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Tips for applying to Programme Grants for Applied Research



Funding will only be awarded on the basis of proposals meeting a very high quality standard and it is therefore essential that potential applicants for a Programme Grant award carefully consider the following tips, as well as the application guidance, before submitting a proposal. Director's Messages following the first three funding competitions and Paul Little's two subsequent messages as Programme Director are also available at the end of this guidance. Our experience with funding Programme Grants for Applied Research so far shows that successful applications have the following qualities:

Applied research

A programme of research which meets the stated criteria for applied health research. This typically includes the methods of health services research, public health research, behavioural science, economic evaluation and modelling. Programme Grants are not intended to support exploratory research with no clear application within 3-5 years of the end of the funding period and will not fund proposals that are dependent upon elements of basic research or experimental medicine.

Relevance for patients and the NHS

Great importance for patients and the NHS. At both Stages 1 and 2, the significance of the research area is clearly articulated, together with a detailed description of the outputs/deliverables that are to be generated, and a convincing demonstration that the results are likely to benefit patients and the NHS significantly within 3-5 years of the end of the funding period.


Identification of the major scientific, technical or organisational challenges involved and how they are to be addressed in the research.

Breadth & depth of the research team

A Lead Applicant that is suitable to lead a programme of applied health research, as indicated through an excellent track record in this area of research. Eminence solely in a clinical area, or in more basic research, is not considered, on its own, to be sufficient. A research team whose excellent track record in applied health research is shown by published output, previous research funding and impact on health service policy and practice. A team which possesses the necessary breadth and depth of expertise in all the methodological areas required to deliver the proposed programme of work (e.g. statistics, health economics, health services research, behavioural science, qualitative research methodologies, sociology, etc.), providing appropriate and demonstrable input into the development and delivery of the programme – simply naming a strong team is not sufficient.

Research methods and clarity

At both Stages 1 and 2, clearly articulated aims and objectives, each with its own research strand specifying in detail relevant and feasible research methodologies to be used. A proposal written in plain English, logically and coherently set out with minimal jargon, abbreviations and acronyms.

Coherence and scale

A coherent programme of work, well-balanced between its various research strands, realistic in scope and scale and deliverable within the time and funding agreed.

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI)

Evidence that appropriate arrangements for patient and public involvement are built into the development and delivery of the proposal (i.e. as active participants in the research activities, alongside the research team, and not just the inclusion as the 'subjects' of the research), by not only specifying the people dedicated to the role, but also allocating sufficient resource from within the budget to allow for this.

Value for money

A strong likelihood of excellent value for money from the proposed programme, for which the resources being requested are clearly justified and are appropriate to the type and scale of the work.

Director's message

Programme Director Professor Elaine Hay's most recent Director's message can be watched here.