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NIHR SPARC Round 6 Guidance Notes




On behalf of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the NIHR Academy is launching the sixth round of the NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC).

The NIHR’s vision is to open up its world class facilities, training and career development opportunities to early career researchers funded in the Infrastructure and NIHR Schools. This scheme will therefore allow NIHR Academy Members supported by NIHR Infrastructure and NIHR Schools to spend time in other parts of the NIHR to network, train in a specific skill or collaborate with other researchers/specialists. The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals’ experience as well as their CVs.  Expected outcomes include collaborations, publications, presentations and posters, as well as the development of new skills.

One of the aims of the NIHR is to increase the number of researchers equipped with the skills to work at the interfaces between academia, the NHS and wider health, public health and social care, and industry. In line with this aim we propose to pilot for this round encouraging applicants to use their placement to visit parts of the NIHR that have existing links with industry partners.

These guidance notes are intended to help completion of an application for the NIHR SPARC, Round 6 (2019).


The NIHR SPARC is open to all NIHR Academy Members who:

  • are early career researchers (PhD or early career post-doc) undertaking a formal training/career development award, which is competitive, includes a training plan and has a defined end point (this may be an application for further funding);
  • are directly funded by an NIHR award that is a part of the NIHR Infrastructure with a remit to build capacity - Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), and Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs) - or are part of one of the three NIHR Schools;
  • receive at least 25% funding from the NIHR Infrastructure or NIHR School for their salary/stipend/fees over the lifetime of the award;
  • do not already hold an NIHR Academy Fellowship or NIHR Clinical Lectureship, and;
  • can complete the award between April 2020 and February 2021.

Scope of Award

The NIHR SPARC allows eligible individuals within one part of the NIHR Infrastructure or NIHR School to spend a short period of time training in another part of the NIHR. The period of experience in another part of the NIHR is flexible if the applicant can demonstrate the impact and benefit to their training. The training placement period can be broken up to allow flexibility but must be completed and the financial report must be submitted by February the 14th 2021. Awardees will remain registered at their ‘home’ institution and the ‘host’ institution will provide supervision and training in collaboration with the ‘home’ supervision team.

The following types of activities could be supported:

  • moving to other parts of the NIHR with similar specialisms to their home institution;
  • seeking placements in a specific NIHR institution that offers training experiences not available at their home institution (including cross-discipline training, such as regulatory aspects, trials etc.)

The placements, however, are not limited to these types of activities. Applications to spend time in a part of the wider NIHR or NIHR Infrastructure or School with a different remit than an applicant’s home institution (e.g. BRC to an ARC or a School) are also encouraged.

Applicants must clearly demonstrate how this opportunity would enhance their studies and their CV.

Applicants may find helpful the following documents:

  1. SPARC – Where Can I Go? This details the types of activities taking place within the NIHR Infrastructure and NIHR Schools (nb this is not an exhaustive list, and does not detail wider NIHR opportunities). All applicants must liaise with their named Training Lead prior to developing an application.
  2. SPARC – Advice from Previous Awardees. This document includes advice that may be helpful in planning a placement.
  3. SPARC – Case Studies. The home and host institutions, placements, outputs and impacts of some previous awards are described.

Scope of Funding

The placement will be funded by awards of up to £5,000 per individual through a centrally run competition. The aim of the award is to cover the incidental expenses (accommodation, travel, food and other reasonable expenses) of working from another institution for a short period of time. Travel and subsistence rates should be in accordance with the rates approved by the home institution.

The awardee’s home institution will continue to support their salary/stipend/fees.

Research costs, open access fees, conference fees, and supervisory fees will not be covered by this award and would be expected to be funded by the home institution. 


Successful applicants will:

  • notify the NIHR Academy when the placement has come to an end;
  • submit a written report within 2 months of the completion of the placement or by the 1st of March 2021 (whichever is soonest), in a form provided by the NIHR Academy, detailing the placement, achievements, impacts and outputs. This will also need to outline any underspends and reasons for these.

The home institution will:

  • within 2 months of the completion of the placement or by the 14th of February 2021 (whichever is soonest) submit an invoice to the NIHR Academy for incidental expenses incurred during the placement, up to the limit of the amount awarded.
  • The Authorised signatory at the Home Institution will confirm sight and approval of all supporting documentation (i.e. receipts) for expenses incurred and that the costs incurred are as described in the Award application and approved by the Selection Committee. The NIHR Academy reserves the right to request of supporting documentation.

Application and Selection Process

  • Applicants are responsible for liaising with their Home Institution Training Lead (see NIHR Infrastructure and School Training Leads) and potential placement institution and agreeing the scope of the placement prior to submitting an application.
  • The application form is available from the NIHR SPARC webpage at
  • To submit the application, the NIHR Training Lead representing the NIHR Home Institution (as listed here: ) must email a completed application form and the applicant's CV to
  • The applicant’s CV should detail their qualifications, awards, publications and experience and both documents should be suitably protected. 
  • The deadline for submission is 1pm on Monday 16th December
  • Any changes to the formatting of text within the application form may impact the rest of the form and what is visible to the SPARC Selection Committee when reviewing the application. Such issues usually resolve when the form is saved and re-opened, but the applicant needs to ensure that all required text is visible in an electronic and printed copy of this application form prior to submission.
  • Incomplete, faxed, posted or late applications will not be accepted under any circumstances.
  • The NIHR Academy is responsible for the selection process and subsequent management of the award.
  • Applications will be reviewed by an expert Selection Committee, and scored during a Selection Committee meeting in February 2020.
  • The Selection Committee, via the NIHR Academy, will make recommendations for funding to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
  • The NIHR Academy expect to be able to notify applicants of the outcome of their application during March 2020.


Applications will be acknowledged by email within a week of the closing date. Applicants should not phone or email the NIHR Academy with enquiries prior to receiving this email.

Assessment Criteria

Applications for the NIHR SPARC will be assessed using the following criteria:

  • the potential for the applicant to enhance their current research studies;
  • the impact the placement will have on the applicant’s career development and trajectory;
  • the extent to which the placement will provide a high-quality and stimulating research training experience;
  • the provision of academic supervision and support in both the home and the host institutions, and;
  • the extent to which the placement will support the professional and personal development of the applicant.

NIHR Privacy Notice

Our purpose for collecting information is so we have the necessary information to evaluate your application for a placement and can communicate with you about your application. The data we collect is collected in the public interest. Information provided here may be subject to Freedom of Information requests.  

The NIHR Academy is part of the DHSC, NIHR. The contracting agent for the NIHR Academy is the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT). The DHSC is the Data Controller and LTHT is the Data Processor under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) EC 2016/679. DHSC NIHR respects the privacy of individuals who share their data and processes it in a manner that meets the requirements of GDPR. The DHSC Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at:    

The NIHR privacy policy includes further information including ways we may use your data, our contact details and details on your individual rights regarding how your data is used. Your data may be shared across the NIHR, including with other NIHR centres, to allow the application to be managed and for statistical analysis, and with external award reviewers as part of the process for managing the allocation of an award. Information collected from you will not be shared outside the EEA without your consent.

This notice is under constant review and will be updated and / or revised based on that review as appropriate.

Statement of Acknowledgement

Data processing relating to applications and awards of NIHR grants by the DHSC is done under the legal basis of public interest. As these are publicly funded awards, there is a requirement to be publicly transparent. The information provided in award applications may be subject to Freedom of Information requests. To meet the requirement of transparency the NIHR Academy publishes details of the awards and awardees, and this may include photographs and email addresses, on our website. You have the right to object, and objections will be considered on a case by case basis so that the balance between public transparency and privacy rights are maintained.

Equal Opportunities and Diversity 

NIHR and DHSC have a duty as a public body to promote equality of opportunity. All applicants will be contacted shortly after the closure date by NIHR Equality Monitoring.

Monitoring ensures that all applications to NIHR Programmes are treated equally in terms of gender, ethnicity and/or disability. 

The information you share with the monitoring system:

  • will be stored separately from your application,
  • only be used for the purpose of monitoring equal opportunities,
  • be kept securely and in confidence.

Completing the application form 

Submitting the Application

Please ensure that you read this advice carefully.

Application Summary

Please ensure that your name, email address, Training Lead (at your Home Institution Organisation) name and email address, Home Institution Infrastructure/School Organisation and Proposed Host Institution Infrastructure/School Organisation (or named part of the wider NIHR) are detailed here. 

Section A – Applicant Details

Ai. Applicant Details

Please enter your full name, including title, job title, highest level of qualification and current level of study.

Professional background. For doctors and dentists, please enter the GMC/GDC recognised specialty.  For all other applicants, please enter your discipline or professional background from the drop down menu.

Please add a professional body/council registration membership(s) and registration number(s) where appropriate.

Aii. Applicant Home Institution Details

Please give details of your home institution (where you are based), and include the name and contact details of your Primary Supervisor. Please also provide a correspondence address and contact details if they are different to those you have already provided.  Note: your home institution must be an NIHR BRC, ARC, PSTRC or the SPCR, SPHR or SSCR. Please refer to the ‘Eligibility’ section above for more information.

Section B – Applicant Experience

Overview of experience to date

Please give an overview of your research experience to date in no more than 150 words.

Section C – Proposed Placement: Contact Details

Please provide the name, job title and contact details of the person who will supervise you during the placement at the host institution.

Section D – Proposed Placement: Plans

Please provide a title for your placement and your preferred start date (from the drop-down list).

Di. Please provide a clear outline of the plan for your proposed placement. Include a justification of the length of placement and the order of activities planned and explain why it is important for your career at this stage. It is also important to explain why you have chosen the particular NIHR host that you wish to work with during the placement (for example, due to particular experts, expertise, equipment or teams). (350 words max)

The placement programme should provide training/research/mentoring or other experiences that are not currently available in your home training environment. This may include being part of a research study that enhances your own work, collaborating with a new team of researchers who specialise in your field or working in a different field where you have career aspirations.  The placement, however, is not limited to these types of activities.

The period of experience in another part of the NIHR is flexible as long as benefit to the applicant can be demonstrated.

The training placement period can be broken up to allow flexibility but must be completed by 28th of February 2021

Dii. Please outline a) the likely benefits and impact of the placement on your research, training and career, and b) how you will know whether it has been a successful placement (250 words max) 

Diii. This section must provide a clear breakdown and full justification of all funds requested, including a total. Please note the award is for a maximum of £5,000

  • Funding is provided to cover the incidental expenses (accommodation, travel, food and other reasonable expenses) of working from another institution for a short period of time. Travel and subsistence rates should be in accordance with the rates approved by the home institution.
  • Research costs, open access fees, conference fees, and supervisory fees will not be covered by this award and would be expected to be funded by the home institution.
  • Costs should be based on current prices.
  • All applicants are expected to seek appropriate input into the finance section of the application form.
  • Within 2 months of the completion of the award, or by the 14th of February 2021 (whichever is soonest), the home institution will be expected to submit an invoice to theNIHR Academy. The invoice will be checked in line with the proposed placement plans and justification of funds requested, and when approved, the NIHR Academy will reimburse the awardee’s home institution
  • The NIHR Academy reserve the right to request copies of supporting documentation.


Please outline how you as a Supervisor and the Host Institution will support the applicant during this placement (250 words max).

Section E – Declarations and Signatures

The following parties must carefully read the declarations and signatures section and insert their name, an electronic signature and date on to the application form:


Home Institution - Primary Supervisor

Host Institution – Proposed Placement Supervisor

Section F – NIHR Infrastructure Home Institution Training Lead Statement of Support

All applications should be signed by the NIHR Training Lead. In signing, he/she is indicating:

  • their approval of the application;
  • their willingness of the home institution to support the applicant (if successful) during the placement;
  • their commitment to providing the support necessary to make the award a success;
  • their approval of the costs sought; and
  • their acceptance of the terms and conditions associated with a NIHR SPARC award.

Section G – Monitoring Information

Please use the drop-down list to state how you became aware of the scheme.

Contacting us

If you have any queries about the SPARC award please contact us at:


NIHR Academy

21 Queen Street 



Telephone: 0113 532 8430

Email: quoting ‘SPARC Round 6’ in the subject heading.