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Programme Grants for Applied Research - Diverse methodologies call specification




The NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) funding programme seeks to support collaborative, multidisciplinary programmes of applied research that lead to clear and identifiable patient benefits.

It is a researcher-led programme, not specifying topics for research. However, the research must be in an area of priority or need for the public health, NHS and the social care sectors of the Department of Health and Social Care.

It is designed to fund NHS and academic partners to work together to tackle important health and social care problems, and provide some stability of funding to support the long-term development of top-quality applied research groups working in the NHS.

The hallmark of PGfAR is supporting interrelated research projects that develop and test complex interventions. But Programme Director Elaine Hay wants to encourage more varied and novel research designs. Read more from Prof Hay in her blog post.


For funding calls in October 2019, February and June 2020:

PGfAR is calling for programmes of research that use diverse methodological approaches to address clinical and/or social care problems and accelerate research into practice.

The purpose of the call is to meet the scheme’s wish to encourage a greater variety of applications, while continuing to build on its success in supporting the development and testing of complex interventions. Beyond the call, our expectation is that such proposals will be submitted as routine.

We’ve published examples of research programmes using diverse methodologies, to act as examples for potential applicants:

The call will run over three rounds and invites programmes of research that use a diverse range of methodologies to address important health and social care questions.

Proposals including evaluation of approaches (for example, using existing data, observational approaches, social science methods, applied epidemiology), and/or work packages specifically aimed at addressing important methodological issues in applied health research methodology and/or those where established teams or centres ‘buddy’ less experienced groups or individuals as part of a collaborative application are particularly welcome.

We also welcome smaller programmes of research with an emphasis on developing guidance and examples of methodological approaches to produce benefits for patients, the public, the NHS or the social care sector. It is anticipated that methods will facilitate more accurate, robust and appropriate evaluations to enable shorter, more efficient, less expensive programmes. As a guide, such programmes might be delivered over 3 years with costs of £1m -1.5m.


Programmes are expected to:

  • comprise a number of high-quality interrelated projects, which can run concurrently, that form a coherent theme, where added value is gained from the combination of the various strands of research
  • demonstrate, and realise, clear and identifiable patient benefits throughout all stages of the research (i.e., not only at the programmes end, but also from the individual studies forming the programme). For example, an in-depth understanding of the patient and/or health care professional experience following qualitative methods, or an understanding of variation following surveys etc.  
  • demonstrate a real partnership between clinicians, or their equivalent in Public Health/Social Care, patients and the public, academics as well as agencies with the remit and capacity to make change happen (policy makers, Academic Health Science Networks, Charitable sectors etc.).
  • demonstrate how they address stated local and or national priorities in health or social care, that they are being delivered in geographical areas of greatest need (rather than simply convenient locations for researchers), and that they have considered issues relating to equality, diversity and inclusion
  • lead to stepped change in practice and/or outcomes. Proposals that comprise application of existing interventions to new patient groups, or are only an incremental development on current practice, or are unlikely to have general application / uptake are unlikely to be supported
  • include clear plans for implementation, knowledge mobilisation and dissemination of accrued outcomes and patient benefits.

Applicants who require further guidance may wish to submit a pre-submission form. General questions about the call should be addressed to

NOTE: This call specification must be read in conjunction with: