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Programme Grants for Applied Research - Career Capacity Building Welcome Pack


Published: 01 December 2023

Version: 1.0 December 2023

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The purpose of this document is to give NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) Named Points of Contact (NPCs) for training and development an overview of academic career development and capacity building within programme grants; including the NIHR Academy member definition and the types of activities and support available to NPCs and NIHR Academy members supported by the PGfAR award.

Academic Career Development and Capacity Building - PGfAR

PGfAR funds collaborative multidisciplinary programmes of research, bringing together expert researchers and leading methodologists, to deliver research findings that will lead to clear and identifiable patient, service user or carer benefits, typically through promotion of health and wellbeing, prevention of ill health, and optimal disease management (including safety and quality). Therefore, they are ideally suited and have great scope to make a significant contribution to applied health and care research capacity development.

As part of NIHR's drive to develop research capacity, applicants to PGfAR can now include funding for research capacity development. PGfAR is therefore considered as a programme to have a remit for building research capacity. Applicants to the programme are encouraged to consider offering opportunities across the whole career pathway (including internships, pre-doctoral/masters, doctoral/PhD and post-doctoral) and are encouraged to recruit from a range of diverse career paths (including methodologists and under-represented disciplines and professions in research) to support the next generation of researchers. Training and support should be in line with the principles and best practice set out within the Researcher Development Concordat.

NIHR Academy 

Across the NIHR we are passionate about people and developing careers in research. NIHR develops and coordinates academic training, career development and research capacity development through the NIHR Academy’s awards and programmes.

We play a pivotal role in attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future. NIHR aims to develop a highly-skilled academic research workforce capable of advancing the best research which improves health, and benefits society and the economy, as well as to further build and strengthen capacity by creating training opportunities to develop appropriate research skills.

Named Points of Contact (NPC) for Training and Development

In order to ensure a joined-up approach to training, each NIHR PGfAR Programme seeking to build research capacity will be expected to appoint a Named Point of Contact (NPC) for training and development; who will be the first point of contact for all NIHR Academy related communication and queries. They will work in partnership with NIHR Academy to share best practice and encourage excellence in career development and training. Individuals whose academic career development is being supported through NIHR PGfAR funding will also benefit from NIHR Academy membership.

Identifying and registering the Named Point of Contact (NPC)

The NIHR requests that an NPC for each Programme embedding career development and training capacity is named in the Stage 2 Application. Contact details will be collected by the PGfAR team. The NPC will take an active role in providing support for academic career development to ensure members can thrive as successful academics and future leaders, as well as sharing examples of best practice and development opportunities.

The NPC will be:

  • the first point of contact for all NIHR Academy related matters.
  • responsible for overseeing the academic career development of those individuals undertaking their research training as part of a PGfAR award.
  • formally identified and recognised by NIHR as the main point of contact regarding academic capacity development within their programme grant
  • named in any training materials, induction packs and other communication tools relevant to their engagement with NIHR Academy members.

Responsibilities of the Named Point of Contact

  • Take a key role in developing and implementing the academic career development plans outlined in the approved PGfAR application.
  • Promote and support relevant NIHR research opportunities to NIHR Academy members based in NIHR PGfAR programmes.
  • To share good academic career development practice and learn from others, including building experience of applying for national grant funding and developing individuals to be nationally competitive.
  • Support the timely collection and reporting of information on NIHR Academy members to NIHR (in the PGfAR annual reports).
  • Communicate NIHR academic research opportunities to NIHR Academy members.

Annual Reporting

Within the PGfAR annual reporting documentation, there will be a supplementary academic career development report where NPCs will be asked to provide a high level overview (1-2 page maximum) on the following:

  • Progress made against academic career development plans outlined in your approved application
  • Deviations or barriers to meeting academic career development objectives
  • Impact; what has worked well and provide examples of impact
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; how you are supporting equity of access to opportunities
  • Expenditure on training

In addition, we will ask you to complete a template in a format provided by the NIHR Academy listing key information about all individuals supported through the NIHR PGfAR funding who meet the NIHR Academy member definition (see below) over the reporting period for which the report covers. This template will be made available in the advance of the Kick-off meeting (details below), so that you can collect the relevant information from the start of your award.

Engagement with NPCs


The NIHR Academy regularly sends communications to NPCs via the NIHR Programme Manager. These emails will include opportunities and updates on NIHR activity that may be of interest to you as an NPC and should also be shared (where relevant) with the NIHR PGfAR Academy Members and individuals you are supporting locally in your programme. Please note; the NIHR will not communicate directly with NIHR PGfAR Academy members.

It is important that any changes to the NPC are communicated promptly to the NIHR Programme Manager so NIHR updates are consistently cascaded out to all NIHR Academy members.

We encourage both NPCs and NIHR PGfAR Academy members to sign up for general information from the NIHR directly. To be kept up to date with other news and opportunities from the wider NIHR, sign up to NIHR newsletter(s).

The NIHR also encourages NPCs and NIHR PGfAR Academy Members to follow NIHR on social media: X: @NIHRcommunity, @NIHRresearch, LinkedIn: NIHR (National Institute for Health and Care Research), YouTube: NIHRtv.

These channels will share general news and information about NIHR to show the broad spectrum of research activities that NIHR is involved in including NIHR initiatives, resources, opportunities to work with us, newly funded research and significant findings from NIHR funded research.

Further information about NIHR social channels such as those tailored to researchers, patient and public involvement, industry and evidence can also be found here. 

Kick-off meeting:

The NPCs are encouraged to attend the Kick-off meetings for their Programme. There will be a dedicated section of the Kick-off presentation to introduce the role and responsibilities of NPCs, as well as the annual reporting data template for capacity building, and an opportunity to ask questions with the attending NIHR Programme Manager.

Open surgeries:

The NIHR Academy will coordinate drop-in open surgeries twice yearly for NPCs. These events will be held online, and provide an opportunity to raise any NIHR Academy related questions or issues. NPCs will also be able to get to know each other and thereby gain a network of support.

NIHR Academy Members and the support available from the NIHR Academy

NIHR PGfAR Academy member definition

Individuals whose academic career development is being supported through NIHR PGfAR  funding and are undertaking a formal training/career development award, which meets the following criteria are referred to as NIHR Academy members:

  • have been competitively recruited, 
  • have a formal training plan,
  • have a defined end point (such as an application for further funding), and 
  • receive at least 25% funding through the PGfAR award for salary/stipend over the lifetime of the individual’s award.

Individuals undertaking formal academic capacity development within the research programme will be a member of the NIHR Academy and will benefit from:

  • Career development and support activities, such as mentorship and leadership
  • Eligibility to apply for some short term research training and academic career development awards
  • Networking and career development events that embed them within the NIHR family

We encourage our NPCs to have a general awareness of NIHR Academy’s awards and programmes in order to signpost individuals to relevant opportunities and to get in touch with the NIHR Academy with any queries. 

Current relevant NIHR Academy schemes and activities include:

Schemes – SPARC

The  NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC) scheme offers NIHR Academy members supported in an NIHR setting with a remit for research capacity building (such as a PGfAR award) an opportunity to spend time in other parts of the NIHR to network, train in a specific technique or collaborate with other researchers/specialists. The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals’ research training as well as their CV and academic career.

Applicants are encouraged to explore the wide range of facilities, expertise and opportunities available to them across the NIHR for their personal and professional development, and develop a placement that is bespoke to their individual training needs, background, skills/experiences, as well as their proposed career trajectory.

NIHR PGfAR Academy Members can apply to the SPARC scheme for up to £15,000 to undertake a bespoke short placement. The SPARC competition opens annually in September (the exact date will be communicated with NPCs closer to the time of the competition launch)  and awards can be taken flexibly between April and the following February. 

Please do take a look at a recent SPARC case study; which provides a summary of the type of placement a previous award holder has undertaken and the benefits and impact the placement has had on their personal and professional development.

Schemes – Local Authority SPARC

Similar to SPARC, the NIHR Local Authority Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (LA SPARC) scheme supports individuals working in Local Authority settings and NIHR Academy members to design and apply for funds to undertake short placements allowing them to move between NIHR and Local Authority settings in either direction. The main aim of the award is to allow individuals to develop skills and capabilities to co-create research that is more meaningful and better connected with practice; with the intention that this will lead to enhanced partnerships and collaborations between the NIHR and local authorities.

NIHR PGfAR Academy Members can apply to the LA SPARC scheme for up to £15,000 to undertake a bespoke short placement in a local authority setting. The LA SPARC competition runs alongside the NIHR SPARC competition and follows the same competition timetable. The competition opens annually in September and awards can be taken flexibly between April and the following February. 

Programmes - NIHR Academy Mentoring Programme 

The NIHR Mentoring programme is available for post-doctoral NIHR Academy members to seek support for their academic and career development from a mentor drawn from our wide NIHR leadership community. 

Mentors and mentees will be supported throughout their participation in the programme through regular professional development events and resources. They will also have access to a mentoring platform to support and guide their mentoring relationships. 

More information about the programme can be found on the NIHR Academy mentoring webpage; including how NIHR Academy members can express an interest in the programme. You can also read about the experience of last year’s mentees and mentors.

Events – NIHR Academy Members Conference

All NIHR Academy members are invited to the annual NIHR Academy Members Conference. It is a two day hybrid event held in the autumn/winter each year, composed of inspirational speakers, networking and skills sessions/workshops. 

Each year there is a different theme; with previous years themes including “Embedding and celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion in research”, “The road less travelled: celebrating non-linear career pathways” and more recently “Team Science: promoting and recognising interdisciplinary collaboration”. 

You can access a replay for the keynote, panel discussions and other resources from the previous years conference via the conference website

We will share further details of the next conference with NPCs when available. 

Events - Annual NIHR Doctoral Research Training Camp

The NIHR Academy holds an annual interactive three day training event held in-person over the summer for approximately 75 NIHR Academy members undertaking their PhDs in an NIHR setting with a remit for research capacity building. The camp theme focuses on  ‘Applying for further research funding’; as a key aspect of a career in research is the ability to know how to put together a successful application for funding.

The camp consists of plenary sessions with inspirational guest speakers who have established research careers, as well as group tasks and networking. The delegates are split into multi-disciplinary teams each with an experienced mentor and public contributor to work up a proposal for funding to a fictitious funding body. 

Each year we will invite NPCs to nominate suitable individuals to attend the annual training camp and we will share further information with NPCs closer to the time of the camp.