Skip to main content

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

£4M funding available to solve the 2023 CRACK IT Challenges

Decorative image

Four new Challenges have been announced in this year's open innovation funding competition. 

Funding of £4M is available through the 2023 CRACK IT Challenges competition* to solve four Challenges, providing academics and SMEs based in the UK and Europe** with the opportunity to deliver scientific and 3Rs benefits through the development and commercialisation of 3Rs products and services that are tailored to end-user needs.

This year marks the launch of our second mega-Challenge (SensOoChip) providing increased funding and award duration to advance the organ-on-a-chip field and facilitate their wider adoption. The 2023 Challenges have the potential to impact animal use across sectors and disciplines and includes the development of new approach methodologies for toxicity testing of pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and systems to provide a step change in the behavioural and welfare assessment of mice. 

The Challenges are Sponsored by 13 organisations who will provide in-kind support (e.g. expertise, data, compounds) to help solve the Challenge. Funding is provided by the NC3Rs and this year we have secured co-funding from Bayer AG to support a specific Challenge (FET4Thyroid). 

Interested in applying for one of this year's Challenges? Register for the launch webinars in September 2023 to find out more about the Challenges and how to apply. Registration links for each webinar are provided below.

The 2023 Challenges


Decorative image

Challenge 44 – SensOoChip: Increasing the reproducibility and predictive power of organ-on-chips through multiparametric real-time monitoring and data modelling.

Background: The organ-on-a-chip (OoC) field is rapidly growing, delivering improved tools for disease modelling, safety and efficacy testing. Despite progress, there are barriers to overcome. The ability to incorporate longitudinal, non-invasive monitoring capabilities through the application of advanced engineering would overcome current limitations and encourage wider uptake. 

Challenge aim: To improve the utility and reproducibility of connected OoC devices by integrating real-time multiparametric monitoring.

3Rs benefits: This Challenge has the potential to deliver 3Rs benefits in the pharmaceutical industry through improving the earlier identification of drugs with toxicity, preventing these from progressing into animal studies and ensuring drugs that do progress have less potential for toxicity. 

This Challenge is sponsored by AstraZeneca, Bayer AG, Merck Healthcare KGaA and Novartis.


Decorative image

Challenge 45 – CrossDART: multi species in vitro developmental toxicity testing.

Background: Testing the teratogenic potential of drugs intended for the treatment of women of child-bearing potential typically involves evaluation in pregnant animals (rat and rabbit). These in vivo studies are not always predictive of human and are limited in their mechanistic insight. 

Challenge aim: To develop and qualify an in vitro approach that can reliably predict early or surrogate indicators of teratogenicity of pharmaceutical drug candidates.

3Rs benefits: This Challenge has the potential to provide more predictive approaches for the earlier identification of teratogenicity, preventing toxic drugs progressing to in vivo studies. In the longer term the approach could also substitute or defer testing in one of the two species required if qualified and accepted by Regulatory Authorities.

This Challenge is sponsored by AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bayer AG, Boehringer Ingelheim, LEO Pharma A/S, Merck Healthcare KGaA, MMV Medicines for Malaria Venture, Novartis and Roche.


Decorative image

Challenge 46 – FET4Thyroid: A Fish Eleutheroembryo Test for Thyroid Activity.

Background: Environmental Risk Assessment relies on animal testing to assess toxicological properties of chemicals, including endocrine disruption (ED). Currently, amphibians and fish are used in the assessment of ED properties of chemicals. 

Challenge aim: To develop an assay using non-protected life-stages of fish to detect thyroid-active chemicals that is designed to meet OECD principles for use in a regulatory context.

3Rs benefits: Using a fish eleutheroembryo test to identify thyroid-mediated endocrine disruption could preclude the requirement for studies in amphibians and fish protected life-stages. 

This Challenge is sponsored by Bayer AG and BASF SE and co-funded by Bayer AG.


Decorative image

Challenge 47 – aTRACKtive: Improved in vivo identification system for real-time, early-life individualised tracking and behavioural and welfare analysis in mice.

Background: Identification of individual group-housed mice is crucial for assessing their welfare and understanding their behaviour and social interactions. Current methods can only identify individual mice effectively and humanely after two weeks of age meaning that neonatal welfare cannot be readily assessed, and valuable data is not collected.

Challenge aim: To develop a non-invasive and non-toxic system for mouse identification from birth that are amenable to automated tracking technology and home cage monitoring. 

3Rs benefits: Delivery of a system that enables mice to be identified and longitudinally tracked from birth could lead to a reduction in the number of animals required to explore neonatal development of animals with different genotypes. It will also enable the identification and understanding of new welfare issues during development so that interventions to improve welfare can be tailored accordingly. 

This Challenge is sponsored by MRC Harwell and the National Mouse Genetics Network members Cardiff University and King’s College London.


Further information about the CRACK IT Challenges competition process can be found on the NC3Rs Innovation Platform. 

*Challenges are run using the Small Business Research Initiative provided by Innovate UK (part of UK Research and Innovation). 

**The competition is open to any UK, European Union, European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association body public or private.

Learn more about our Challenges funding competition and technology partnering on the Innovation Platform.

Decorative image