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New funding scheme: £4M available for proposals to establish infrastructure needed to accelerate use of non-animal methods. Apply now.

NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science

Non-animal derived product validation grants

Key information about applying for a non-animal derived product validation grant

Scheme at a glance

A total of £1M is available for projects seeking to characterise and validate the use of non-animal derived reagents and products for use in in vitro research. 


The NC3Rs has a long track record in supporting the development and implementation of non-animal derived reagents and products, also termed animal-free reagents and products, for use in vitro research. This includes through our research and innovation funding schemes as well as our dedicated online resource library that provides information on available reagents and products.

The science and technology now exists to replace many animal-derived reagents, such as antibodies and fetal bovine serum with animal-free products. Adoption of these reagents and products offers various benefits, including:

  • Improved quality of science – animal-free reagents are more consistent and reliable in terms of quality and formulation compared to traditional animal-derived products.
  • Increased reproducibility and reliability of results – improved consistency of animal-free reagents enhances the robustness and utility of findings from in vitro experiments.
  • 3Rs impact – replacing the need for animals used in the development and production of animal-derived reagents and avoiding associated welfare concerns.
  • Potential cost savings – switching to animal-free products can often be more cost-effective in the long-term.

Despite these benefits, the widespread use of animal-free reagents and products in in vitro research has been hindered by the lack of dedicated support for the characterisation and validation studies that are required to build the experience and confidence necessary to shift practice. We are committing £1M to help address this.

Key information about applying for this call is given below. Applicants should read the Applicant Handbook, which contains more detailed information about the process.


This funding call is exclusively for proposals focused on the characterisation and validation of non-animal derived reagents and products for use in in vitro research with the aim to build further confidence in these alternative approaches and demonstrate that they are fit-for-purpose. 

For the purposes of this call, non-animal derived products and reagents for use in in vitro research includes: 

  1. Non-animal derived antibodies and animal-free affinity reagents.
  2. Animal-free culture media.
  3. Non-animal derived enzymes and cells. 
  4. Animal-free scaffolds. 

Other non-animal derived products not listed above may also be within remit. To be considered within scope, a non-animal derived product must no longer require the use of animals for its development and production. Products that involve legacy animal use, such as recombinant antibodies generated in vitro using antibody sequences from pre-existing hybridomas are also within scope. Further information on non-animal derived products can be found on our resource pages.

Applications should be focused on the characterisation and/or validation of an animal-free reagent or product. It is expected that at the point of award the animal-free product will be readily available for use in your laboratory or organisation – this may include purchasing commercially available products, using existing stocks available to you, or sourcing products from collaborators or project partners. Plans to share your findings with the wider scientific community, including the publication of methodologies and supporting data sets, and how you will apply the findings to your future work should be described.  

The nature of applications will vary depending on the non-animal derived reagent or product being studied. To help you develop your ideas, examples of projects within scope include: 

  • Characterisation studies to demonstrate the distinctive features and performance characteristics of a non-animal derived product. For example, this may include experiments to determine the specificity, biochemical and functional profile of a non-animal derived product.   
  • Performance studies that focus on determining whether a non-animal derived product is working as expected, is generating results that are relevant and is appropriate for further testing (or use) to address a specific research question or purpose.   
  • Optimisation studies that further fine-tune the use of a non-animal derived product to improve its utility in your own laboratory or organisation. 
  • Comparison studies to establish whether a non-animal derived product is scientifically better than, or at least comparable to, currently used animal-based products. Studies may include a like-for-like comparison against the current state-of-the-art or gold standard product/reagent, or benchmarking against historical/published data. 
  • Reproducibility studies to show that a non-animal derived product produces reliable and replicable findings, helping to build further confidence in the approach. This may include studies focusing on replicating findings at the experimental level; or at an operational level such as between users within the same laboratory or between different laboratories. 

Cross-institutional, cross-departmental or cross-sector applications are of particular interest. Proposals involving multiple users (including industrial partners) to help validate at scale and shift the practices of whole communities for non-animal derived reagents and products that are commonly used are strongly encouraged.

Please note awards will be made for spending in the 2024/25 financial year. We recognise that the call is ambitious and that in some cases the work proposed may be focused on laying the foundations for future work focused on the widespread use of non-animal derived products. Ideally proposals should explain how the research will be taken forward/sustained. 

Key dates

Key date Details
9.00, 10 June 2024 Application form available on TFS
16.00, 30 July 2024 Deadline for submitting full application on TFS
Early September 2024 Panel assessment meeting 
September 2024 Applicants notified of outcome
1 October 2024 Latest date to start award

Award values and duration

The amount requested should be dependent on the scientific need and is limited to a maximum of £100k (80% FEC). The budget for the call is £1M.

Successful applicants need to complete their spending by 31 March 2025.

Eligibility criteria

Establishment eligibility

Any UK research establishment including:

  • Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
  • Eligible independent research organisations (IROs).
  • Research institutes.
  • Public sector research establishments.
  • Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)*.

*The definition of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) used by the NC3Rs is set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003. Please note that State Aid rules apply.

Individual eligibility

Applicants should be UK-based researchers who can demonstrate that they:

  • Will direct the plans set out in the proposal.
  • Will be actively engaged in accomplishing the proposal’s aims.
  • Hold a graduate degree – the minimum formal qualification required. However, it would normally be expected that an applicant has been awarded a PhD. Applications involving less experienced researchers should be made in collaboration with a more senior colleague.

We particularly welcome applications from currently under-represented groups in the research and innovation community (including, but not limited to, early career researchers, women, those with a disability and members of minority ethnic groups).

Overseas researchers

Overseas researchers cannot be Project Leads but can be included as collaborators or project partners. Project co-Lead (international) status can be obtained in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the NC3Rs – approval must be sought from the NC3Rs Office ( before applying.

Industrial researchers

Industrial researchers cannot be Project Leads but are eligible to apply for funding from the NC3Rs as a Project co-Lead. Please note that industry investigators are eligible for 100% directly incurred costs only, which should be entered under the Exceptions cost heading. Alternatively, a researcher based in industry may be included as collaborator or project partner. 

How to apply

Applications to this funding call must be made via the UKRI Funding Service (TFS). 

Applicants are advised to read and refer to the Applicant guidance, which contains more detailed information on submitting an application. 

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact, before submitting an application, to determine whether the proposed research fits the scheme remit and to confirm eligibility. 

To start an application on the Funding Service use the opportunity reference OPP655: NC3Rs Non-animal derived products grants 2024

Completed applications received after 4pm on the deadline date will not be considered, without exception.

Assessment process

Applications will be assessed by the non-animal derived products Assessment Panel. Applications will not be sent for external peer review and there will be no Project Lead rebuttal stage.

Your application will be assessed against the criteria for assessment as outlined below:

  • Potential impact to replace the use of an animal-derived regent or product in your laboratory or institute.
  • Quality of the proposed science.
  • Robustness of the proposed experimental design and methodology.
  • Team capability to deliver and likelihood of success.
  • Value for money.

Depending upon the number of applications received, a triage stage may be introduced. In this case, applications would be reviewed by the Panel to identify those which are not competitive. Applications that address an area of high strategic importance to the NC3Rs, and score within the fundable range, may receive an uplift in the recommendations for funding.


In order to maintain transparency and integrity of the peer review process the NC3Rs has adopted the UKRI principles of peer review. Panel assessment guidance and scoring criteria will be added shortly.

The non-animal derived product validation grants are open for applications. Deadline: 16.00, 30 July.

Assessment criteria