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Director's note on Programme Development Grant proposals


18 June 2019


1.0 - June 2019


While research teams awarded Programme Development Grants (PDGs) have had high success rates in subsequent applications for full Programme Grants, the success rate for PDGs is low, most often because of a lack of understanding of the purpose and requirements of the scheme.

The table below contrasts successful and unsuccessful PDG applications in respect of five key aspects of the assessment process. We hope that this will help research teams target their PDGs appropriately and hence lead to higher success rates in future rounds of the PDGs scheme. PDGs are not standalone project grants nor are they for preliminary exploratory work: their principal purpose is to position teams to bid successfully for future programme of applied research of direct and high relevance to patients and the NHS.

Applicants are also strongly advised to read the generic feedback on the first, second and third rounds of applications to the Programme Grants for Applied Research funding scheme in conjunction with the note below.

Aspects of successful and unsuccessful PDG applications

# Aspect of application Successful Programme Development Grant applications Unsuccessful Programme Development Grants applications
1 Future programme  (i.e. the programme of work that would follow the development grant) Describe future programme of work (to be conducted after the development work) consisting of a group of inter-related applied research activities with clear potential direct benefit for patients and the NHS. Plans for future programme are well formulated – that is, are sufficiently well described to allow scientific assessment of the future programme - but with identified discrete areas that need strengthening before the proposed programme could be fundable.  Describe future programme that is not sufficiently applied, consisting of exploratory work with no clear direct application for the benefit of patients and the NHS; or work plans for future programme which are aspirational or inadequately advanced lacking detail needed to allow scientific assessment of the future programme.
2 Research team Describe multidisciplinary research team, typically involving research clinicians, patient representatives, statisticians, health economists, qualitative methodologists, and behavioural scientists. As a general rule, the team members are all identified (or very close to all being identified) though the development grant can appropriately be used to strengthen collaborative links. Describe poorly developed teams with major gaps and lacking key disciplines sometimes with a plan to form the team during the development phase rather than augment an existing team or strengthen collaborative links.
3 Development work Describe series of well-formulated robust preparatory activities that directly address the discrete areas of the future programme that are deficient, such as to securely position the research team to bid successfully for a full programme grant once the development work has been completed. Describe preparatory work that does not directly inform or underpin the future programme i.e. stand alone projects; or work that does not convincingly strengthen the chances of a successful future application for a programme grant by addressing discrete areas of identified weakness using robust methods.


The underlying case for the proposed research 

Describe research on a topic of high relevance to the priorities and needs of the NHS, with clear aims and objectives such that the future programme of work can be seen to generate significant benefits for patients and the NHS.


Describes work on a topic that is not of high relevance or priority for the NHS, or whose purpose is not sufficiently well articulated to convincingly indicate a future programme would lead to significant future benefits for patients and the NHS.

5 Value for money Justifies a spend of up to £150,000 over up to 24 months for work that would securely position the research team to bid successfully for a full NIHR programme grant; and convinces that the potential benefits for patients and the NHS from the future programme would represent value for money from the subsequent programme grant.  

Fails to convince that the investment of up to £150,000 over 24 months would lead to a successful subsequent programme grant application; and/or that the potential dividends of the future programme of work would represent good value as an investment of NHS resources.