The Big Beat Challenge

A single research award of up to £30 million for the world’s greatest minds to tackle the world’s biggest killers.

Please note:The Big Beat Challenge has now closed for submissions.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) Big Beat Challenge is a global competition that will culminate in a single research award of up to £30 million to an international multi-disciplinary team, which has identified and proposed a transformational solution to a significant problem in heart and circulatory disease. It is a challenge to scientists, clinicians, innovators and entrepreneurs to look beyond incremental gains and accelerate research breakthroughs that could transform lives across the globe.

What is the motivation?

Over the past few decades, there have been many significant advances in the fight against heart and circulatory diseases, with marked contributions from BHF-funded research. Nevertheless, the mortality and morbidity burden of these diseases remains stubbornly high. Collectively, they are the world’s number one killer, accounting for almost 18 million deaths and immeasurable suffering around the globe every year. Furthermore, the World Health Organization predicts that, by 2030, the annual number of deaths from cardiovascular disease will rise to almost 24 million. The need for transformative research solutions to this growing global burden has never been greater.

The BHF Big Beat Challenge is designed to highlight the urgent need for novel approaches to tackle all forms of heart and circulatory disease, and to enable world-class, multi-disciplinary research teams to make real progress towards prevention, detection, treatment or cure for one or more of these conditions.

About the BHF

Founded in 1961, the BHF is a medical research charity, which funds research into all forms of heart and circulatory disease. Supported entirely by charitable donations, it is the largest non-commercial funder of cardiovascular research in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. The BHF currently funds around £100 million of new research every year, with awards that support people at every stage of their careers (from PhD students to BHF Professors), fund projects and programmes in discovery, translational and clinical science, and underpin research infrastructure developments.

For more than half a century, BHF-funded researchers have pioneered world-leading efforts to understand the causes of heart and circulatory disease and develop new methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Among many examples, BHF-funded scientists and innovators have helped to identify intra-coronary thrombosis as a major cause of heart attacks; carried out pivotal clinical trials leading to the adoption of thrombolytic drugs and statins around the world; discovered genetic mutations in inherited forms of heart and circulatory disease, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and familial hypercholesterolemia; led the global establishment of successful heart transplantation; and are currently investigating the potential for stem cells and regenerative medicine to repair broken hearts. In short, BHF funding has enabled very substantial contributions to the international research effort in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

What is the Big Beat Challenge?

The Big Beat Challenge is the embodiment of the BHF’s ambition to reduce the burden of heart and circulatory diseases around the world. Transformation of the cardiovascular research landscape – and acceleration of a step-change that can substantially improve the outlook for those affected by heart and circulatory disease around the world – requires investment on a larger scale than we have previously aspired to. But meaningful change won’t come from simply spending more. If we want to bring about a change of such magnitude, we must attract expertise from a wide and diverse range of fields and mobilise an international community of innovators who may not have previously sought to address cardiovascular research questions.

The Big Beat Challenge is challenging the global research community to identify a significant problem or opportunity in cardiovascular science or medicine, which if solved or seized at scale could generate substantial progress towards real patient benefit. This will be one of the largest and most ambitious grants of its kind, and the winning team will need to mobilise knowledge, talent and resources from new areas, working on a scale above and beyond existing programmes. It differs markedly from other recent large-scale awards in cardiovascular research in that it is not restricted to proposals that address a specific heart or circulatory disease, in a deliberate effort to galvanize creative thinking across a broad spectrum of investigators and innovators.

Why now?

We believe the time is right for a radical intervention. With recent advances in technologies like artificial intelligence, data processing and genome editing, the ground is primed for an audacious new initiative that moves beyond incremental gains and accelerates real breakthroughs. At the same time, the massive increase in global connectivity provides more opportunities than ever before for international teams to work closely together.

The Big Beat Challenge is not intended to replace the BHF’s existing mechanisms of funding - it is an additional scheme over and above what we will continue to fund and is expected to demonstrate whether funding at this scale can catalyse new international and multi-disciplinary collaborations that lead to a transformational advance.

Without boundaries, without borders

Unlike the BHF’s usual funding, which is restricted primarily to investigators in the UK, the Big Beat Challenge is open to anyone in the world – applications do not need to have partners from the UK, although of course we hope that many UK researchers will also rise to the challenge.

The applicants can also come from any domain – academia, industry, technology. Indeed, we want the Big Beat Challenge to inspire people from different disciplinary and geographical domains to come together and combine knowledge, expertise and resources to create innovative proposals.

Finally, as noted above, the award is not restricted to any one type of cardiovascular disease. The applicants can propose to tackle any aspect of the entire spectrum of heart or circulatory diseases. Applications can focus on enabling significant transformation for small subsets of people, or smaller but globally important changes for large numbers of people.   

What are the Big Beat Challenge requirements?

Outline applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

TransformationThe Big Beat Challenge is intended to transform the research landscape in any heart or circulatory disease, and applications should reflect this ambition. We are seeking proposals for innovative solutions that move beyond incremental gains and work towards a tangible change that would not otherwise be possible. While scientific and technical rigour will always be paramount, applicants are encouraged to submit bold ideas that are extraordinary, even radical. 

Innovative collaboration which is borderless with no boundariesTeams must be highly collaborative, mobilising knowledge, skills and resources from multiple disciplines and sectors. We want to see evidence that applicants have actively sought out a synergistic team of collaborators and partners worldwide that will bring fresh thinking to the field of research, and combine expertise in a way that is not already happening.

Solid foundations for successThe collective expertise, resources and track record of the team must indicate that it has the ability to tackle the targeted transformational advance with confidence, while recognising that the Challenge deliberately encourages a high-risk approach to yield high gain and that there will be opportunity to expand the team if selected to progress to a full application. Proposals should have a structured project plan, with a clear indication of how progress against goals and milestones will be measured.

Clear patient relevance: Proposals must seek to address a specific area of unmet need. The end point does not need to be clinical impact within the proposed time frame, but we want to see a clear route to patient benefit that is as comprehensible to the general public as it is to patients, healthcare professionals and researchers.

A need for Big Beat Challenge funding: Teams must demonstrate that delivery of their project would not be possible without the proposed scale of funding, including any complementary funding they are able to secure.

Robust management and governance: The management and governance structures must be appropriate for the project’s scope and scale, providing an innovative framework towards successful delivery.

Applicants shortlisted to progress to a full application will be expected to work with the BHF to engage public interest and support through activity such as media work, events, meetings and site visits. Your idea could change the world and we think people will want to know about it.


Submission deadline for Outline Application: 14 June 2019



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