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NIHR Global Health Research Groups Call 5 Guidance for Applicants


Published: 31 August 2023

Version: v08/23

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The closing date for electronic submission of applications is 13:00 UK time on 22 November 2023. This will be a 2 Stage competition.


The NIHR is pleased to launch Global Health Research Groups Call 5 which will meet the aims and ambitions set out in the following call specification.

  • Award funding: Up to £3 million for up to 4 years
  • Leadership model: Two joint leads, one UK- and one LMIC-based.
  • Contractor: UK joint lead to administer funding to downstream partners
  • Submission deadline: 13:00 UK time on Wednesday, 22 November 2023 via REALMS

The NIHR Global Health Research Groups awards (Groups) support the development of new partnerships between researchers from the UK and from ODA eligible countries. These partnerships may be for experienced UK researchers pivoting to work globally for the first time or for expanding existing partnerships into new themes and geographies.

We held a webinar in September to support applications to this funding opportunity. A recording of this webinar is available.


The NIHR Global Health Research portfolio funds applied health research in areas of unmet need for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

It is underpinned by 3 principles which guide development and delivery:

  1. meet eligibility criteria as Official Development Assistance (ODA), i.e. funded research directly and primarily benefits people in ODA-eligible countries on the DAC-list
  2. deliver high-quality applied health research, building on the Principles of the NIHR: Impact, Excellence, Effectiveness, Inclusion, and Collaboration
  3. strengthen research capability and training through equitable partnerships

Further information on the NIHR Global Health Research portfolio is available on our Funding Awards website.

Aims of the Global Health Research Group Programme

Building on the NIHR Global Health Research operating principles, the strategic aims of the Global Health Research Groups programme are to:

  • build global research capacity by supporting specialist UK researchers to pivot to global health through new equitable and diverse UK-LMIC partnerships
  • support UK-LMIC partnerships seeking to scale-up or expand existing research programmes into new health areas and/or geographies
  • deliver programmes of high quality applied global health research targeted at theneedsofpeopleinLMICs, including for example:
    • scoping studies
    • needs analyses
    • economic and/or health system analyses
    • pilot studies and potentially trials
  • generate robust new scientific evidence that will improve health outcomes for people in low resource settings through improving practice and informing policy
  • create pathways to develop research leaders of the future
  • strengthen research management capability and institutional sustainability in partner countries

Find out more about the research funded by the Groups programme.

Budget and length of funding

Through this call, awards up to £3 million over a period of up to 4 years are available for NIHR Global Health Research Groups.
The amount requested and the length of the funding period should be fully justified according to the nature of the proposed research and capacity strengthening. Applications for less than the maximum funding amount are welcomed where smaller programmes will still address the aims of the call. The budget should be driven by the complexity and level of ambition for the work plans and partnerships. All research and training activities must align with the funding call aims and be completed in the contracted award timeframes.

Applicants will need to reflect the costing of the initial start-up phase within their proposed budget. We expect funds will be distributed equitably between partners, with the flow of funds reflecting where the majority of work is taking place in LMICs. Where this is not possible applications should justify how the funds will primarily benefit LMIC organisations and populations. The Funding Committee will carefully scrutinise the balance of funds between the UK and LMICs expecting a majority flow for the direct benefit of LMICs.

Eligible costs for NIHR Groups include:

  • research staff engaged in proposed research
  • research support staff supporting proposed research
  • travel, subsistence, meetings and conference registration
  • equipment
  • consumables
  • community engagement and involvement
  • equality, diversity and inclusion considerations
  • dissemination, excluding open access publication costs
  • monitoring evaluation and learning
  • risk management and assurance
  • training and development including LMIC student fees/stipend
  • other direct costs specific to the research
  • other legitimate and reasonable indirect costs such as HR, finance

Applications can indicate a budget line for responsive or commissioned funding to address emerging priorities/needs and/or developmental work of up to 5% of the total budget. If included, the research costs must not exceed the maximum £3 million call limit. 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.

The detailed NIHR GHR Finance Guidance offers further information on this. 


Applications in any field of applied global health research for the direct and primary benefit of people living in one or more ODA-eligible country/ies will be considered. This is an open/researcher-led call. Within this, NIHR remains interested in its previously published priority areas. These include:

  • non-communicable diseases
  • prevention and management of unintentional injuries
  • multiple long-term conditions
  • mental health

Applications for health policy and systems research

Groups Call 5 accepts health policy and systems work in remit for the call and where this is a component and not the majority or sole focus. Where the majority or sole focus of an applications is health policy, health services or health systems strengthening, you should apply to future Global Health Policy and Systems Research programme calls. For examples of the types of Global HPSR funded awards please visit our NIHR Funding and Awards site and Global HPSR programme webpage.

Applications related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke

Please carefully review the guidance for the current RIGHT Call 7 and consider best fit. Where work will be delivered through existing partnerships and will focus on development and evaluation of interventions in CVD and stroke in primary or community care, they should apply to this RIGHT Call.

NIHR reserves the right to transfer proposals between open Global Health Research Funding calls.

If you are unsure which programme to apply for, please contact

Key criteria for funding

Groups Call 5 is a two-stage call. Stage 1 is a short-listing outline stage. Stage 2 is for successful applicants at Stage 1 to produce a full application.

At Stage 1, applications will be assessed against meeting the eligibility and call specification. At this stage, applicants are expected to address key criteria 1-4 and consider but not provide extensive detail on key criteria (5-8) below. Applicants should, however, ensure these are met and embedded throughout proposal development.

At Stage 2, the Funding Committee will assess research proposals based on all key criteria listed in 'Scope - key criteria for funding' (1-8). Applicants who are successful at Stage 1 will be expected to further develop their proposal and provide sufficient detail on all the criteria at Stage 2.

At Stage 1 we assess:

  1. Relevance of the proposed research: Applications should demonstrate that the proposed research is designed with LMIC partners from the outset, fulfils a significant gap and addresses unmet health needs and priorities in ODA-eligible countries, and aligns fully with the scope of this call. The proposed research plans should be based on a review of the local context/health system(s) and existing literature. The research will enable the development of individuals and research institutions to produce relevant high quality global health evidence to meet unmet needs in ODA-eligible countries.

  2. Research quality and excellence: The research plan should be robust and include clear research questions, objectives and sound design. Detailed methodology should show how the research will address the questions and meet planned objectives, with clear milestones, the identification and mitigation of possible risks, and factor in ethical considerations. Applications must include appropriate plans for effective programme management, governance, institutional support and contract management.

  3. Strength of the research team: Applications should demonstrate the research team has a range and depth of relevant expertise and promotes interdisciplinary approaches to working.

  4. Impact and sustainability: There should be a clear and implementable strategy to impact, including research uptake and dissemination. Research outputs should have the potential to improve practice, inform policy, and support the future implementation and sustainability of research and partnerships in LMICs. You can read more about how NIHR expects Groups awards to deliver wider impacts in our Theory of Change.

    At Stage 2, in addition to 1-4 above, we also assess:

  5. Capacity Strengthening: Demonstrate clear plans for a focused programme of research and research management capacity and capability strengthening. This should be at an individual and institutional level and generalisable to regional/national needs, and be appropriate to the goals of the Group, including at least three academic training posts. Please ensure you include a named training lead. For further information, please refer to: Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants (sections 7.3, 8.1).

  6. Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI): Relevant and appropriate stakeholder and CEI should be evident throughout all stages of the research. Plans to address barriers and effectively engage the most vulnerable and marginalised groups and relevant stakeholders or actors in the context over the lifetime of research programmes will be scrutinised by the committee. Please ensure you include a named CEI lead. For further information, pease refer to: Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants (section 15).

  7. Equity of partnerships: Equity and collaboration should be demonstrated and embedded across all aspects of the research proposal, including; programme leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings. Promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion is expected to be strongly reflected in all aspects of the planned research and within and across the research teams to ensure gender balance and leverage of existing expertise within ODA-eligible countries. For further information, please refer to:Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants (section 6).

  8. Value for money: Include a clear, well-justified budget that represents good value for money. 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. For further information, please refer to Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants (section 17).

In scope

This Global Health Research Groups call will support applications which:

  • address the call aims, scope and key criteria for funding (section 5) and eligibility (section 6)
  • involve specialist UK researchers developing new equitable and diverse UK-LMIC partnerships, or those extending existing UK-LMIC partnerships
  • propose ambitious plans to investigate new health areas and/or geographies through internationally competitive research.
  • will deliver coherent and ambitious research and capacity strengthening programmes
  • deliver programmes with a planned start-up phase that will:
    • develop or expand into new research partnerships and networks
    • undertake LMIC-led needs analyses through engagement with policy makers, evidence users and local communities, to refine relevant research questions and priorities
  • target research areas that will lead to improved outcomes for the most vulnerable
  • include interdisciplinary applied research teams, including appropriate health systems and health economics expertise, with relevant experience and track record of ensuring research is transferred into benefits for people living in LMICs.
  • work through partnerships to clearly meet locally or regionally identified needs and can inform local and national plans for change
  • 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
  • address issues of equity by incorporating research questions around gender, age, social barriers to health and economic impact
  • include relevant engagement with policy makers, communities, patients and the public, civil society organisations and charities over the lifetime of the programme
  • include a trajectory for future leaders where less experienced Principal Investigators are fully supported and mentored to be a Joint Lead or Co-applicant
  • demonstrate the strength of institutional commitment to the research partnership and to sustained research capacity strengthening
  • may include a budget line for responsive or commissioned funding to address emerging needs and priorities, or developmental work of up to 5% of the overall award value

Applications including elements of methodology research as part of their wider programme of research are welcome. Proposed projects must:

  • meet a clear methods gap
  • contribute to the aims of the award
  • have generalised applicability to improve health research methods in LMICs

Methodology research proposals should not form a significant part of the overall research plans and must not exceed 5% of the overall award value.

Out of scope

Global Health Research Group awards will not support applications which:

  • do not meet the published call criteria for Global Health Research Groups
  • are focussed on a single research study rather than a broad multifaceted research and capacity strengthening programme
  • build on prior work without the clear development of new UK-LMIC partnerships and networks, or are not clearly expanding previous research programmes into new health areas and/or geographies
  • consist solely of one of the following:
    • large single randomised clinical trials (RCTs) of interventions, any RCT must be part of a wider cohesive programme of research and capacity development work
    • epidemiological studies
    • evidence synthesis (e.g., systematic reviews)
    • evaluations of existing services, where the programme of work does not include evidence-based development and improvement of these services
    • replicating research already undertaken in High-Income Countries – research proposals should be clearly relevant to the ODA-eligible country/ies in which the research is being undertaken
    • implementation science
    • dissemination
  • We will not support applications which primarily focus on:
    • establishing new patient cohorts, biobanks or bio-sample collections or data collection studies (samples or data from existing biobanks, patient registries cohorts may be used)
    • observational research, secondary research or health policy implementation
    • basic laboratory/discovery research or experimental medicine

For work involving animals, animal tissue or both, please refer to the NIHR core policy.


ODA eligibility

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 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 in NIHR ODA Guidance for Researchers and in Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants (section 5) and resources.

Who can apply?

Groups applications must demonstrate an equitable partnership between two Joint Lead Applicants:

  • one at an eligible LMIC institution (LMIC Joint Lead)
  • one at an eligible UK institution (UK Joint Lead)

The funding contract will be signed with the UK Joint Lead’s institution who will become the administering institution. Funding will be disbursed to the UK Lead institution only, who will be responsible for onwards disbursement to all collaborating institutions including the LMIC Joint Lead institution. Both the UK and LMIC Joint Lead institutions must be eligible Higher Education Institutions (HEI) or Research Institutes. Joint Lead Applicants will normally be Principal Investigators employed by the named UK Joint Lead or LMIC Joint Lead HEI or Research Institute. Dependent on the nature of the partnership, there may be other affiliated Co-applicants (in addition to the two Joint Lead Applicants), and Collaborators including service level providers necessary to deliver the Groups award.

An individual cannot be named as Joint Lead on more than one application to this Groups Call 5.

HEI or Research Institutes may submit more than one application to this call as Joint Lead, provided each application is distinct in its aims and objectives.

Institutions submitting multiple applications to this call as Joint Leads must take into account that the NIHR will fund no more than three awards per Joint Lead Institution.

NIHR’s expectation is that if there are numerous applications from a single institution they will be equally balanced between genders. Justification should be provided where this is not possible and the plans in place to address this over the longer term. For more information, please refer to Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants (section 2-5).

Institutions submitting multiple applications as Joint Leads should consider:

  1. 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;
  2. 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.

Existing NIHR GHR award holders are eligible to apply to this call provided there is assurance they have sufficient plans in terms of time and resources available to them to deliver concurrent awards successfully and make a robust and compelling case for funding.

Applicants who are building on prior funded Groups research programmes or partnerships must clearly justify how their application both:

  1. demonstrates ambitious plans to complement and/or expand the previous research agenda into new health areas and/or geographies through equitable partnerships
  2. continues to meet the capacity building aims of the Groups call through proposals for new Joint Leads with the appropriate support and mentorship from previous award holders. Previous Groups award holders may act as Co-applicants to provide support and mentorship to the named Joint Lead.

If you are unsure of eligibility, please contact

This document should be read together with the Global Health Research Programmes – Core Guidance for applicants.

Selection process

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 on which applications should be supported. Resubmissions of previously unsuccessful revised applications that address committee feedback are eligible for consideration.

DHSC retains the right to make strategic decisions at the final outcome stage (following stage 2 Funding Committee). DHSC final funding decisions will be based on available budget, overall portfolio balance, alignment with relevant UK Government policies, NIHR strategic priorities, institutional balance and ranking based on scientific quality.

Indicative timescales

  • call opens for applications: 31 August 2023
  • webinar for applicants: 28 September 2023
  • deadline for remit and REALMS registration queries: 14 November 2023*
  • application deadline – Stage 1 Groups Call 5: 22 November 2023 13:00 UK time
  • Stage 1 Shortlisting Funding Committee: mid-end February 2024
  • notification of outcomes: week commencing 18 March 2024
  • Stage 2 call opens for successful applications: week commencing 20 March 2024
  • Stage 2 application deadline: 10 July 2024 13:00 UK time
  • peer review – comments shared with applicants: September 2024
  • Stage 2 funding committee: October 2024
  • applicants informed of outcomes: November 2024
  • contracts start: 1 July to 1 November 2025

*NIHR will not guarantee they will be able to answer queries about the remit or content of applications or guarantee new REALMS accounts (for lead or co-applicants) will be verified and approved after this date.

Applicants will be notified of outcomes by November 2024 and contracts for Groups must start on, or before, 1 November 2025.

Contractor Institutions should review the terms of the current DHSC ODA research contract and consider how these terms will be flowed to downstream research delivery partners.

The NIHR will request completion of a Due Diligence assessment from 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 and reviewed/agreed annually and aligned with original approved Group aims and deliverables. The NIHR will review the progress of funded Global Health Research Groups after the first 6 months of their contracts to ensure the effective set up and delivery of initial milestones has been achieved. Contracts will then be actively monitored through quarterly finance/high level progress reporting and annual milestones monitored through annual progress reports.

Completing your online application

You must complete an online application via the REALMS system. The application closing date for Stage 1 is 22 November 2023 at 13:00 UK time. 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.

Applicants must contact the NIHR Groups Global Health team by emailing or calling (+44) 023 8059 1859 immediately if they think there is a system problem, whilst attempting to continue with their submission.

Please refer to the application form guidance.