Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Official Development Assistance Guidance for Applicants and Peer Reviewers


28 May 2020


1.0 - May 2020


The NIHR Global Health Research programme is funded via the UK Government’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA) and supports high-quality applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), as defined from time to time by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) and listed on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. 

This guidance applies to all applications made to NIHR Global Health Research funding schemes, managed by the NIHR Coordinating Centres. It should be read alongside specific NIHR Global Health Research call guidance.

What is ODA and ODA-funded research?

Overall principles of ODA

ODA is defined as those flows to countries and territories on the DAC List of ODA Recipients and to multilateral development institutions which are:

  • provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies; and
  • each transaction of which:
       a.  is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and
       b.  is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25% (discounted at a rate of 10%).

All NIHR GHR awards automatically comply with the first bullet and (b). Applicants need to ensure that (a) is met by the proposal they are writing and the resultant activity.

Which countries are ODA eligible?

The OECD DAC List of ODA Recipients shows all countries and territories eligible to receive Official Development Assistance (ODA). These consist of all low- and middle-income countries based on gross national income (GNI) per capita as published by the World Bank. The DAC revises the list every three years.

Countries that have exceeded the high-income threshold for three consecutive years at the time of the review are removed and at that point will no longer be eligible for ODA. The current DAC List of ODA Recipients is effective for reporting on 2018, 2019 and 2020 flows. The next review of the DAC list will take place in 2020.

Countries due to graduate from the DAC list

The Cook Islands will no longer be ODA-eligible as of 1 January 2020. It is anticipated that Vanuatu will graduate from the list on 4 December 2020 and Angola will graduate on 12 February 2021. Bhutan will graduate on 13 December 2023. Sao Tome and Principe and the Solomon Islands will graduate on 13 December 2024. If Antigua and Barbuda, Palau and Panama remain high income countries until 2019 they will be proposed for graduation from the list in the 2020 review.
(effective for reporting on 2020 flows)

ODA compliant research activities

The OECD defines ODA compliant research activities as follows:

“Research includes financing by the official sector, whether in the donor country or elsewhere, of research into the problems of developing countries. This may be either:

   (i) undertaken by an agency or institution whose main purpose is to promote the economic growth or welfare of developing countries, or
   (ii) commissioned or approved, and financed or part-financed, by an official body from a general purpose institution with the specific aim of promoting the economic growth or welfare of developing countries.

(DAC Statistical Reporting Directives document , 51.iv)

Allocation of ODA funding through NIHR Global Health Research

Key considerations when applying for NIHR Global Health Research funding

The NIHR Global Health Research Programme supports areas of applied health research and training that are underfunded or where there is an unmet need.

The NIHR Global Health Research portfolio is underpinned by three principles which guide development and delivery. They are:

  • Meet eligibility criteria as Official Development Assistance (ODA)
  • Deliver high-quality applied health research, aligned with the Principles of the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR): Impact, Excellence, Effectiveness, Inclusion and Collaboration
  • Strengthen research capability and training through equitable partnerships

Capacity and capability strengthening may be understood as “the process by which individual, organisations and societies develop the ability (individually and collectively) to perform functions effectively, efficiently, and in a sustainable manner to define objectives and priorities, build sustainable institutions and bring solutions to key national problems”
Ultimately, capacity and capability strengthening should be aimed at improving the ability to undertake and disseminate research in order to promote the welfare and economic development of ODA-eligible countries.

Pathways to impact

It is important that the pathways to impact are realistic and appropriate to the particular LMIC context. Impacts from research are always uncertain, often unexpected and cannot be guaranteed – this includes impacts in LMICs. The likelihood and scale of beneficial impact is increased when:

  • the research is orientated towards a problem or challenge affecting LMICs currently or in the future, where there is potential to benefit a large number of people to a significant degree;
  • the research team can demonstrate experience or understanding of successful impacts within the specific context; relevant expertise might be located within both UK and international partners;
  • stakeholders that are close to the problem, from the voluntary and community sector, commercial and private sector and/or public sector and government, are actively involved throughout  the research life cycle from, research need prioritisation, design, implementation, dissemination, knowledge exchange and translation of research findings into policy and practice.

A clearly outlined pathway to impact should be included in your application. This should outline how the funded activities are expected to contribute to a chain of results that lead to the intended scale up of impacts on policy and practice. To include consideration of:

  • how and when relevant stakeholders (policy makers, practitioners, public) will be engaged (from identifying the research need, research design, implementation, analysis, to reporting and dissemination),
  • underlying assumptions/risks,
  • any external factors (social, political, economic, environmental, technological, legal, demographic, cultural context, other funders' activities) which may (either positively or negatively) influence the success of the programme in achieving these impacts,
  • the sustainability of impacts (e.g. how will cost effectiveness be assessed, is there an appropriate exit strategy involving effective transfer of ownership?)
  • how the proposed work will develop individual and institutional global health research capacity for the long term to support sustainability and the research eco-system as a whole.

Where the research could lead to commercialisation the application must demonstrate that the developing country or countries have existing or potential ability to grow industry (or other relevant sector). It is not normally acceptable for the commercialisation of research to take place solely in
High Income Countries (HIC), unless there is a clear plan to build new businesses or business growth in the LMIC(s).

In relation to the proposed ownership arrangements of the Foreground IP, Arising Know How and Data, as defined in the NIHR Global Health Research contract, the parties should consider who is best placed to use, disseminate and/or commercially exploit the relevant intellectual property and/or database to maximise the opportunities to deliver patient benefit. There should be license arrangements with collaborators (usually contained within the Collaboration Agreement signed for a project) for research and teaching purposes and/or in the support of the development, promotion or provision of health care or for any other purpose that is not a commercial use.

Demonstrating ODA compliance within applications for funding

Applicants to NIHR Global Health Research funding will be asked to provide an ODA Compliance Statement.

The research must be for the direct and primary benefit of people in ODA-eligible countries. In order to be eligible to receive NIHR Global Health Research funding, applications must demonstrate how they meet ODA compliance criteria and outline:

  • Which country or countries on the OECD DAC list of ODA-eligible countries will directly benefit?
  • How the application is directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of those countries?
  • How the outcomes will promote the health and welfare of a country or countries on the DAC list

Where all or part of the research is not undertaken in an ODA-eligible country during the course of the award (including where a country graduates from the DAC list during the lifetime of the award or there is a need for specialist expertise) the application must clearly state the reasons for this with due consideration to the benefit of the research to ODA-eligible countries.

Applications for research funding will be assessed by a competitive peer review process with ODA eligibility being a criterion for approval i.e. projects must be fully ODA compliant to be considered for funding. Initial ODA compliance checks will be carried out by the relevant NIHR Coordinating Centre; proposals that do not meet the eligibility as defined in this document may be rejected without reference to peer review. Peer reviewers will also be provided with this ODA guidance and asked to comment on ODA compliance and likelihood of significant impact.


OECD Factsheet: What is ODA

OECD DAC Statistical Reporting Directives