bigger project, testing the feasibility of an idea or technology in an ED&D setting, generating new collaborations which will contribute to the field in the future, or providing an opportunity for talented and ambitious researchers to establish themselves in the ED&D field.

In your application, you should consider and discuss the potential future clinical/population impact of the proposed work. The line of sight to clinical/population application may be during or downstream of the proposed project. This may be the eventual implementation of a new technology or biomarker in the clinic, or the value of a collaboration to long-term early detection work. Appropriate involvement of clinical/population expertise to ensure this line-of-sight is encouraged.

You should ensure you have a suitable team to adequately consider the questions addressed in the proposal, including co-applicants and collaborators where relevant. We encourage multidisciplinary, international and industrial collaboration where appropriate to the science proposed. For example, this could involve collaboration between biologists, clinical researchers, engineers, physical scientists, maths/stats/computation expertise, population scientists or industry. You should clearly articulate the added value of each collaboration in your application.

The Early Detection and Diagnosis Committee will consider your application based on:

  • Scientific excellence and innovation
  • Clear articulation of the challenge to be addressed
  • Cancer early detection and diagnosis relevance
  • Clarity of line-of-sight to clinical/population impact
  • Team composition: are the right skillsets to deliver the proposed work and achieve impact in place? Do any collaborations between disciplines, institutions or with industry add value to the project?
  • Is the right infrastructure in place to deliver the proposed research?

The 5 year rolling success rate  (financial year 2017-2022) from application to funding for this scheme is 44%.

Cancer Research UK contact details

Please contact the relevant Research Grants Manager if you have questions about your eligibility or require any assistance with your application or active award.

For London and The South of England (including Oxford and Cambridge) 

Ms Sara Castro

Research Grants Manager


For the rest of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Dr Emily Friar

Research Grants Manager



More early detection research opportunities

Early detection research

Early detection of cancer is one of our top priorities and we have funding and other support to help you develop your early detection research, whether you're established in the field, early in your career, or applying your research to early detection for the first time.

Disability and accessibility support

We offer additional support for grant applicants and grant holders who are disabled or have a long-term health condition. 

More funding opportunities like this

We have a range of funding opportunities catering for a broad research community at all career stages and in any research field which can impact on earlier detection and diagnosis of cancer.

Find a collaborator

Looking for a collaborator for this award?

Submit your details and search for a potential partner using our Early Detection Collaboration Matcher.