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Finance Guidance for Applicants to the Third Call for Global Health Research Groups


Published: 02 June 2020

Version: 1.0 - May 2020

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Programme Specific Information

The NIHR Global Health Research Groups call 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.
The below guidance covers the key principles supported by NIHR Global Health Research funding. The guidance is structured to specifically help research teams applying to the NIHR Global Health Research Groups. This document should be read in conjunction the specific call guidance  for details of specific eligibility requirements, scope and remit (Remit and Guidance, Core guidance)
The NIHR Global Health Research Groups awards Call will provide funding of a maximum of £3m per application for a period of up to 3-4 years for partnerships led by two Joint Lead Applicants (one from an ODA-eligible country and one from a UK institution).
Applications can indicate a budget line for responsive or commissioned funding to address emerging priorities/needs and/or developmental work up to 5% of the total requested budget. Please see detailed guidance under section 3.11 Commissioned and Responsive Funding.
Applications to the call for Global Health Research Groups can include a planned start-up phase in their research plans. The costing of the initial start-up phase should be reflected appropriately within their proposed budget. 

Official Development Assistance (ODA) Eligibility

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 some 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.
Applicants should ensure they have considered existing advice on ODA eligibility and that information on how the application for funding will be ODA-compliant is included in the application. Any queries about the ODA eligibility of programmes should be raised with the relevant NIHR Coordinating Centre as early as possible.

General Information 

Single Stage Application process and Stage 2 of NIHR RIGHT/Global Professorships 

  • Applicants are required to complete the finance template and to provide a breakdown of costs associated with delivering proposed research plans.
  • All funds must be requested at current price at the time of the submission and inflation must not be included. Annual inflationary uplifts may be awarded to successful applicants by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) depending on the available resources.
  • The information included within the application will be used to assess value for money. It is in your best interest to undertake a thorough, realistic and accurate costing. Applicants must provide a clear and full justification for all costs within the finance template. Further itemisation of costs and methods of calculation should be included to support the application. If insufficient itemisation is provided at application stage, further details and methods of calculation may be requested. Failure to provide a sound justification for expenditure will result in costs not being funded.
  • Applicants must provide a clear justification for all costs, including all costs required to secure risk management and assurance appropriate to ODA funding. Guidance on how to complete the form is embedded within the finance form.
  • Programme years should be calculated starting from the anticipated start date of the proposed research. The start date should be on the first of the month, e.g. 1st September 2020.
  • All costs must be reasonable, justifiable and compliant with the principles of robust financial management. Once the contract starts, expenditure must be identifiable, verifiable and recorded in accounts with applicable accounting standards. NIHR reserves the right to inspect the accounting records at any time.
  • Payments will be made to the contracted organisation only and the contractedorganisation will be responsible for passing on any money due to their collaborating organisation(s) including those in LMICs.
  • Please ensure that all costs are converted and presented as GB £ in the application. The exchange rate used, as well as date / source of exchange rate should also be provided.
  • Appropriate sub-contracts or collaboration agreements must be put in place for any element of the research which is to be paid to another organisation.
  • All applications are expected to have appropriate input from Lead / Joint-lead institutions (as applicable), Co-applicant institutions and other relevant collaborating organisations into the completion of the finance section of the application form.
  • Once an award has been made, NIHR on behalf of DHSC will require Contractors to provide regular financial statements regarding the actual use of funds. As this funding must be ODA compliant, Contractors will also be required to forecast their expenditure on a quarterly basis on both a cash and resource basis.
        The submission quarters are:
        1st Apr - 30th June
        1st Jul – 30th Sep
        1st Oct – 31st Dec
        1st Jan – 31st Mar
        The financial reports are due 1 month after the quarter end.
  • DHSC reserves the right to send independent auditors to the contracted organisation and to collaborating organisations involved in the research programme to confirm the actual use of funds.
  • Organisations which are unable to reclaim Value-Added Tax (VAT) should include costs inclusive of VAT, otherwise VAT must be excluded. Seek advice of your VAT expert to determine the VAT status of your organisation.

Information on Different Types of Organisations 

UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) 

UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should determine the Full Economic Costing (FEC) of their research using Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) methodology. For HEIs in the UK, NIHR will fund 80% of the HEI’s FEC, provided the TRAC methodology has been used.

NHS organisations 

For applications that include NHS organisations, up to 100% of direct costs will be paid. No indirect costs will be funded.

Other UK-based organisations 

For applications that include other types of organisations based in the UK (e.g. charities, research institutes, commercial organisations etc), up to 100% of direct costs will be paid. Indirect costs can be requested and should be charged in proportion to the amount of staff effort requested on the funding application. The NIHR reserves the right to set limits to indirect costs charged.

Collaborating organisations based in LMICs 

For applications that include collaborating organisations based in LMICs (as listed on the OCED DAC list), 100% of direct and indirect costs will be funded.

Commercial and other collaborating organisations not based in LMICs or the UK 

For commercial organisations, consultancies and other collaborating organisations not based in ODA-eligible LMICs or the UK, up to 100% of direct costs will be paid but no indirect costs will be supported for these organisations.
Please see the sections below for further details of the types of costs that can be claimed. 

Direct Costs 

Direct costs are those ODA-eligible costs that will be incurred by the Contractor (and any Co-Applicants/Collaborators) in carrying out the proposed plans. These should be charged as the amount actually incurred and should be supported by an audit record. 
Eligible direct costs are listed in the sub-headings below. 

Staff costs 

Reasonable and proportionate staff costs can be requested. These should include relevant on-costs, such as employer’s contributions towards national insurance (or equivalent), pension and apprenticeship levy. Applicants must provide information supporting the rates applied for each type of employer contribution.
Staff costs should be based on current salary scales and include estimated increments. Once your programme is contracted, retrospective pay awards cannot be claimed. Estimated uplifts for inflation should NOT be included, however agreed multi-year pay awards may be included.
Salaries may be sought at a level appropriate to the skills, responsibilities and expertise necessary to carry out the role required.
Salaries that are already being fully or in-part funded by the NIHR must be declared in the justification of costs section and cannot be claimed for again.
There are specific and detailed requirements for monitoring, reporting and financial assurance relating to the distribution and use of ODA funds. Applicants are, therefore, strongly encouraged to include appropriate resource for programme management, monitoring and evaluation, and financial management to support these requirements.
Student stipend costs, if applicable, should be included within the salary section (for further guidance on Stipends please see guidance in ‘Training and Development Costs’ section below).
Student fees should be included within “Training and Development Costs” (see further guidance in in ‘Training and Development Costs’ section below). 

Travel, Subsistence and Conference costs 

Travel and subsistence costs of collaborative working visits and engagement with potential stakeholders can be requested. You may also request travel and subsistence costs of your programme advisory groups, steering committees, data monitoring and ethics committees. Travel and subsistence in relation to programme meetings, training and dissemination activities can also be claimed.
Where costs are amalgamated, a comprehensive breakdown of all costs should be provided.
Applicants are required to consider value for money and environmental impact and consider whether a trip is necessary and whether alternative cheaper options (e.g. teleconferencing or video conferencing) offer a viable alternative.

Travel costs

All journey by rail or air should be budgeted by a class of travel that is no higher than standard economy unless higher-class travel is required to comply with specific legislation. NIHR funding schemes do not fund first class travel.
For UK travel only: If travel is by car, apply your institution’s mileage rates. However, they should not exceed HMRC approved mileage allowances (45p per mile for the first 10,000 business miles and 25p per mile thereafter).
For international travel: all journeys must be charged according to the most appropriate (basic or standard) local rate.
Costs of visas required for travel specifically related to the programme, should be included within this section. If a visa covers travel across multiple projects the cost of the visa should be shared across all projects where possible but if not only claimed once.


Subsistence covers accommodation (if necessary) and meals associated with travel. All cost must be based on actual receipted expenditure. Alcohol and tobacco are not allowable subsistence items. Per diem payments for subsistence are not permitted.


Where costs for attending national or international conference (fees, associated travel and subsistence) are requested, a statement naming the conference or purpose of travel and the benefit to the programme must be included. Failure to adequately justify the attendance at a conference will result in these costs not being funded.


Essential items of equipment (lease or purchase costs) including maintenance and other related costs can be requested. The proposed cost of all equipment to be purchased needs to be fully justified and all proposed costs should be good value for money.  NIHR may challenge proposed costs that it does not consider appropriate or does not offer value for money.
UK HEIs who claim FEC cannot request equipment items that are included within the estates element of FEC.

Equipment purchase for use in the UK contracted/collaborating Organisations would not normally be supported. If equipment is required for the use in the UK, a clear justification must be provided, including as to how the purchase will be of the direct and principal benefit to the LMIC community. Please note that equipment purchased and owned by the NHS cannot be funded by the NIHR. Please ensure no NHS equipment costs are included in your application.

Costs of computers and laptops are normally restricted to a maximum of £1000 each including associated software and VAT and a statement of justification must be included in the ‘Justification of Costs’ section for any purchase above this limit.

Items of equipment valued at £250 or more (or equivalent in local currency) must be itemised separately; however grouping of the same type of equipment is permitted.

NIHR considers any equipment and/or supplies purchased in part or fully from ODA funds as programme assets if they have a useful life of more than one year; and either
  1. the purchase price or development cost of the asset is in excess of £500 or equivalent in local currency; or
  2. is a group of lower value items (e.g. pharmaceutical products, food, relief packs, etc.) where the combined value is in excess of £500 or equivalent in local currency; or
  3. can be considered an attractive item regardless of cost (e.g. mobile phones, cameras, laptops, tablets, satellite phones, vehicles, etc.).

NIHR Contractors are expected to keep an up-to-date asset register, and report this to the NIHR on an annual basis.

At the end of the programme the equipment will remain the property of the relevant Collaborator or the Contractor and must continue to be used for ODA-eligible activities. 


This section includes items specific to the programme. Please itemise and describe the requirements fully (e.g. printing of leaflets, postage, etc.). These items should be specific to the research programme, not just general office costs. 

Community Engagement and Involvement

Please include realistic costs for Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) considering the UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement. Involving people in the programme requires resources in terms of time and monetary payments. It is really important to account for the costs of involvement at an early stage. These are likely to include:
  • Payments in recognition of time, skills and expertise
  • Out of pocket expenses such as travel and subsistence
  • Training and learning costs – training and induction for members of the public may be required for many involvement activities, payment for time for policy makers and other stakeholders and any relevant support costs. All costs should be itemised and described.
NIHR have produced a number of useful resources in relation to community engagement and involvement, which can be found following the links:


Costs associated with publication, presentation of findings can be requested as part of this award. All costs should be calculated on the basis of the lowest possible estimates.
Breakdown of all costs and activities must be provided. Any large costs should be further detailed with a breakdown of constituent parts or a timescale profile of the costs. Meetings to share best practice, training events and events to disseminate research findings must be run at the lowest possible cost with minimal catering. ‘Conferences’ which are described as such are not eligible for funding.

Outputs funded by NIHR must be shared on open access platforms. Articles submitted to an open access publication may be subject to an Article Processing Charge (APC). If applicable, please include the costs of APCs. APC rates vary but are usually within the range of £300 and £3000. Open access publications usually list their APC rates on their websites.

More details about the NIHR Open Access policy is available.  

Risk Management and Assurance

Costs associated with proportionate risk management and assurance may be requested as part of this application for funding. There are specific requirements for monitoring and financial assurance relating to the distribution and use of ODA funds.
To make effective arrangements for risk management and assurance, Applicants should consider the financial systems and financial management capacity of Co-Applicants/Collaborators and the level of risk within the country, and tailor the assurance and monitoring processes appropriately. The Good Financial Grants Practice (GFGP) may be used in order to identify gaps in financial capacity, governance, systems etc.

GFGP audits and accreditation costs can be requested. Please consider that these costs can only be requested once per organisation, and should not be claimed across multiple NIHR programmes/calls.

Costs specific to safeguarding activities are also permitted.

Breakdown of all costs and activities must be provided. Any large costs should be further detailed with a breakdown of constituent parts or a timescale profile of the costs. (e.g. due diligence cost would be expected to be profiled within the early stages of the programme).

UK statutory audit costs are not eligible direct costs.

Audits conducted in LMICs may be eligible direct costs, provided these are project audits (PA) / formal Project Expenditure Verifications (PEV). Where a PA/PEV is done as part of a statutory audit, the cost can be claimed if there are substantial project specific audits (PSA) which are referenced or embedded in statutory accounts or as a stand-alone PEV report. 

Training and Development Costs

In Global Health Research programme applications, funds can be requested for a range of activities, for example:
  • Full or partial formal training posts (including but not limited to BSc, MSc, MPhil, MRes, PhD, Post docs)
  • Training in technical research skills and personal development skills
  • Other wider institutional capacity strengthening activities such as finance management, research management, data management, legal compliance and assurance training
  • Institutional systems for coaching, mentoring and/or peer-mentorship.
These activities can be delivered through a range of mechanisms, such as through courses, workshops, exchanges and other relevant training activities.

Events to share best practice and training workshops such as sending out colleagues to provide specific training to their counterparts in ODA eligible countries can be requested within this section.

English language training in the context of all studentships is an eligible cost, provided clear justification and a strong value for money argument are given. 

Student Fees

NIHR will fund full studentship costs of formal academic training courses for students from ODA-eligible countries, who are registered to attend a LMIC or HIC institution. All studentships will be considered, including but not limited to MScs and PhDs provided they are co-terminus with the award. The course may be taught via distance/remote learning or in person, or a combination of both.
In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a HIC institution (often charged at higher rates for international students), it is expected that the relevant (Joint) Lead Applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate to bring them in line with those paid by nationals. Application for funding should show evidence of fees being reduced. NIHR would require justification where only partial or no LMIC student fee reductions have been achieved.

It is expected that studentships are co-terminus with the award. Therefore, where PhDs are being included as part of formal training plans, funding awards should be for a minimum of 48 months to allow time for recruitment and completion of training within the funded award period.


NIHR understands that it is common practice to provide stipends to PhD, and Post-Doctoral students, however for NIHR Global Health Research funded programmes they also apply to all other academic formal training courses, so long as support or salary is not received from another source during the period of the training course.
It is expected that stipends are only claimed where students are enrolled in a course of a minimum duration of 12 months, unless there is a clear justification for providing stipend for shorter durations.

Stipends can be claimed by students from ODA-eligible countries, regardless of whether they are registered at a HEI in an ODA-eligible country or HIC.

Students from ODA eligible countries undertaking formal training course delivered via distance/remote learning registered at a UK or other HIC HEI may have to attend residential training in the HIC as part of their course.  Where this is the case, stipend costs can be claimed only for the time spent in the HIC as part of the course as follows:
  • UK HEIs: pro-rata stipend, calculated as a proportion of the annual UK stipend figure may apply. Applicants must provide a full justification.
  • Other HIC HEIs: the stipend policy of the sponsoring organisation will apply. Pro-rata stipend, calculated as a proportion of the annual stipend figure, may apply. A copy of the policy should be submitted to NIHR and applicants must provide full justification.
Students from ODA eligible countries undertaking courses in ODA eligible country or non-UK HIC HEIs, will be expected to adhere to the stipend policy of the sponsoring organisation, and a copy of the policy should be submitted to NIHR.

The proposed NIHR minimum annual stipend figure applicable in the UK is set at £15,285 for 2020/21, and increased each year in line with UK inflation. Minimum stipend rates will be published on the NIHR website. Applicants offering more than the minimum stipend will be expected to provide justification.

Stipends are expected to cover living costs such as subsistence, routine travel and accommodation. Additional costs such as conference attendance, research expenses and international travel are not covered by the stipend, and should be included in the relevant section of the proposed project/programme costing, where applicable.

Please note, Student stipend costs, if applicable, should be included within the salary section of the Finance Form.
Please note: In Global Health Research Programme applications, HIC HEI student fees or associated stipend costs are eligible only for students from ODA eligible countries. Student fees or stipends for students from HICs would not be eligible, regardless of the programme and location of study.

For personal development awards such as NIHR Global Research Professorships, applicants should refer to the specific scheme guidance on research training and development. 

External intervention costs

If the proposed research requires an intervention to be delivered in the LMIC it is you are permitted to claim for External Intervention Costs (EIC) that are in excess of standard care provided in that local setting.
For comparison, these would be interventions classified as NHS support or excess treatment activities in the UK and the costs would not be funded through the research award if the research was taking place in the UK. 

Other Direct Costs

These are costs, not identified elsewhere, that are specifically attributed to the NIHR Global Health Research Group. For example, external consultancy costs, software licensing, and trial advertising costs.
Please note that external consultants must not be people who are already employed by the contracting institution or any other Co-Applicants/Collaborators involved in the programme. All employees must be shown under staff costs.  Any consultancy costs must be justified and a number of days and a daily rate must be stated.
Translation costs of programme specific documents can also be claimed as long as these can be supported by an audit record.
Ethical and other regulatory approval specific to the proposed research can also be requested as part of “other direct costs”. 

Commissioned and Responsive Funding

If the Global Health Research Group application includes plans for responsive or commissioned funding to address emerging priorities/needs and/or developmental work, the costs for these should be included in this section.
  • These research costs must not exceed the maximum £3m budget limit for Global Health Research Groups set for proposals submitted to this call.
  • Applications must clearly describe the proposed way these funds will be made available for delivery of ODA-eligible research in LMICs.
  • Funds must be spent in LMICs to deliver research.
  • Any research activities funded through this route must align with the application aims, be completed within the contracted award timeframes and adhere with finance guidance for the call.
  • These funds may not be used as contingency i.e. a reserve of money set aside to cover possible unforeseen future expenses.
  • Activities supported from this budget line will be monitored by the NIHR through routine monitoring processes. 

Indirect Costs / Overheads

Indirect costs  may include but are not limited to:
  • General office and basic laboratory consumables
  • Premises costs
  • Library services/learning resources
  • Typing/secretarial
  • Finance (including audit), personnel, public relations and departmental services
  • Usage costs of major research facilities
  • Central and distributed computing
  • Charge out rates for shared equipment
  • Cost of capital employed
  • Insurance
  • Statutory audits
UK HEIs may request indirect costs and estates that form part of Full Economic Costing (FEC). These are calculated on the number of full-time equivalent research effort working on the programme. 80% of these costs will be funded. Indirect costs will be scrutinised as part of Value for Money assessment and therefore these costs must be fully justified as to why these costs are being requested and how they will contribute to the overall research.

UK HEI indirect costs cannot be claimed on shared or support staff costs.
LMIC organisations
ODA-eligible LMIC institutions may include actual and real costs of undertaking the research in low-resource settings. Indirect costs can be claimed and should be charged in proportion to the total amount of staff effort (research and support staff) requested on the application for funding.
UK NHS organisations
NHS organisations cannot claim any indirect costs through NIHR programmes.
Other Organisations
Indirect costs of other collaborating organisations based in ODA-eligible countries or the UK can be claimed and should be charged in proportion to the amount of staff effort requested on the funding application form.

Indirect costs for collaborating institutions based in HICs (other than the UK) are not supported.

All indirect costs requested as part of application must be fully justified as to why these costs are being requested and how they will contribute to the delivery of the objectives of the programme.

Ineligible costs

The following costs are not eligible under the NIHR Global Health Research Groups call:
  • Any costs that cannot be classed as ODA-eligible as defined by the OECD
  • Cost associated with lobbying or any other political or exclusively religious activities
  • First and Business class travel
  • Per diem costs for travel and subsistence for all staff employed on the programme
  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Entertainment
  • UK NHS support and treatment costs
  • Establishing and running new bio-banks
  • Fines and penalties
  • Costs already funded by NIHR or any other public organisations
  • Payments reimbursed or to be reimbursed by other funding
  • Contributions in kind (i.e. contributions in goods or services as opposed to money)
  • VAT reclaimable from HMRC
  • Contingency
  • Interest payments
  • Inflation or foreign exchange rate contingency
  • Funding will not be provided to meet the costs of basic research
  • NHS Equipment costs will not be funded by NIHR Global Health Research funding
  • Capital investments in new buildings.
Organisations claiming indirect costs as part of Full Economic Costing (FEC) are not permitted to claim costs such as staff recruitment (including advertising), redundancy costs, general training (eg. common IT packages) and general office costs (e.g. non-programme specific printing and photocopying) as these are covered by the indirect costs envelope. 

Justification of Costs 

Justification for all resources requested should be provided in the appropriate part of the NIHR Finance Form submitted with the application. Please demonstrate how the costs included in your application provide value for money.
Please ensure that it is clear as to how exactly the costs have been calculated and allocated. For example if you plan to spend £100k on consumables please ensure you provide further information as to the price, type and numbers of items that will be purchased.

Please provide a full justification for indirect costs requested clearly stating the methodology used to calculate these costs and how they represent a good value for money.

The NIHR requires evidence of good value for money within the justification of costs and considers this to be the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes. ‘Optimal’ being considered as ‘the most desirable possible given expressed or implied restrictions or constraints’. Value for money goes beyond achieving the lowest initial price and includes consideration of Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Equity (as appropriate) and what these mean in the context of a research proposal:

Economy: Are we buying inputs of the appropriate quality at the right price? (Inputs are things such as staff, consultants, raw materials and capital that are used to produce outputs)

Efficiency: How well do we convert inputs into outputs? (Outputs are results delivered by us or our agents to an external party. We exercise strong control over the quality and quantity of outputs)

Effectiveness: How well are the outputs from an intervention achieving the desired outcome? (Note that in contrast to outputs, we do not exercise direct control over outcomes)

Equity: The extent to which the outputs of our interventions are equitably distributed.

The following reference resources may be useful: 
Please contact if you have any queries when completing the finance template.