Published: 28 May 2020
Version: 1 - May 2020Print this document
The closing date for electronic submission of applications is 1pm GMT on 18 November 2020 or 1pm GMT +1 on 18 May 2021
The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In 2015, the NIHR Global Health Research (GHR) portfolio was established to support applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using UK Aid from the UK government.
The Global Health Research portfolio is underpinned by three principles which guide development and delivery. These are:
- Meet eligibility criteria as Official Development Assistance (ODA), i.e. funded research directly and primarily benefits people in ODA-eligible countries on the OECD DAC-list
- Deliver high-quality applied health research, building on the Principles of the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR): Impact, Excellence, Effectiveness, Inclusion, Collaboration
- Strengthen research capability and training through equitable partnerships
The NIHR has established a substantial portfolio of applied global health research and training in areas that are underfunded or where there is an unmet need. The programme aims are delivered through a mix of researcher-led and commissioned calls, funding initiatives to develop and advance global health research career pathways both in LMICs and in the UK, and through partnerships with other major global health research funders. Together these have positioned the NIHR as a key player in supporting high-quality global health research.
Further information on the NIHR Global Health Research portfolio is available.
The NIHR Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups awards form a key part of the NIHR Global Health Research commitment to ODA. The Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups offer is unique for NIHR in that it provides funding to support not only delivery of research that will improve health outcomes for people living in LMICs, but also strengthens crucial research capability and capacity in resource-poor settings, in particular, training and capacity-building in both academic research and programme support functions. Together these provide a vital and sustainable platform for future research in those countries.
The active portfolio currently comprises 13 Global Health Research Units and 40 Global Health Research Groups delivering high-quality research through equitable partnerships with researchers in LMICs, which are addressing a broad spectrum of under-funded and under-researched areas of need.
Find out more about the active portfolio of NIHR Global Health Research Units and NIHR Global Health Research Groups.
The NIHR is pleased to launch a second call for Global Health Research Units that will meet the aims and ambitions set out in the following call specification. The call will have two closing dates to reflect the different challenges research teams may face in developing high quality applications during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aims: NIHR Global Health Units
Building on the NIHR GHR principles above, the strategic aim across the Global Health Research Units programme is to :
- address locally-identified challenges in LMICs through equitable research partnerships between researchers and institutions in the UK and ODA-eligible countries.
- to generate the scientific evidence that can improve health outcomes for people in low resource settings through improving practice and informing policy.
- strengthen research and research management capacity and capability to support sustainability of research in partner countries.
These strategic level aims are the same for the Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups. The core differences lie in the status of the research partnerships at start-up, the scale and extent of the research and partnership ambition, and the likely impact of work programme outputs.
Global Health Research Units are defined as a well-established research partnership or network of universities and research institutes in LMICs and the UK:
- with an existing track-record of delivering internationally recognised applied global health research addressing unmet health needs in ODA-eligible countries;
- who wish to consolidate and expand this work, supporting and developing thematic research and capacity strengthening networks, through regional and global hubs;
- who will deliver a large scale, ambitious programme of applied health research through a range of trials and studies;
- who are able to leverage the strength of the existing partnership consortium to improve practice and inform policy based on scientific evidence;
- who will set up and deliver a substantial and sustainable programme of capacity and capability strengthening at individual and institutional level.
Budget/length of funding
Through this call, awards up to £7 million over a period of up to 5 years are available to NIHR Global Health Research Units.
The amount requested and the length of the funding period should be fully justified according to the nature of the proposed research.
Applications can indicate a budget line for responsive or commissioned funding to address emerging priorities/needs and/or developmental work up to 5% of the total requested budget. If included, these research costs must not exceed the maximum £7m budget limit for Global Health Research Units set for proposals submitted to this call. Applications must clearly describe the proposed way these funds will be made available for delivery of ODA-eligible research in LMICs. Funds must be spent in LMICs to deliver research. Any research activities funded through this route must align with the application aims, be completed within the contracted award timeframes and adhere with finance guidance for the call. 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.
See the more detailed NIHR GHR Finance Guidance for further information.
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.
In recognition that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant impact across global health systems, applicants should consider the context of COVID-19 where relevant to their research proposal, both in terms of project planning and the generalisability of outcomes.
Key criteria for funding
The following key criteria for this call encompass the overarching NIHR principles and contribute towards the aims for the GHR portfolio as a whole. The key criteria for funding are incorporated within the Funding Committee selection criteria which will be used to assess applications.
Applications for Global Health Research Units will be required to describe how they address the following key criteria for funding:
- Excellence: The research is robust, needs-driven, addresses a significant gap in global health research, and will enable the development of individuals and research institutions to produce high quality global health evidence.
- Equitable Partnership: The proposed research plans build on a well-established equitable research partnership or network of universities and research institutes in LMICs and the UK who wish to consolidate and expand this work. Equity and collaboration are strongly reflected in programme leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings.
- Effectiveness: The proposed research addresses unmet health needs in ODA-eligible countries, with research plans based on a review of the local context/health system(s) and existing literature. Applications include appropriate plans for effective programme management, governance, institutional support, contract management, with a clear, well-justified budget that represents good value for money.
- Capacity Strengthening: There are clear plans for strengthening institutional and individual research and research management capacity and capability, including at least ten academic training posts, appropriate training of research support functions (training in finance, programme and research management) and informal training opportunities, which collectively enhance professional development and education in research.
- Stakeholder and Community Involvement: Relevant and appropriate stakeholder and community engagement should be evident throughout all stages of the research, from research priority setting and design, to delivery, dissemination, and impact evaluation activities.
- Impact and Sustainability: There is a clear and implementable strategy for pathways to impact including research uptake and dissemination, which improves practice and informs policy, and supports future sustainability of research in partner countries.
In scope: Global Health Research Unit awards will support:
- Propose applied health research programmes that primarily and directly address the challenges faced by people and patients in ODA-eligible countries.
- Include inter-disciplinary applied research teams with demonstrable expertise and a track-record of ensuring research is transferred into benefits for patients in LMICs.
- Include relevant engagement with policy makers, patients and the public, civil society organisations and charities throughout the life of the proposed programme.
- Demonstrate equity and collaboration in programme leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, appropriate distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings.
- Propose a coherent and sustainable plan for capacity and capability strengthening at individual and institutional level.
- Demonstrate the strength of institutional commitment to the research partnership.
Out of scope: Global Health Research Unit awards will NOT support:
- Do not meet the published call criteria for Global Health Research Units.
- Consist solely of one of the following:
- randomised clinical trials (RCTs) of interventions
- epidemiological studies
- evidence synthesis
- 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
- Primarily focus on establishing new patient cohorts, biobanks or bio-sample collections or data collection studies (samples or data from existing cohorts may be used).
- Primarily focus on observational research, secondary research or health policy implementation.
- Focus on basic laboratory/discovery research or experimental medicine.
The NIHR Global Health Research programme supports high-quality applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding.
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 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 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.
Further information can be found at:
- NIHR ODA Guidance for Researchers
- 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
Who can apply?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this call will have two closing dates (see timetable below). Applications may only be submitted once for consideration to this call across the two call closes, resubmissions between the two call closes will not be eligible. Applications to the second call close must be distinct from any submitted to the first call closing date in terms of Joint Leads and research areas.
This is an open competitive call for new funding awards open to new applicants to the NIHR Global Health Research funding and to existing Global Health Research award holders (including Global Health Research Unit and Global Health Research Group award holders). As this is a competitive process, applicants who have previously received NIHR Global Health Research Units or Global Health Research Groups funding are not guaranteed to receive funding again. 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.
All applications must have two Joint Lead Applicants (one at an eligible LMIC institution and one at an eligible UK institution).
Joint Lead Applicants will normally be researchers employed by a research institution, or a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or a not for profit organisation. 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.
Funding and contracting must take place via the UK administering institution (UK Joint Lead Applicant) which would normally be a HEI or Research Institute or a research active not for profit organisation.
There is a limit of two Global Health Research Unit applications for any organisation wishing to apply as a Joint lead. Each Global Health Research Unit application must be distinct in its aims and objectives. Submitting two Global Health Research Unit applications does not preclude organisations from applying to lead on Global Health Research Group applications.
No limits will be placed on the number of Co-applicants/Collaborators necessary to effectively deliver the aims of Global Health Research Unit research awards.
Under the second call for Units and the third call for Groups, an individual cannot be named as Joint Lead on more than one application i.e. Joint Lead for a Global Health Research Unit, or Joint Lead for a Global Health Research Group. Individuals can be Co-applicants on other applications and there is no limit on this, though they will need to be mindful of the FTE that would be required should all be funded and ensure this is realistic.
If you are unsure of eligibility, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- All Eligibility Criteria and Key Criteria for Funding are met: Excellence, Equitable Partnerships, Effectiveness, Capacity Strengthening, Stakeholder and Community Involvement, Impact and Sustainability.
- Relevance of the proposed research in addressing LMIC needs and research requirements outlined in the scope (above).
- Quality of the research design and work plan (i.e. clear research questions/objectives, sound design and detailed methodology to address the questions/meet the objectives; clear milestones, identification of possible risks and factoring in of ethical considerations).
- Strength of the Global Health Research Unit’s research team (i.e. depth of relevant interdisciplinary expertise, including social science, and the respective track record of applicants in the specified area).
- Quality of the proposed management and governance arrangements (i.e. clear definition of roles, risk management arrangements and how the efforts of individuals will be coordinated).
- Impact of the proposed work (i.e. likelihood of significant contribution to the evidence base in the relevant area, pathways to improvement in health, wellbeing, lives saved and economic, social and cultural benefits in ODA-eligible countries) and plans for engagement with policy makers, communities and the public at an early stage.
- Strength of plans for Community Engagement and Involvement.
- Value for money provided by the application.
Applications received in response to both the Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups funding calls will undergo a structured selection process involving review by independent experts and an international Funding Committee. The Funding Committee will make recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care on which applications should be supported.
If high numbers of applications are received, the NIHR may adopt a triage process where members of the Funding Committee will review and score applications against published eligibility and selection criteria ahead of the Funding Committee meeting. Those proposals which score below the agreed threshold will be rejected at that point and will not receive feedback. High-scoring applications will proceed to external peer review and consideration by the Funding Committee.
This is one call with two closing dates. Applications can only be submitted to one of the two advertised call close dates (either November 2020 or May 2021); the NIHR require submission of a mandatory intent to submit (ItS) at least one month prior to the call close. There will be no option for resubmission between the first and second Funding Committees.
It is mandatory for applicants to submit a short ItS form prior to the full application submission. The deadline for ItS submissions for each call close are listed below. The online ItS and application form for submission to the May 2021 call close will not be available until the November 2020 deadline has passed. Applicants wishing to apply to the May 2021 call close may use the Word version of the application form prior to the online version becoming available.
The information detailed in the ItS forms will be used to support NIHR planning and provision of advice about whether applications fits within the call remit. It will not be used for decision-making.
The same Funding Committee will consider applications across both call close dates.
NIHR Global Health Research Units Call 2 - Indicative Timeline
CALL CLOSE November 2020 (Phase 1)
- Call opens for applications - 02 June 2020
- Briefing event - 08 July 2020
- Intent to Submit deadline (Mandatory) - 21 October 2020
- Application deadline - 18 November 2020
- Peer review – comments shared with applicants - Mid- February 2021
- Funding committee - Mid- March 2021
- Notification outcomes - w/c 29 March 2021
- Contracts start - 01 July 2021
NIHR Global Health Research Units Call 2 - Indicative Timeline
CALL CLOSE May 2021 (Phase 2)
- Call opens for applications - 02 June 2020
- Briefing event - 10 February 2021
- Intent to Submit deadline (Mandatory) - 20 April 2021
- Application deadline - 18 May 2021
- Peer review – comments shared with applicants - Mid - August 2021
- Funding committee - Mid - September 2021
- Applicants informed of outcomes - w/c 11 October 2021
- Contracts start - 01 February 2022
For phase 1 (November 2020) call close, applicants will be notified of outcomes by the end of March 2021 and contracts for Global Health Research Units must start on 01 July 2021
For phase 2 (May 2021) call close, applicants will be notified of outcomes by mid October 2021 and contracts for Global Health Research Units must start on 01 February 2022.
Host 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 host 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 Global Health Research Unit aims and deliverables. The NIHR will review the progress of funded Global Health Research Units after the first six 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 application online
Please refer to Guidance for completing your application.
A call briefing webinar will be held on 8 July 2020 & 10 February 2021. Please register to attend by e-mailing email@example.com
In addition to the briefing from the NIHR, there will be opportunities to gain insights from some of the currently funded Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups on their experiences, and hear their tips on what to include in applications. If you are interested in these events please also register your interest through firstname.lastname@example.org.