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The NC3Rs champions innovation in the 3Rs turning great ideas into products and services to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals. We do this through our CRACK IT Challenges competition and our NC3Rs hub on the konfer technology partnering platform.

Open innovation funding

CRACK IT Challenges is a unique funding competition which focuses on developing and commercialising new technologies as they emerge from the science base into 3Rs products and services that are directly targeted to meet end-user needs.

Areas for investment through CRACK IT Challenges are identified by the NC3Rs with end-users, typically pharmaceutical, chemical and consumer product companies. The programme provides an original approach for major industries, SMEs and academia to collaborate on tackling specific challenges involving the use of animals, with a focus on delivering 3Rs impacts, improving drug and chemical development pipelines, and promoting the growth of small businesses operating in the life sciences sector.

The competition is run annually with awards of up to £1M. Find out more about the products and services delivered by CRACK IT Challenges.

Technology partnering

Connecting technologies with 3Rs potential with new users for testing in different settings is essential for innovation in the 3Rs. Our hub on the konfer platform – the digital match-making service provided by the National Centre for Universities and Business – allows SMEs and academics to showcase their technologies to a large audience in the UK and overseas, as well as facilitating horizon scanning by industry and others for new technologies or collaborators relevant to their scientific or business needs.

Meet the CRACK IT team

Dr Kate Harris

Dr Kate Harris
Programme Manager – Challenge-led Innovation

Kate manages the CRACK IT Challenges programme. She has responsibility for project managing funded projects within the Challenges portfolio, ensuring delivery against milestones, maintaining consortia relations, delivering projects to time and collating impacts arising from these.



Dr Anthony Holmes

Dr Anthony Holmes
Director of Science and Technology

Ant leads the CRACK IT programme. He works with industry stakeholders and potential co-funders to encourage their participation in CRACK IT, and provides oversight of the CRACK IT process, including downstream exploitation of 3Rs products and services. He also has responsibility for links between the science and technology developed through NC3Rs grant funding and CRACK IT.




Dr Cathy Vickers

Dr Cathy Vickers
Head of Innovation

Cathy leads the CRACK IT Challenges programme and has oversight of the strategy and long-term sustainability of the scheme. She works with industry Sponsors to identify and work up potential new Challenges and is responsible for delivering impacts from funded projects. Cathy also leads on the Business Growth Scheme.



Portrait of Dr Deborah Milligan

Dr Deb Milligan
Programme Manager - Innovation

Deb is responsible for managing the outputs and maximising the impact of ongoing and completed CRACK IT Challenges. She has responsibility for project managing the Business Growth Scheme, raising the visibility of CRACK IT technology areas, disseminating outputs from the Challenge competition and supporting stakeholders to participate in NC3Rs networks.



Portrait of Dr Ruairidh Wilson

Dr Ruairidh Wilson
Science manager - Innovation 

Ruairidh supports the CRACK IT Challenges programme and has responsibility for collating and disseminating impacts arising from the Challenges portfolio. He also supports the Konfer collaboration platform and management of funded projects.