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Global health research

The NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio uses UK aid to fund high quality applied health research and training in areas of unmet need.

Our research is for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

NIHR statement on ODA funding for its Global Health Research Portfolio

NIHR is a major funder of high quality global health research that directly addresses the diverse health needs of people in low and middle income countries (LMICs). We invest in applied health research relevant to the unmet needs of LMIC communities, health system priorities and the evolving global burden of disease.

We fund research in LMICs that are eligible to receive Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the UK government.

We deliver our research funding through three main strands:

  • We deliver research programmes that award research funding to equitable partnerships between groups of researchers or groups of research institutions.
  • We form partnerships with other global health research organisations to support research and researcher career development.
  • We invest in people by funding the career development of researchers at all stages and supporting research managers and research support staff.

We are committed to establishing equitable partnerships between LMIC and UK researchers, to engaging and involving LMIC communities in research design and delivery, and to strengthening the LMIC research ecosystem at all levels.

Find out about different aspects of our portfolio by clicking on the buttons below.

The NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio was established in 2016 by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), following publication of the 2015 UK Aid Strategy

Our Global Health Research Portfolio supports the objectives of the UK Aid Strategy and the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, and complements the research funding of other UK government ODA research funders (such as the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy).

Since 2016, NIHR has established a substantial portfolio of global health research programmes, positioning the organisation as a key player in global health. This builds on NIHR’s expertise in funding, supporting and delivering impactful UK health and care research, transforming research in and for the NHS and shaping the health research landscape more broadly.

Governance

The activities of the Global Health Research Portfolio are overseen by the Independent Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG).

All research activities commissioned and funded through our Global Health Research Portfolio contribute towards the UK aid commitment and must deliver direct and primary benefit to countries eligible for ODA (as identified on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee list). This supports the UK government’s commitment to ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing in the world’s poorest countries, as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The high quality applied global health research we fund is underpinned by three principles:

  1. meets the criteria to be eligible for ODA
  2. builds on NIHR’s operating principles of impact, excellence, effectiveness, inclusion and collaboration
  3. strengthens research capability and training through equitable partnerships.

Equitable partnerships

We are committed to establishing equitable partnerships between LMIC and UK researchers, providing advice and support to help applicants to our funding programmes to build these partnerships.

For example, RIGHT offers Proposal and Partnership Development Awards (PPDAs) to support researchers to develop LMIC-UK partnerships during preparation of a stage 2 application.

Similarly, Global HPSR offers Development Awards to support researchers in building partnerships and undertake a needs assessment of local priorities for research, to support an application for future research funding.

Community engagement and involvement

NIHR champions the involvement of LMIC communities in all aspects of the research we fund, to improve its reach, quality and impact. Enabling patients and communities to have a genuine voice in global health research - from the funding process to study design, delivery and dissemination - is essential to achieving our ambition for long-term research impact and changing lives.

NIHR encourages active and participatory CEI (more commonly known in the UK as patient and public involvement and engagement) that empowers communities and fosters co-production of research.

In line with the call to ‘leave no one behind’ within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, we require that all applicants for NIHR global health research funding include CEI as a core component of the research strategy, planning, implementation and evaluation process.

Our NIHR research is one of the most rewarding projects in my academic career, because we work with and in the communities and are all committed to transforming and improving the patient journey for people with cutaneous leishmaniasis.
Professor Lisa Dikomitis, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology of Health at Keele University and ECLIPSE Co-Principal Investigator

We also include patients and communities in NIHR’s research funding activities, such as inviting people to review funding applications and sit on our funding committees.

We have a Global Health CEI Advisory Network that brings together people with knowledge and experience of public involvement in research and community engagement in LMICs. This network provides us with advice on our strategy and approach to CEI and helps us connect to the wider international research and CEI community.

Safeguarding

NIHR has worked closely with other research funders to harmonise approaches and promote awareness and implementation of safeguarding guidance across the research sector. All organisations managing or receiving funding from our Global Health Research Portfolio are required to ensure that all staff members and partners involved in the delivery chain adhere to their safeguarding responsibilities.

Transparency

Transparency in international development delivers greater accountability, drives economic growth and improves the lives of people in LMICs.

DHSC and its ODA spend through NIHR were scored as ‘Very Good’ in the 2019 analysis of transparency of aid spend across the UK government, in the first assessment of its type. The score of 82.1% was noted as ‘a considerable achievement’ in the report by Publish What You Fund, the global campaign for aid and development transparency.

In line with the 2015 UK Aid Strategy and the UK Aid Transparency Guarantee, NIHR publishes information on all its ODA-funded activities in the International Aid Transparency Initiative Standard.

We also publish information about our global health research in the UK Development Tracker (DevTracker) under the DHSC, alongside the department’s other ODA activities.

The NIHR supports the principle of open access to the outputs of research, which can offer both social and economic benefits, as well as aid the development of new research and stimulate wider economic growth of the UK economy. We require that researchers funded by our Global Health Research Portfolio publish their main study findings in a peer-reviewed, open access journal.

Impact

The research we fund is intended to deliver benefits and improve health outcomes for people in LMICs. Our Theory of Change model for the NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio outlines the pathways by which we expect our funding to deliver this impact.

We expect funded researchers to develop their own plans for how their research might deliver impact for people in LMICs, and to monitor outputs and outcomes to evaluate progress against the intended aims of their research. Their annual reporting supports us in evaluating how our funding is delivering impact and learning from the experiences of researchers.

We award research funding to equitable partnerships between groups of researchers or groups of research institutions through a number of different funding programmes. We both commission research on specific topics and invite researchers to submit proposals on topics of their choice.

We have five programmes that offer funding for research on areas of unmet need of direct and primary relevance for people in LMICs.

Funding research

The Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) programme funds cutting-edge interdisciplinary applied health research in key areas in LMICs where a strategic and targeted investment can result in a transformative impact. To date, RIGHT has commissioned research on multimorbidity, mental health, epilepsy, infection-related cancers and stigmatising skin diseases.

The Global Health Policy and Systems Research (Global HPSR) programme supports global health policy and systems research in LMICs. Global HPSR holds both commissioned and researcher-led funding calls.

Our Global Health Research Units and Groups deliver world-class applied global health research. The UK-led units and groups work in partnership with researchers in LMICs to address under-funded or under-researched topics specific to those countries.

Global Health Research Units are partnerships between researchers in universities and research institutes with an existing track-record of delivering internationally recognised research, with our funding helping them to consolidate and expand this work.

Global Health Research Groups funding is awarded to existing specialist academic groups who wish to expand into the field of global health, especially in shortage areas of research.

To date, NIHR has funded 13 Global Health Research Units and 40 Global Health Research Groups. Our units and groups are working with partners from 50 countries, building on the UK's research strengths in applied health research in areas such as injury, surgery and non-communicable diseases.

Using our NIHR funding, we are developing, implementing and evaluating interventions to address urgent gaps in respiratory treatment and care. Together we are taking crucial steps to improving respiratory health not only in Asia, but with implications for LMICs around the world.
Professor Ee Ming Khoo, Professor of Primary Care Medicine at the University of Malaya and programme lead at the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Respiratory Health (RESPIRE)

Funding consortia of research institutions

Our Global Health Research Centres programme provides substantive funding to support research-driven partnerships between institutions in LMICs and those in the UK.

Our first round of Global Health Research Centres will undertake high quality applied health research on non-communicable diseases in LMICs and develop a critical mass of sustainable, competitive research capacity. The first funding call for Global Health Research Centres will take place in October 2020.

NIHR partners with other global health organisations to ensure a cohesive and sustainable approach to research in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

By working together with established funders that have a strong track record, we join up the global health research landscape to improve the health of people in LMICs. This collaborative and flexible approach enables us to respond quickly and efficiently to emerging health challenges in LMICs, and to maximise the value of our funding investment.

We fund research through more than 15 different partnerships worldwide, collaborating strategically to support existing, high quality funding programmes and co-creating new programmes to respond to areas of need. Our partnership funding accounts for around half of NIHR’s total global health research funding spend.

Our partnership calls offer funding for research and career development awards for researchers. The calls focus on areas that are underfunded or where there is an unmet need. These include non-communicable diseases (including mental health), surgery, injuries and accidents, and comorbidity, as well as global health priorities such as maternal and child health and health systems research.

Our partners

We partner with both government and non-governmental global health research organisations in the UK and in LMICs. These include:

  • Other UK funders, such as the UK research councils, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and Wellcome. Our partnership funding calls cover topics such as maternal and neonatal health, research in humanitarian crises and antimicrobial resistance.
  • Organisations based outside the UK, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Grand Challenges Canada and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).
  • Multi-funder initiatives, such as the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD), the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), and the Coalition on Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI).

All our partners and topics

NIHR trains and develops future leaders in applied global health research, to support research that improves the health outcomes of people in LMICs. We also strengthen the research capacity of LMICs at individual, institutional and system level.

Career development

We support career pathways to develop global health researchers in LMICs and in the UK. Across our NIHR career development awards and our awards in partnership with other organisations, we have supported more than 300 researchers to progress their career in global health.

Global Research Professorships

Our Global Research Professorship awards fund research leaders to promote effective translation of research and to strengthen research leadership at the highest academic levels. The awards fund people undertaking research that aims to specifically and primarily benefit people in LMICs.

My NIHR Global Research Professorship award has given me the opportunity to strengthen existing collaborations, build a number of new research partnerships, and expand my involvement with researchers and healthcare professionals in the region, and with the Botswana Ministry of Health.
Professor Joe Jarvis, Professor of Tropical Medicine and International Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and NIHR Global Research Professor

Global Health Research Training Programme

The Global Health Research Training Programme was created to add value to and build on our existing investment through our research programmes by strengthening academic research capacity. Our training programme supports more than 150 Masters, PhD and post-doctoral students based in Global Health Research Units and Groups in LMICs and in the UK, all of whom are members of the NIHR Academy.

The training programme offers a number schemes to support the training and career development of researchers associated with our Global Health Research programmes:

  • Global Health Research Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (GHR SPARC) Pilot
  • Global Health Research Presentation and Training Travel Award Pilot (GHR PTTA)
  • Global Health Research Workshop Fund

Co-funded career development awards

We partner with the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Wellcome and other organisations to co-fund career development opportunities for global health researchers. These opportunities offer support for researchers at all stages of their career, from masters students to established investigators.

Latest funding opportunities for global health research

NIHR Global Health Research Units

These awards will provide funding to a well-established, equitable 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.

NIHR Global Health Research Groups

These awards will provide funding to collaborations of specialist researchers within universities and research institutes in LMICs and the UK who wish to establish new programmes of applied health research.

Global Health Policy and Systems Research - Researcher-led call

These awards will provide funding to research consortia to deliver global health research to improve whole health systems and health services for people in LMICs through equitable partnerships.

All global health research funding opportunities

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