NIHR Global Health Research – Finance Guidance for Applicants
About this Guidance Document
The NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using UK Aid from the UK government.
The below core guidance covers the key principles supported by NIHR Global Health Research funding. The guidance is structured to specifically help research teams applying to NIHR Global Health Research programme calls, such as Global Health Research Units, Global Health Research Groups, Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) calls, and the Global Health Policy and Systems Research (GHPSR) calls.
This document should be read in conjunction with each programme/award scheme’s specific call guidance for details of specific eligibility requirements, scope and remit.
Career Development Awards such as NIHR Global Research Professorships will follow the principles outlined in this document, but due to these awards focusing on individuals, applicants should refer to the specific scheme guidance on research training and development
Call specific guidance is published on the NIHR funding opportunity page.
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.
Further information can be found at:
OECD Factsheet: What is ODA
OECD DAC Statistical Reporting Directives:
OECD DAC list of ODA eligible countries
Development Co-operation Directorate
Official development assistance – definition and coverage
Stage 1 submission (where applicable)
At stage 1 of a 2-stage application process, applicants should provide a total figure for costs required to undertake the proposed research on the application form, as well as further details of the cost breakdown (in particular the anticipated split of funds between the UK, ODA-eligible countries and any other international parties) by uploading a completed Stage 1 Finance Summary Form. This is available for download on the relevant funding opportunity page of the NIHR Global Health Research website.
The costing should be based on current prices. These costs will be used to assess value for money. It is in the applicant’s best interests to undertake a thorough, realistic and accurate costing.
Eligible costs for NIHR Global Health Research programmes/awards are described below (under Stage 2 submission).
Proposal and partnership development award
Applicants that are successful at Stage 1 of a Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) call and invited to submit a Stage 2 application are eligible to apply for a Proposal and Partnership Development Award (PPDA). PPDA provides funding of up to £10,000 to support partnership development and the preparation of the full proposal to be submitted for Stage 2.
To be considered for a PPDA applicants must complete a separate PPDA application (PPDA Expenditure Forecast Form-EFF) at the SAME time as completing their RIGHT Stage 1 application and submit this via RMS at the same time as the Stage 1 application by the Stage 1 application deadline. The PPDA EFF is available for download on the relevant RIGHT call funding opportunity page of the NIHR Global Health Research website.
PPDA applications will be reviewed for those applicants that are successful at Stage 1. Those applicants that are rejected at Stage 1 will not be eligible for PPDA. Those applicants that are successful at Stage 1 will be notified of the outcome of their PPDA application at the same time.
Eligible costs for the PPDA include:
- Travel and subsistence
Travel by the most economic means possible is expected. All journeys 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. The claimant must seek prior approval from NIHR prior to making a booking for business class travel.
- Partnership formation and development costs
Costs associated with establishing any memorandum of understanding (MOUs) and governance policies with potential partners, undertaking due diligence and costs related to research plan/proposal development (i.e. funding needs analysis)
Please Note: NIHR may challenge PPDA proposed costs that it does not consider
appropriate or does not offer Value for Money, for example Business Class travel.
Applicants will be required to provide an invoice for actual spend and evidence of spend at the time of submitting the Stage 2 application. Lead Applicant organisations will need to pre-finance these activities once approved by NIHR.
It should be noted that all other costs, including staff costs are NOT eligible under the PPDA.
Host organisations are required to pre-finance PPDA activities if successfully awarded a PPDA. Applicants should not start spending/activities until their PPDA has been approved by NIHR.
Applicants are required to complete and submit a PPDA Expenditure Reimbursement Form (ERF) to firstname.lastname@example.org within 30 days of the Stage 2 application being submitted. The PPDA ERF is available for download on the relevant RIGHT call funding opportunity page of the NIHR Global Health Research website
The PPDA ERF should indicate itemised expenses claimed, together with evidence of spend and an invoice. Payment will only be processed once all evidence is provided.
The minimum evidence required is the standard:
- evidence of approval (authorisation to travel from host institution) and
- payment evidence
- for travel expenditure: evidence of travel
For example, air travel will have ticket, travel authorization and evidence of payment, and local travel may have any form of approval and travel ticket.
Once NIHR receives the completed submission, it will be processed to be included in the next payment cycle of routine request for reimbursements subject to approval.
During the course of the award, should you anticipate any changes in the approved expenditure forecast you are required to inform NIHR and seek prior approval before incurring the cost. The total budget should not exceed £10,000.
Single Stage Application process and Stage 2 of NIHR RIGHT/Global Professorships
- Applicants are required to complete the finance template relevant to the funding scheme and to provide a breakdown of costs associated with delivering proposed research plans.
- [For 2-Stage Application process only:] Applicants will need to justify any significant material increase in costs from Stage 1 to Stage 2 application.
- 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 the applicant’s 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 contracted organisation will be responsible for passing on any money due to their collaborating organisation(s) including those in LMICs.
- Applicants should 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.
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.
The sections below provide further details of the types of costs that can be claimed.
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.
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 the 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 across all collaborating institutions 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.
Student fees should be included within “Training Development Costs” (see further guidance in 3.8 below).
Travel, Subsistence and Conference costs
Travel and subsistence costs of collaborative working visits and engagement with potential stakeholders can be requested. Applicants may also request travel and subsistence costs for their 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 host 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. Applicants should note that equipment purchased and owned by the NHS cannot be funded by the NIHR. No NHS equipment costs should be included in the application.
Costs of computers and laptops are normally restricted to a maximum of £650 each excluding 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. As part of the project closure documentation, NIHR Contractors will be requested to submit an Asset Disposal Plan (ADP) clearly outlining the final intention for assets.
This section includes items specific to the programme. Applicants should 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
Applicants should 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 INVOLVE 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 the application. 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, applicants should 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.
For more details about NIHR Open Access policy, please visit the Journals Library website.
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, 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.
NIHR will fund full studentship costs for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries. All studentships will be considered, including but not limited to MScs and PhDs.
NIHR will also fund student fees for LMIC students based in ODA-eligible countries but registered at an institution in a High-Income Country (HIC). In cases where the application includes LMIC student fees at a HIC institution, it is expected that the relevant Joint-Lead Applicant will negotiate with the HIC institution for reduced fees for the LMIC candidate. Application for funding should show evidence of fees being reduced.
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.
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.
Please note: HIC studentship fees or stipend costs are eligible only for ODA-eligible students. Student fees or stipends for HIC students registered at an HIC institution would not be eligible, regardless of the programme of study.
For Career 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 programme/award. 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 the 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”.
Indirect Costs / Overheads
Indirect costs may include but are not limited to:
- General office and basic laboratory consumables
- Premises costs
- Library services/learning resources
- 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
- 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.
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 Global Health Research programmes.
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) cannot be claimed.
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.
The following costs are not eligible under NIHR Global Health Research programmes/awards:
- 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
- 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
- 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
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 (e.g. 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 template submitted with the application.
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 the relevant NIHR Coordinating Centre if you have any queries when completing the finance template.
For NIHR Evaluations, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC): email@example.com
For Central Commissioning Facility (CCF): firstname.lastname@example.org
For NIHR Academy: email@example.com