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NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) Programme - Remit and Guidance for the Commissioned Awards Call


Published: 18 September 2019

Version: Version 1

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The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Significant gaps exist in health policy and systems research activity relevant to LMIC contexts, and the NIHR, through expertise in the UK context, is well placed to meet these needs, building on existing national and global health research programmes including Global Health Research Units and Groups and the Research for Innovation and Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) calls.

In partnership with Health Systems Global and HSRUK, NIHR established a Global Health Policy and Systems (HPSR) Community of Practice, (which is a community open to all those interested in global HPSR), to help identify global HPSR priorities and needs, and to support networking and shared learning. Through a stakeholder engagement workshop and survey involving this global HPSR community, NIHR developed and refined a new programme of global health policy and systems research relevant to low and middle-income country settings.

About the NIHR Global HPSR Programme

The NIHR Global HPSR programme supports research which aims to improve whole health systems and health services in ODA-eligible countries on the DAC list through development of equitable partnerships between LMIC and UK researchers, who together will engage stakeholders to identify and address priorities for research in health policy and health systems and develop plans for capacity strengthening and knowledge sharing.

Ultimately, research outcomes will be expected to underpin the WHO #HealthForAll campaign to promote universal health coverage (UHC) towards meeting SDG3, achieved through supporting high quality, appropriate and applicable NIHR-funded global health policy and systems research.

The scope of the NIHR Global HPSR Programme is broad, covering any area of applied health services and whole systems research, which can ultimately strengthen and improve health systems for people in ODA-eligible countries on the DAC list. It includes but is not limited to applied research on wider elements of health systems such as governance, financing, health workforce, information systems, quality, and service delivery and the impacts of broader determinants of health. It can involve global health policy and systems research across the following domains:

  • Micro-level (patient and practitioners)
  • Meso-level (organisation and delivery of health care)
  • Macro-level (regional/national)

The Programme particularly encourages involvement of a wide range of disciplines driven by the research questions and needs as identified by stakeholders in LMICs and relevant to low resource settings.

NIHR Global HPSR Commissioned Awards

Remit of the call

The aim of the NIHR Global HPSR Commissioned Awards call is to support equitable partnerships between LMIC and UK researchers to generate new research knowledge and evidence to tackle priorities for health systems strengthening in ODA eligible countries in areas identified as priorities through the NIHR’s engagement and consultation exercise (see Section 4 Priority Areas – Background below).

Awards of up to £4m for a duration of up to 4 years are available for partnerships/consortia led by two Joint Lead Applicants (one from an LMIC and one from a UK institution) and up to three additional Co-Applicants.

Applications submitted to this call will be required to describe how they address the key criteria for funding.

Key criteria for funding:

  1. Research plans build on established partnerships between two Joint Lead Applicants (one from an LMIC and one from a UK institution), and up to a further three research Co-Applicants, who will form a research team able to support knowledge generation and exchange and strengthen relevant capacity and capability development.
  2. Research plans are based on a review of the local context, and demonstrate how the application is rooted in existing research literature and health system(s);
  3. The proposed research draws on an LMIC-led needs analysis, which has refined relevant research questions and priorities through engagement with policy makers, evidence users and local communities, as appropriate. Where partner institutions are in middle-income countries on the DAC list, applications should clearly demonstrate how the research will improve the health and welfare of the most vulnerable populations and how their findings could have wider applicability to other low resource settings.
  4. There are clear plans for developing institutional and individual research capacity and capability (for example research career development programmes and training; exchanges with policy-making institutions/practice-based settings; and grant management, finance management and contracting etc)
  5. A clear and implementable strategy for pathways to impact including research uptake and dissemination, based on a theory of change or equivalent.

Priority areas for the Global HPSR Commissioned Award Call


It is estimated that over 400 million people worldwide have no access to essential health services. The United Nations set a target for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3.8) of attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) note this will only be achieved if consistent and comprehensive health systems are developed that can deliver on improved health outcomes and well-being of the populations they serve, as summarised in the report Strategising national health policies in the 21st Century– a handbookSchmets G, et al editors. Strategizing national health in the 21st century: a handbook. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2016.

Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) are particularly at risk of not meeting this target, for example only 6 of 53 African countries meet the Abuja commitment of allocating at least 15% of their domestic budgets to health services and care, and 70 countries worldwide spend less than 10%. To address this, UHC and the SDGs aim to ensure ‘no one is left behind’ with all people able to access appropriate quality, affordable, safe and essential health care and medicines without facing financial hardship.

Better health and care for all can in turn lead to increased productivity, growth, economic development and poverty reduction, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

Global health policy and systems research

Health policy and systems research has been endorsed by the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who recognised the role of research in health policy and health system strengthening as a strategic priority area, highlighting the impact that achieving UHC will have on the SDGs.

The Lancet Global Health Commission on high quality health systems in the SDG era (Kruk ME et al, High quality sustainable health systems in the Sustainable Development Goals era: time for a revolution. Lancet Global Health 2018, 6: e1196-1252), supports the need for a whole systems approach to strengthen health systems and services and attain high quality care for all. Strengthening whole health systems is complex and involves changes to several building blocks and performance drivers, for example, policies, organisational structures and relationships that support behaviour changes, and more effective and efficient use of resources to improve health services.

System-wide approaches require cross-sector engagement and involvement to sustain improvements to health service, quality and health outcomes. For this to be achieved sustainably, macro-level (national/regional) changes are required, in addition to targeted meso-level (organisation/service) and micro-level (patient/ practitioner) approaches.

Globally there is a rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and chronic complex conditions. This represents a significant challenge to health systems particularly for low-income and lower- middle-income countries, which have developed on the basis of vertical programmes, for example focused on HIV or malaria.

Providing services for acute and chronic conditions requires sustainable, integrated systems, including integration between community, primary, secondary and tertiary care, referral systems and effective data management systems. A motivated workforce with the appropriate skill mix, training, support and organisation are vital to support effective health systems performance.

A number of health system frameworks exist. The WHO framework sets out six building blocks for a health system: health workforce, information, medical products, vaccines and technologies, financing, and leadership and governance (Monitoring the building blocks of health systems: a handbook of indicators and their measurement strategies. World Health Organization). The health systems cube represents the potential interactions within and across health system inputs and how these interactions need to be considered to attain sustainable improvements to support higher quality services and improved health outcomes (Why differentiating between health system support and health system strengthening is needed Chee, G et al, Int J Health Plann Manage.2013;28: 85–94), with affordability as well as access to essential services being essential elements.

Global HPSR as a priority research area for NIHR

There are significant gaps in research activity in this area relevant to a LMIC context. NIHR is well placed to meet this need, with a track-record of commissioning health services research and expertise in providing evidence to inform policy-making and health service delivery.

Over the past 12 months, NIHR has undertaken stakeholder engagement to support the development of a new programme of global HPSR relevant to low and middle-income country settings, starting with a symposium and workshop at Health Systems Global, Liverpool, September 2018. Following stakeholder engagement and discussion with speakers and experts, Health Services Research UK (HSRUK) were commissioned to lead an independent scoping and landscape analysis, which included;

  • An on-line survey with 231 respondents representing 52 countries; 71% of survey respondents had conducted, or are currently conducting health policy or systems research in LMICs, with 37% living in an LMIC at the time of the survey and 48% living in the UK
  • The survey explored research gaps and opportunities for NIHR and tested key principles of a proposed funding model.
  • In-depth interviews with researchers and academics involved in health systems and services research in LMICs or funders of research
  • Creating a Global Health Policy and Systems Community of Practice, engaging 450 members to date.
  • Stakeholder engagement was led by an independent consultant working at the University of Kent informed by a working group including representation from HSRUK, Health Systems Global, NIHR and DHSC.

Findings from the consultation were presented to the DHSC Global Health Research Independent Scientific Advisory Group in June 2019, and led to the recommendation to establish the NIHR Global HPSR Programme.  

Main findings included:

Capacity strengthening and partnership opportunities

This area came up as a top priority. Participants recognised there is a need for more qualified health systems researchers in LMICs. A lack of capacity was at the heart of many other issues around health systems research in LMICs, including the uneven power balance between high-income country researchers working with researchers from less well-resourced settings, undertaking research in LMICs.

Most respondents said they tended to partner with organisations where they knew someone already and forming relationships with other researchers around the world was vital. They discussed how trust increases when you know someone personally or have worked with a certain partner before. People therefore tend to work with the same partners, and some less experienced or less connected organisations may not have an opportunity to get involved.

Respondents highlighted the need to ensure research priorities are set by relevant engagement with stakeholders in LMICs, leading to a true exchange within the partnership involving policy-makers early on.

Key research priorities

Respondents were asked to give their top priorities to achieving universal health coverage in LMICs that can be addressed through HPSR research. Highlighted areas included:

  • Addressing non-communicable diseases and chronic conditions in health systems
  • Strengthening the efficiency and equity of health systems
  • Political economy of health care reform and driving accountability
  • Quality of health service provision
  • Financing mechanisms to address out of pocket expenses and resource allocation
  • Digital solutions to health systems challenges (including data quality and use)
  • Approaches to primary and secondary prevention and treatment
  • Primary health care and care in the community
  • Access to care among marginalised or disadvantaged parts of society
  • Engagement of the role of civil society and political/community engagement

Key priority areas were further refined following stakeholder engagement to ensure complementarity with other funders and were further refined with the DHSC Global Health Research Independent Scientific Advisory Group.

Priority areas for this call

Applications are invited that address one or more of the following priorities for research and capacity strengthening within health systems in ODA-eligible countries.

Research should improve access to appropriate and affordable health services across the lifespan, aligned with the aims of UHC and SDG3:

  • Integrating health services - Integrating health services for people living with multiple long-term conditions (includes infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions). Taking into consideration scalability, affordability and patient and/or community engagement relevant to the context. 
  • Quality of care - Improving quality of care, or perceptions of quality of care, including identification of barriers to quality in health systems (at any/all levels of community, primary care, secondary, tertiary care).
  • Health workforce management and planning - Research to assess innovations related to skill mix and how technologies can support professional roles at different points in health system settings, including innovations in team configurations and corresponding education systems and training needs.
  • Improved data quality and use - Research on digital solutions to improve data quality and promote use of quality data in health system planning and in driving efficiency gains in health system operations.

In scope:

Commissioned awards will support applications which:

  • Demonstrate they address the key criteria (a-e above).
  • Will deliver ODA-eligible applied research that will lead to improvements across the wider elements of a low resourced health system, such as governance, financing, health workforce, information systems, quality, service delivery etc.
  • Demonstrate joint leadership between the LMIC and UK research partners and have clear plans to engage with other relevant partners.
  • Are based on a feasibility study or existing pilot data collection (including assessing data quality).
  • Will clearly address one or more research priority/ies identified by relevant stakeholder engagement in LMIC(s).
  • Include applied research teams and involvement of a range of disciplines to support a whole health systems approach (driven by the research questions and priorities identified by LMICs), with relevant expertise, and plans for development of appropriate partnerships in LMICs.

Out of scope:

Commissioned awards will not support applications which:

  • Are not ODA-eligible (see section 5).
  • Are not clearly relevant to global HPSR in an LMIC setting and context.
  • Are not based on research priorities identified in LMIC partner countries.
  • Only deliver local benefits, with no potential for scale-up to the whole health system level.
  • Do not include two Joint Lead Applicants, one of which must be in a LMIC and one in a UK institution.
  • Request costs for delivery of health services unless essential to the development and improvement of these services, as part of a research programme.
  • Evaluate an existing service, or the roll out of new services, except as part of a research programme.
  • Consist solely of one of the following:
    • funding for randomised clinical trials (RCTs) of interventions,
    • epidemiological studies,
    • evidence synthesis,
    • implementation science,
    • dissemination.
  • Primarily focus on establishing new patient cohorts, biobanks or bio-sample collections or data collection studies (samples or data from existing cohorts may be used).
  • Focus on basic laboratory research or research involving animal models.
  • Solely replicate research already undertaken in High-Income Countries without a clear rationale or adaption to the needs of local context.


In order to be eligible to receive NIHR Global Health Research funding, applications must demonstrate how they meet ODA compliance criteria and outline:

  • which LMIC(s) or LMIC regions on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list of ODA-eligible countries will directly benefit;
  • how the application is directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of those countries; and
  • how the outcomes will promote the health and welfare of people in a country or countries on the DAC list.

All applications must have two Joint Lead Applicants (one at a LMIC and one at a UK institution).

Both Leads must be employed at the lead organisations, have sufficient standing within their organisations and have demonstrable ability to lead and manage a large-scale programme of global health research. Arrangements for more junior researchers to act as lead may be considered with appropriate plans for mentoring and support in place.

Funding and contracting must take place via the UK administering institution (UK Joint Lead Applicant). UK-based Joint Lead Applicants from HEIs and Research Institutes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are eligible to apply. Joint Lead Applicants and consortium research team members (Co-Applicants and Collaborators) from ODA-eligible LMICs will normally be from a research institution, HEI or a not-for-profit organisation.

Applications proposing non-LMIC Co-Applicants or Collaborators are in scope provided there is clear justification for their involvement and those resources cannot be found within LMICs.

For-profit organisations cannot be a Joint Lead as they do not fall under any of the eligible categories above. However, these organisations may be included in applications as Collaborator or via service level agreement, providing it is clear what benefit a commercial company would bring to the research programme. In addition, a company’s commercial model must be compatible with the conditions laid out in the NIHR research contract and NIHR’s policies/limitation around funding indirect costs, and the costs are clear in the budget. It is important that any Applicant organisation is aligned with NIHR’s principles including open access to research.

Non-health research institutions, e.g. an institute of engineering, can act as Co-Applicants or Collaborators, provided their expertise is relevant to the plans proposed and there is a health policy and systems focus that meets all aspects of the remit of the call.

Under this call, an individual cannot be named as Joint Lead on more than one application.

There are no restrictions on the number of applications an institution can submit under this call provided they are distinct in their objectives.

Existing NIHR award holders are eligible to apply to this call provided there is assurance they have sufficient time and resources available to them to deliver concurrent awards successfully.

If you are unsure of eligibility, please contact

Structure of commissioned award teams

The structure of programmes funded through the Commissioned Awards should consist of the two Joint Lead Applicants based in a DAC-listed country and the UK, respectively, plus up to three further institutions who together make up the partnership/consortium. In addition to this, dependent on the nature of the proposed plans, there may be other affiliated Collaborators.

NIHR expects equity to be strongly reflected in programme leadership, decision-making, capacity building, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings. For example:

  • All parties listed as part of the core research team partnership/consortium must have significant input to the research and management of the research programme and form part of the leadership structure;
  • The budget should be driven by the work plan, the expectation is that funds are distributed equitably, and the flow of funds will reflect where the majority of work is taking place.

Roles and contributions of all members working as part of the partnership/consortium must be clearly stated in the application, and full consideration given to the increasing complexity of managing large collaborations. Applicants should consider:

  • Will the number of proposed Co-Applicants and Collaborators introduce undue complexity in the management and set up arrangements within the available timeframes?
  • Will there be sufficient funds available to support all partners to make a meaningful contribution?
  • Is the size and breadth of expertise in the team justified and appropriate for delivery of the proposed Commissioned Award?

Applications must include signed letters of support for the Joint Leads’ and up to three Co-Applicants’ institutions from appropriate senior individuals, confirming support for the application and the agreement of the employing institutions to undertake the research and willingness to provide the space, facilities and time for their staff to be able to deliver on the proposed research plans. Letters of support from Collaborators are not required.

Further guidance to support developing and sustaining Equitable Research Partnerships can be found at the NIHR website and in A Guide for Transboundary Research Partnerships (Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE) and the UKCDR report on Building effective and equitable research collaborations.

Training and capacity building

The NIHR is committed to developing individual and institutional global health research capacity for the long term to support sustainability and the research eco-system as a whole. Applicants must include a global health research and capacity-strengthening component in their application, which may take place in either the ODA-eligible countries or the UK. Funds can be requested for a range of activities incorporating full or partial funding for formal training posts (e.g. PhD, MSc), in-country training, workshops, exchanges and other relevant activities e.g. ODA-eligible training hubs etc, as well as other wider institutional capacity-strengthening activities such as finance, programme management, data management. Individuals funded by the Global HPSR programme to undertake a formal NIHR training/career development award would become NIHR Academy members and be eligible for the career development and training support provided by the NIHR Academy. Teams are strongly encouraged to consider and cost activities that will build both research capacity and research and financial management capacity. Teams are also encouraged to consider activities such as coaching, buddying and mentorship.

Funded Global HPSR programmes will be expected to have a named Training Lead to co-ordinate activities across the programme, and act as the liaison point on training with the NIHR Academy and be an active member of the NIHR Global Health Training Forum. This will include developing and leading on a training plan for the Global HPSR programme.

Community engagement and involvement

The NIHR encourages active and participatory Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) (more commonly known in the UK as ‘Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement’) that empowers communities and fosters co-production of research.

Patients and the general public within a given community, especially vulnerable groups who are at the greatest risk, will normally be the key group included in CEI activities. Other community stakeholders such as community leaders, opinion leaders, non-governmental organisations and civil society, service commissioners and providers, policy and lawmakers are examples of other stakeholders who can be involved. 

There is no standard model for CEI, Applicants should demonstrate that their CEI approach is appropriate and effective in the local context and for their study design. Applicants should ensure that those in the community who are most affected are empowered to contribute towards decision-making in researching potential solutions to identified issues. Applicants should map out and describe stakeholders in their community, outline how they have been involved in developing the research proposal, and state what influence or change has happened as a result of their engagement and involvement.  Applicants should demonstrate how they will engage and involve communities utilising UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement which encourage:

  • Participation
  • Empowerment and ownership
  • Inclusion
  • Bi-directional communication
  • Adaptability and localisation 
  • Building on local capacity

Community Engagement and Involvement of key stakeholders should be evident in informing the design, methods and research outcomes as well as managing, monitoring, evaluating and disseminating the research and in any impact evaluation activities, where this is relevant to your study design.

The research team should ensure that there is interdisciplinary expertise that will facilitate partner and stakeholder coordination and integration of community engagement and involvement throughout the research cycle. Appropriate local Co-Applicants or Collaborators, and community members must be involved in leading and delivering CEI activities. The team, and those that are actively engaged and involved in the programme, should co-produce and agree an appropriate CEI strategy and plan as well as training and support to facilitate effective CEI.

CEI requires time for relationship building, transparency, reflection and flexibility and is often an iterative and deliberative participatory approach, which requires significant human resource input and organisational support. As such, applicants should include realistic costs for CEI in their applications. Funded studies will have their CEI activities monitored against their plans for the duration of the research lifecycle. CEI contributions will be included in our final overall impact assessment at the end of the study.


Teams are encouraged to consider UNICEF Minimum Standards for Community Engagement when preparing their applications.

NIHR INVOLVE have produced a number of useful resources in relation to community engagement and involvement:

Mesh, a collaborative open access web space with resources, encourages networking and sharing of good practice to bridge the gap between the research community and the general public in ODA-eligible countries. 

Support is also available from your regional NIHR Research Design Service.

Programme management and governance

Complex programmes of global health research require significant levels of management to ensure successful delivery. NIHR recommends that a full-time programme manager is allocated to manage the research contract, and sufficient resources are included and costed to manage the regular programme and financial reporting processes. You may also wish to speak to your contracts department to determine the time requirements for contract approvals for this award.

Programme management arrangements should be clearly described in your application, with sufficient resources in place to manage programme/work stream initiation, assurance of due diligence and audit processes, effective risk management (including financial, reputational and legal risks), quarterly financial reporting, monitoring, evaluation and impact tracking, communication management, data management, and compliance with ethics frameworks.

Within your application you will need to describe your proposed governance structure, which should include an external Advisory Group with proposed membership. This group should, as a minimum, have an independent Chair, be gender balanced, and have a range of members and key stakeholders from the partner countries, the UK and beyond, where appropriate. The Advisory Group should advise on strategy and progress and oversee programme risks and meet annually at a minimum. NIHR will act as observers at these Advisory Group meetings.

A Delivery Chain Map should be included with your application to show the overall structure of the partnerships and the distribution of funds. Details on this and an example can be found in the ‘How to complete your application form’ guidance.

If your application is successful, you will be required to submit progress reports, usually every six months. Where appropriate, these progress reports will be based on the programme timetable and milestones. If you are late producing any required reports or these do not meet expected standards for the programme, we may withhold payments in accordance with our retention policy.

Please note: NIHR recognise the need for flexible and agile programme management in the context of global health. However, applicants should note that as this funding must be Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant, applicants will also be required to forecast their expenditure on a quarterly basis (recording actual spend), associated quarterly updates of research progress (proportionate in detail to the risks, milestones and deliverables associated with the programme), and annual reports. Frequency of reporting may change in proportion to the perceived risks related to the individual programme.

Pathways to impact

A clearly outlined pathway to impact or draft Theory of Change should be included in your application as an upload. 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 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?). 

Research contract, collaboration agreements and assurance

Contracting must take place via the UK administering institution (UK Joint Lead Applicant). A copy of the current ODA research contract is available on the NIHR website. You may wish to speak to your contracts department to determine the time requirements for contract approvals for this award.

It is NIHR’s advice to ensure draft Collaboration Agreements are developed with Joint Lead and Co-Applicant institutions as soon as a successful funding decision has been communicated. This will reduce potential for delays in transferring funds after the contract start date.

Prior to any transfer of money from the UK to the ODA-eligible partner institution(s) NIHR expect that proportionate due diligence assessments will be undertaken by the administering institution and for draft Collaboration Agreements to be developed between the UK and ODA-eligible partners and submitted for review and approval by NIHR. An example of a due diligence template can be found How to apply for global health funding contracts page. Copies of completed forms will need to be shared with NIHR during contracting.

In the absence of an approved and signed Collaboration Agreement, the UK administering institution will be transferring funds to ODA-eligible partners at their own risk or will need to make any relevant payments on behalf of ODA-eligible partners until an NIHR approved Collaboration Agreement signed by the partner(s) is in place.

There are mandatory requirements for monitoring and financial assurance relating to the distribution and use of ODA funding. To make effective arrangements for risk management and assurance, you should consider the financial systems and financial management capacity of your DAC list country partner and the level of risk within the country, and tailor your assurance and monitoring processes appropriately.

You may find it useful to refer to the following online resource:

Applicants are required to adhere to the NIHR position on shared data.

Regulatory compliance

Outline the required activities required for responsible conduct of the proposed research. You may find it useful to refer to the following online resources:

Ethics and governance

  • If applicable (e.g. research involving human participants), describe plans for ethical review of the proposed activities in the UK and/or ODA-eligible countries)
  • If the research involves vulnerable individuals or groups (e.g. children, individuals lacking capacity to consent or those suffering from stigmatising conditions in their community), then please describe how you will manage their involvement.

Data protection and information governance

  • Describe ethics or governance considerations in relation to the project including use and storage of sensitive data.

Selection criteria

  • Relevance and quality of the proposed research to the call remit and key criteria for funding (a – e above Section 3.1).
  • All eligibility criteria are met.
  • Strength of plans in terms of milestones and likelihood of successful delivery within the timeframe, and strength of structures for programme management, delivery, governance and assurance (see section 9 and 11)
  • Strength of plans for Community Engagement and Involvement.
  • Clarity of pathways to impact for the proposed work to translate findings and influence health systems strengthening in low resource settings. To include: likelihood of significant contribution of the research to the evidence base in the relevant area; capacity strengthening; pathways to improvements in health, wellbeing and lives saved; economic and social benefits in ODA-eligible countries; potential to effectively engage and influence policy makers, community and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Equity and strength of partnerships between Joint Lead Applicants, the research partnership/consortium and Collaborators, and their relevant expertise and track- record.
  • A justified budget and resourcing that represents good value for money.

Budget and eligible costs

Awards of up to £4m over up to 4 years are available for eligible research (as set out in section 5 above), starting 1 September 2020.

Eligible research costs for NIHR Global HPSR Commissioned Awards include but are not limited to:

  • Reasonable and proportionate staff costs (research staff and support staff supporting relevant research)
  • Travel and subsistence
  • Meetings, training and workshop costs
  • Development of memoranda of understanding and/or collaboration agreements
  • Community/stakeholder engagement and involvement
  • Items of consumables directly relevant to the programme
  • Costs associated with publication, presentation and dissemination of findings
  • Equipment relevant to the research
  • Risk management and assurance
  • Reasonable and proportionate research overheads (where applicable, please refer to finance guidance)

Please see our Finance guidance annex for full details.

Please note:

  • Costs for awards will be scrutinised as part of the assessment process and the Funding Committee reserve the right to award only part of the funds requested.
  • NIHR will challenge costs that it does not consider appropriate or does not consider providing value for money.
  • Commissioned Award holders will be expected to provide quarterly finance reports of actual expenditure incurred, this will then be combined with reporting against progress set out in the application with an expectation of proportionate due diligence.
  • Funds will be distributed to ODA-eligible countries via the UK administrative institution. Payments will be made quarterly in arrears on the basis of expenditure reported through finance reports.

Value for money

The NIHR Global HPSR programme requires evidence of good value for money 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 resource from DFID may be useful.

Selection process and timetable

Applications received in response to the Commissioned Award call will undergo a structured selection process highlighted in the table below.

If high numbers of applications are received, there will be an initial triage stage to review applications against published eligibility criteria by members of the Funding Committee. Applications will be ranked and those that score lowest and fall below the agreed threshold for funding committee review will be rejected at this point. No feedback will be provided to applications rejected at the triage stage. Prioritised applications will proceed to external expert peer review and consideration by the Funding Committee and will receive feedback.

Indicative Timeline, NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research – Commissioned Awards

  • 18 September 2019 - Call opens for applications
  • 4 December 2019 - Deadline for remit enquiries*
  • 11 December 2019 – 1pm GMT - Application deadline
  • 11-20 December 2019 - Remit checks
  • December-January 2020 - Triage (if required)
  • January-March 2020 - Peer review
  • April 2020 - Funding committee
  • Early May 2020 - Applicants informed of outcomes
  • End of June 2020 - Successful Applicants: Deadline for submission of due diligence checks
  • 1 September 2020 - Successful Applicants: Contract start date
  • 1 December 2020 - Successful Applicants: Deadline for submission of draft Collaboration Agreements for review
  • 1 March 2021 - NIHR reviews of progress against programme milestones : 6 month report
  • 1 September 2021 - NIHR reviews of progress against programme milestones : Year 1 annual report
  • 1 September 2022 - NIHR reviews of progress against programme milestones : Year 2 annual report
  • 1 September 2023 - NIHR reviews of progress against programme milestones : Year 3 annual report
  • Autumn 2024 - NIHR reviews of progress against programme milestones : Final report

*NIHR will not guarantee they will be able to answer queries about the remit or content of applications after this date. If you have other queries about MIS or the application process, please feel free to contact us after this time.

Completing your application

Please refer to Commissioned Award Guidance for completing your application

Information briefing

An information briefing webinar will be held on 23 October 2019. Please register your interest by e-mailing