Proof of Concept Programme Review


Northern Ireland’s Proof of Concept (PoC) Programme aims to stimulate and support the pre-commercialisation of leading-edge technologies emerging from Northern Ireland's research base, in particular its two universities: Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University. The programme awards around £100k for academics to take research projects towards commercialisation, typically to Technology Readiness Levels 3 or 4.

In 2017, SQW was commissioned by Invest Northern Ireland to undertake a strategic review of the programme, in particular the first two Phases, to inform decision-making in relation to any future iteration of the programme or replacement. The review included an assessment of the impact of PoC awards to date, benchmarking performance to international comparators, and exploring the potential for new innovative approaches to improve the commercialisation of research.

The headline recommendation of the report is that PoC should continue, but with some changes. The recommendations for PoC in the future follow three core principles:

  • a more structured programme, in which there is also more flexibility, providing support tailored to the specific type and form of innovative research projects, and the nature of the funding gaps
  • a programme in which the content at project level is designed to encourage, enable and achieve commercial results, drawing as and where appropriate on commercial expertise and other experience, including linking into other initiatives aiming to support embryonic and early stage enterprises with real growth potential
  • a programme which is embedded in, and a more visible part of, the universities’ missions.

The full report can be downloaded here.

For more information regarding the review, please contact SQW’s Project Director Richard Hindle.