Published: 21 November 2022
Version: 1.0 - November 2022Print this document
The closing date for electronic submission of applications is 1pm GMT on 15 March 2023. This will be a 2 stage competition.
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 2015, the NIHR Global Health Research (GHR) portfolio was established to support applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the UK government.
The Global Health Research portfolio is underpinned by three principles which guide development and delivery. These are:
- meet eligibility criteria as ODA, i.e. funded research directly and primarily benefits people in ODA-eligible countries on the OECD DAC-list
- deliver high-quality applied health research, building on the Principles of the NIHR: Impact, Excellence, Effectiveness, Inclusion, Collaboration
- strengthen research capability and training through equitable partnerships
The NIHR has established a substantial portfolio of applied global health research and training in areas that are underfunded, or where there is an unmet need. The portfolio aims are delivered through a combination of researcher-led and thematic calls, funding initiatives to develop and advance global health research career pathways both in LMICs and in the UK, and through partnerships with other major global health research funders. Together, these have positioned the NIHR as a key player in supporting high-quality applied global health research.
Further information on the NIHR Global Health Research portfolio is available on the NIHR website.
The NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) funds research to improve access to appropriate and affordable health services, aligned with the aims of Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goal 3. Global HPSR launched in 2019 following a broad consultation co-led by Health Services Research UK (HSR UK) and NIHR.
The Global HPSR programme funds high quality applied health research to strengthen health policy and health systems in ODA-eligible countries on the DAC list. This is achieved through the development of equitable partnerships which identify and engage with relevant LMIC stakeholders to define their priorities for health policy and systems research, and by supporting capacity strengthening and knowledge sharing in these priority areas.
NIHR is pleased to launch a third call for applied health policy and systems research that will meet the aims and ambitions set out in the following call specification. Drawing on learning from the previous Global HPSR funding calls, this call will run as a two-stage application process and will support 2 levels of award:
- Projects up to £1m for up to 3 years
- Consortia up to £4m for up to 5 years
Please see Stage 1 application form guidance for details on how to apply.
Aims of the Global Health Policy and Systems Research programme
The programme aims to support applied research to strengthen health policy and health systems for the benefit of people in ODA-eligible countries on the DAC list, through:
- production and dissemination of high quality, contextually relevant research on health policy, health services and health systems strengthening to inform policy and practice in LMICs, and which will lead to improved outcomes for the most vulnerable and address issues of health equity
- support to equitable partnerships and networks between LMICs and/or LMIC and UK researchers to generate new research knowledge and evidence
- relevant involvement and engagement with policy makers, communities, patients and the public, civil society organisations and charities throughout the research lifecycle
- support to capacity strengthening activities and knowledge sharing
Applied Health Policy and Systems Research Projects which:
- will support new entrants to global health policy and systems research through smaller scale awards
- have clearly defined questions which specifically target an identified health policy and/or system(s) challenge or evidence gap and set out how the outcome of the research will benefit vulnerable populations in LMICs
- address priorities identified by and relevant to local stakeholders and policymakers, and deliver evidence and outcomes that will inform policy or change practice, for example informing local, regional or national strategies
- have plans to involve relevant communities and stakeholders to ensure that research objectives address their needs
- include research capacity development plans for LMIC partners that are proportionate and relevant to delivery of the proposed activities and include appropriate project management and financial/administrative support
- support career development for research leaders of the future, e.g. through supporting less experienced researchers in LMICs to lead/jointly lead on the research proposal with effective mentoring and support from appropriate Co-Applicants
Broad ambitious programmes of health policy and systems research and capacity strengthening delivered through a consortium of partners which:
- include interrelated work packages involving applied research on health policy, services, or systems with a coherent theme
- address priorities identified by and relevant to local stakeholders and policy makers, and deliver evidence and outcomes that will inform policy or change practice at local, regional and/or national levels, for example informing local, regional or national strategies
- involve multidisciplinary teams to ensure that research objectives can be met
- include an element of strengthening LMIC institutional capacity to undertake, manage and disseminate high-quality applied health research
- strengthen research career pathways across LMIC partner institutions by including a minimum of three formal training posts for LMIC nationals
- include appropriate project management and financial/administrative support
- develop LMIC research leaders of the future through opportunities for developing leadership skills at all levels through effective mentoring and support
- have clear and demonstrated institutional commitment and support for delivery of the research and for developing this field of research within the institution beyond the end of the award
Budget and length of funding
Projects - the funding available through NIHR’s Global HPSR Call 3 for Projects is up to £1m for up to 3 years. Projects must be sufficiently resourced to deliver against both the research and capacity strengthening aims of the call. A lower limit of £250k is expected (with support for a range of budgets between these limits).
Consortia - the funding available through this call for Consortia is up to £4m (typical range £1-4 million) for up to 5 years. Applications in the lower part of this range are welcomed where smaller programmes will still address the aims of the call.
The budget should be justified by the complexity and level of ambition for the work plans and partnerships. The NIHR expectation is that funds will be distributed equitably between partners, and that the flow of funds will reflect where the majority of work is taking place (i.e. in LMICs) and strongly underpin capacity strengthening within LMICs. Where this is not possible, applications should justify how the funds will primarily benefit LMIC organisations. The Funding Committee will carefully scrutinise the appropriate distribution of funds between the UK and LMICs.
Applications for both levels of award may include elements of methodology research as part of a wider programme of work. Methodology research should not form a significant part of the overall research plans and direct costs for this must not exceed 5% of the total budget. Proposed methodology research must:
- meet a clear methods gap
- contribute to the aims of the award
- have generalised applicability to improve health research methods in LMICs
Applications for Global HPSR Consortia may include plans for responsive funding to address emerging priorities, carry out developmental work, or commission further work in a new area, using up to 5% of the total budget:
- the overall research costs must not exceed the maximum £4m budget limit for Global HPSR Consortia
- applications must clearly describe the proposed way these funds will be allocated for delivery of ODA-eligible research activities
- activities funded through this route must align with the application aims, be completed within the contracted award timeframes, and adhere to 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
See the detailed NIHR Global Health Research Finance Guidance for further information.
The NIHR Global HPSR Call 3 has a broad scope. Applications covering any area of applied health policy and health systems research that will improve outcomes for people in ODA-eligible countries on the DAC list, particularly populations who are especially vulnerable, are invited.
Global health policy and systems research applications can include, but are not limited to, aspects of leadership and governance, financing, health workforce, information systems, quality of care and health service delivery, health services, and impacts of broader determinants of health.
In recognition that primary health care is an important route to universal health coverage, Global HPSR particularly welcomes applications with a focus on strengthening health systems in primary care settings and community care settings.
As well as this, applications that will generate evidence to improve wider systems of care, e.g. long term care and support with activities of daily living, are invited.
The programme also welcomes applications under the following cross-cutting themes:
- integrating health services, taking into consideration scalability, affordability and patient, policymaker, and community engagement relevant to the context
- 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 or tertiary care)
- health workforce management and planning – research to assess innovations related to skills mix and how technologies can support professional roles across different points in health systems 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 communication and use of quality data in health system planning and in driving efficiency gains in health system operations
The NIHR Global HPSR programme encourages multidisciplinary teams to apply, including experts from social sciences, health economics, political sciences, other relevant disciplines, experts in community engagement, and community groups.
Key criteria for funding
The following key criteria for Global HPSR Call 3 encompass NIHR principles and contribute towards the aims of the NIHR Global Health Research portfolio. The key criteria for funding will be used by the Funding Committee to assess NIHR Global HPSR Call 3 applications at Stages 1 and 2. Please see selection criteria for the aspects that are assessed at the different stages.
Applications submitted to this call will be required to describe how they address the following key criteria for funding:
- Relevance of the proposed research: Applications should demonstrate that the proposed research is context-relevant, addresses significant unmet needs and priorities in ODA-eligible countries and aligns fully with the scope of this call. Research plans should be based on a review of the local context, health policy, services and system(s), and relevant evidence on improving health-related outcomes for people in LMICs.
- Research quality and excellence: Research plans should include clear research questions/objectives, sound design and detailed methodology to address the questions and meet planned objectives with clear milestones, the identification and mitigation of possible risks, and consideration of ethical issues. Applications must include appropriate plans for effective programme management, governance, institutional support and contract management.
- Strength of the research team: Applications should demonstrate the research team has a depth of relevant expertise and disciplines, for example researchers with health policy, health services, health systems, health economics, statistics, social sciences expertise.
- Impact and sustainability: There is a clear and implementable strategy for pathways to impact, including research uptake and dissemination, with the potential to improve practice, inform policy, and support implementation and scalability of health services and systems improvements and continuation of research and partnerships in LMICs beyond the lifetime of the award (i.e. likelihood of significant contribution to the evidence base in the relevant area, pathways to improvement in health, wellbeing, lives saved and economic, social and cultural benefits in ODA-eligible countries).
- Capacity Strengthening: There are clear plans for research and research management capacity and capability strengthening at individual and institutional level. For Consortia, it is expected that there should be at least (a) three formal training posts and (b) named training lead(s) (individuals who co-ordinate and lead career development activities across the award, and act as the liaison point on training with the NIHR Academy). Plans can include appropriate training in research support functions (training in finance, programme and research management and informal training opportunities) and training for community stakeholders which collectively enhance professional development and education in research.
- Community Engagement and Involvement: Relevant and appropriate stakeholder and community engagement and involvement should be evident throughout all stages of the research, from research priority setting and design, to delivery, dissemination, and impact evaluation activities. Plans to address barriers and effectively engage the most vulnerable and marginalised groups and relevant stakeholders and actors in the local context over the lifetime of the research will be scrutinised by the committee.
- Equity of partnerships: The proposed research plans will establish or maintain equitable partnerships (see Global Health Research Programmes Core Guidance). Equity and collaboration should be demonstrated across all aspects of the research proposal, including Project or Consortium leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings. Promotion of equality, diversity, and inclusion - including but not limited to gender balance - are expected to be strongly reflected in all aspects of the planned research.
- Value for money: Evidence of a clear, well-justified budget that represents good value for money is required. Applications must demonstrate that all planned expenditure is proportionate and appropriate against the planned activities outlined in the application and consider Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity (please see the Global Health Research Programmes Core Guidance for more information on eligible costs and value for money).
For all awards, NIHR Global HPSR Call 3 will support applications which:
- demonstrate they address the call aims, remit, eligibility and key funding criteria (1-8 above)
- propose applied health policy and systems research projects or programmes that primarily and directly address challenges faced by one or more LMIC(s)
- clearly meet one or more needs identified within LMICs and demonstrate demand through alignment with LMIC global/national/regional/local priorities, strategies, or frameworks
- propose research plans that will relate to and affect wider elements of a low resourced health system, such as governance, financing, health workforce, information systems, quality of care or service delivery
- may include the development, testing and/or evaluation of interventions or approaches to improve health systems
- target research areas that will lead to improved outcomes for the most vulnerable populations in LMIC context(s)
- seek to address issues of health equity by incorporating research questions around gender, age, socioeconomic barriers to improved health, access to healthcare and economic impact
- identify problems and outcomes that matter most to patients and carers, and consider how they would like to see services configured to meet their needs
- include plans for relevant involvement and engagement with policy makers, communities, patients and the public, civil society organisations over the lifetime of the programme and for how research may inform policy and practice
- demonstrate equity and collaboration in programme leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings
- support and embed South-South learning and bi-directional South-North learning
For Consortia, in addition, Global HPSR Call 3 will support applications which:
- comprise interrelated projects, usually described in separate work packages, that form a coherent theme, where added value is gained from the combination of the different strands of research
- include substantial plans for training and capacity development, at least three formal training posts, and a named training lead
- may include plans for responsive funding to address emerging priorities and/or carry out developmental work, using up to 5% of the total budget (see Budget section for details)
Applicants are expected to state which award level (Project or Consortia) they are applying for.
Out of scope
The NIHR Global HPSR Call 3 will NOT support applications which:
- do not meet the published call remit, eligibility, and key funding criteria (1-8 above)
- do not clearly demonstrate demand from LMIC stakeholders and/or links to relevant local, regional or national policies and priorities
- do not include proportionate consideration of the wider generalisability of research findings
- do not demonstrate potential ability for scale-up to the wider health system or other levels of the health system
- request costs for delivery of health services and delivery of training for health care staff unless essential to the development and improvement of these services, as part of a research programme
- primarily focus on observational research, secondary research or health policy implementation
- consist one of the following solely rather than as part of an integrated research programme:
- randomised clinical trials (RCTs) of interventions
- epidemiological studies
- evidence synthesis
- plans for service evaluation in isolation, unless this will inform evidence-based development and improvement of these services
- replicating research already undertaken in High-Income Countries without clear justification – research proposals should be clearly relevant to, and demanded by, the ODA-eligible country/ies in which the research is being undertaken
- dissemination or public health messaging
The NIHR Global Health Research programme supports high-quality applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding.
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 people in a country or countries on the OECD DAC list
Where some elements of the research are 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. Further information can be found at:
- NIHR ODA Guidance for Researchers
- OECD Factsheet: What is ODA (.PDF)
- OECD DAC Statistical Reporting Directives (.PDF)
- OECD DAC list of ODA eligible countries
- OECD: Development Co-operation Directorate
- Official Development Assistance - definition and coverage
Who can apply?
Please also see detailed information in Global Health Research Programmes Core Guidance - eligibility
NIHR Global HPSR Project applications can have either:
- Sole Lead Applicant - a Principal Investigator employed by a LMIC Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Institute - Sole Lead Applicants employed by a UK HEI or UK Research Institute are not eligible to apply
- two Joint Lead Applicants who will normally be Principal Investigators employed by a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Institute in either a LMIC or the UK, at least one of whom must be employed by a LMIC institution
NIHR Global HPSR Consortium applications must have:
- two Joint Lead Applicants who will normally be Principal Investigators employed by a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Institute in either a LMIC or the UK, at least one of whom must be employed by a LMIC institution
- Joint Lead or Sole Lead applicants employed by non-UK/other high-income countries (HIC) HEIs or Research Institutes are not eligible to apply but can be Co-Applicants
Multiple applications from individuals
An individual cannot be named as Joint Lead or Sole Lead on more than one application to this NIHR Global HPSR Projects and Consortia call. See Global Health Research Programmes Core Guidance for more details.
Multiple applications from institutions
HEI or Research Institutes may submit more than one application as Joint Lead or Sole Lead, provided each application is distinct in its aims and objectives.
Institutions submitting multiple applications as Joint/Sole Lead(s) should consider:
- NIHR’s position on Equality Diversity and Inclusion - including but not limited to gender balance - at all levels of the awards, including leadership, governance and delivery
- for Projects, the aims of the call which are to bring in new entrants and build research capacity, including through a diversity of leadership models to develop future global research leaders
NIHR’s expectation is that where a single institution submits multiple applications, it should demonstrate balance between the genders of Lead Applicants. Justification should be provided where this is not possible, and plans should be in place to address this over the longer term.
NIHR will not accept the same or substantially similar applications across multiple NIHR Global Health Research Calls. Please refer to Global Health Research Programmes Core Guidance for more information.
Existing NIHR award holders are eligible to apply to this call provided there is assurance they have sufficient plans in terms of time and resources to deliver concurrent awards successfully, and make a robust and compelling case for funding. They should also clearly explain how the application specifically builds on, or is complementary to any previously funded research, and how the proposed research continues to drive forward an ambitious research agenda. This should include a trajectory to develop future Principal Investigators (PIs) through clearly defined mentoring and support for less experienced PIs as Joint Leads/Co-Applicants. If you are unsure of eligibility, please contact email@example.com.
Co-Applicants and collaborators
There are no restrictions placed on the number of Co-Applicants/Collaborators; please justify their role and why they are necessary to effectively deliver the aims of the NIHR Global HPSR awards. For more detailed information see Global Health Research Programmes Core Guidance: Research Expertise/ Structure of Team.
Stage 1 applications will be assessed against the eligibility and call specification and scope in addition to the following 4 key criteria for funding:
- relevance of the proposed research
- research quality and excellence
- strength of the research team
- impact and sustainability
Please refer to Key criteria for funding for details of what is expected in the application to meet each of these criteria.
For Stage 1 applications, applicants are expected to consider but not provide extensive detail for the key criteria (numbered 5-8) listed in 'Key criteria for funding'. Applicants should however ensure these criteria are met and embedded throughout their proposal during its development.
For Stage 2 applications, the Funding Committee will assess research proposals based on all key criteria (numbered 1-8) listed in 'Key criteria for funding'.
Applicants who are successful at Stage 1 will be invited to develop their proposal and provide sufficient detail on all the criteria at Stage 2.
The NIHR Global HPSR Call 3 is a two-stage competition. Stage 1 is an outline and short-listing stage. Shortlisted Stage 1 applicants will be invited to submit a Stage 2 full application.
All eligible applications at Stage 1 and Stage 2 will be considered by an independent international Funding Committee that will make recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on which applications should be supported.
If high numbers of applications are received beyond the capacity of the planned dates for the Funding Committee, the NIHR may adopt a triage process where members of the Funding Committee will review and score applications against the published eligibility and funding selection criteria. Proposals which score below the threshold will be rejected at that point. High-scoring applications will be invited to proceed to consideration by the Funding Committee. Feedback will be given to all applicants at each stage of the process.
DHSC retains the right to make strategic decisions at the final outcome stage (following recommendations of the Stage 2 Funding Committee). DHSC final funding decisions will be based on independent committee ranking on scientific quality, available budget, overall portfolio balance, alignment with relevant UK Government policies, NIHR strategic priorities, and equity.
- call opens for applications - 22 November 2022
- briefing event - 8 December 2022 10-11.30am and 2-3.30pm (GMT)
- deadline for remit queries - 1 March 2023*
- Stage 1 Global HPSR Call 3 application deadline - 15 March 2023, 1pm (GMT)
- Stage 1 shortlisting by Funding Committee - May 2023
- notification of outcomes - week commencing 19 June 2023
- Stage 2 call opens for successful applications - week commencing 19 June 2023
- application deadline Stage 2 - mid October to end of November 2023
- funding committee Stage 2 - January 2024
- applicants informed of outcomes - end of March 2024
- contracts start - 1 November 2024
*NIHR will not guarantee they will be able to answer queries about the remit or content of applications after this date
Applicants will be notified of outcomes by end March 2024 and contracts for Global HPSR Call 3 Awards will start on, or before, 01 November 2024.
Contractor Institutions should review the terms of the current DHSC ODA research contract and consider how these terms will flow to downstream research delivery partners.
The NIHR will request completion of a Due Diligence assessment on the contractor institution from successful applicants prior to contracting. Submission of Risk Registers and a Theory of Change will be included as contracted milestone deliverables.
Annual milestones and deliverables will be monitored, reviewed, and agreed annually to align with Award aims and deliverables. The NIHR will review the progress after the first six months of contracts to ensure the effective set up and delivery of initial milestones has been achieved. Contracts will then be actively monitored through quarterly finance and high-level progress reporting of milestones monitored through annual progress reports.
Completing your online application
You must complete an online application via the REALMS system. The closing date for applications is 15 March 2023 at 1pm UK time for Stage 1 applications.
Please ensure you select the correct funding call on REALMS (HPSR Call 3 Project or HPSR Call 3 Consortia) when you start the application process.
Please refer to the guidance when completing your application form.
- applications will not be accepted if submitted after the exact closing date and time, the system will automatically prevent this from happening
- it is the applicants’ responsibility to allow sufficient time to submit an application
- please contact the NIHR Global HPSR team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (+44) 023 8059 1859 if there is a system problem, whilst attempting to continue with the submission
NIHR Global Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) Call 3 Projects and Consortia Webinar was held on 8 December 2022. The recording of the webinar is available on YouTube. Slides for the webinar are available on request, by emailing email@example.com.