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Funding and support for urgent COVID-19 research

Find out how to get your COVID-19 study prioritised for funding and/or support - updated 4 June 2020

On behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the NIHR has set up a UK-wide portal for applying for funding and/or prioritised support for urgent public health research into COVID-19. Our goal is to gather the necessary clinical and epidemiological evidence that will inform national policy and enable new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to be developed and tested.

The NIHR portal is for studies that require funding and/or Clinical Research Network support. CRN support includes expedited identification of sites to ensure appropriate geographical distribution of nationally prioritised research to maximise recruitment and minimise over-commitment of resource.

Studies submitted through the portal must be urgent in nature, which means that they need to take place during the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic when infection rates are high, and that they will deliver a public health impact within 12 months. 

Studies which have funding and require CRN support

These studies are reviewed and prioritised by the Urgent Public Health group. Following this review, DHSC determines whether studies shortlisted by the group should be accorded Urgent Public Health national priority status.

Chaired by Prof Nick Lemoine, CRN Medical Director, the Urgent Public Health Group has over 50 members including healthcare professionals and research experts from across the four nations and patient representatives. DHSC originally asked the group to focus on therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics and the collection of samples and data from people undergoing treatment. Now that more research capacity is becoming available, the group has been asked to broaden its focus to include the most urgent questions relating to mental health. A group of mental health experts has been brought together to support this additional work, meeting for the first time on 22 April 2020.

Studies which do not yet have funding

These studies are assessed by an independent Rapid Response Panel which makes funding recommendations to DHSC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Chaired by Prof. David Heymann of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the panel has over 20 members from across the four nations and is supported by a college of experts. There are patient representatives on both the panel and the college of experts.

The Rapid Response Panel is responsible for a DHSC/ UKRI Rolling Call that was launched on 1 April 2020. It was set up following completion of two DHSC/ UKRI Rapid Response Calls for COVID-19 which were launched on 4 February 2020 and have awarded a total of over £24 million.

The HRA has developed an expedited regulatory approval process that progresses in parallel to these two systems of assessment.


Please see the Q&A document for additional information.


The application process

All studies, funded and unfunded, need to be submitted for review by completing the research application form. Please provide as much information as you can at this stage. If you have difficulty accessing the form please email . See the guidance notes for additional information, including a list of the questions that will be asked. 

If you are planning a systematic review, please be especially careful to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort as many reviews are already underway. Before applying, please check with the PROSPERO register. We encourage people planning and doing systematic reviews to collaborate rather than compete with each other. Applications will require justification showing the special contribution that the review will make, that it is not an unnecessary duplication of effort and that the work represents good value for money.

If you are planning a clinical trial, it is critically important to include the relevant core outcome sets for COVID-19 as indicated on the COMET website.

If you require funding you will also need to complete the DHSC/ UKRI funding application form which you will be directed to during the application process.

In the case of studies seeking prioritised support from NIHR’s Clinical Research Network, the DHSC has a three-step process upon receipt of an application: 


A review of the submitted study information will be undertaken by clinical and research experts. They may signpost applicants to additional resources that may be available for the study, e.g. funding opportunities, platform studies or research delivery support. The study information provided will enable the experts to make recommendations for support to the Department of Health and Social Care.


Expedite the set-up and delivery of studies confirmed as part of the COVID-19 Urgent Public Health Research response by all necessary organisations across the research, health and social care systems.


Coordinate oversight of all COVID-19 Urgent Public Health Research to optimise set-up and delivery. This will be managed by the NIHR.