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Programme Grants for Applied Research


NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) funds collaborative, multidisciplinary programmes of applied research to solve health and social care challenges.

Programme Development Grants (PDG) are available for researchers to carry out targeted preparatory work to strengthen a future full PGfAR application (stream A) and to enhance the outcomes of existing PGfAR awards (stream B).

The aim of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) is 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).

PGfAR is researcher led and does not commission research on specific topics. However, research proposals must be in an area of priority or need for the NHS, public health or the social care sector, with particular emphasis on health and social care areas that cause significant burden where other research funders may not be focused, or where insufficient funding is available.

The awards fund NHS, public health and social care practitioners to work together with academic partners to tackle health and social care problems, and provide some stability of funding to support the long-term development of top quality applied research groups.

In recognition of the complex biopsychosocial influences at play in many multiple long-term conditions, programmes seeking to address the integration of health and social care to improve patient, service user and carer outcomes, and those that include work packages aimed at tackling the social care dimension of healthcare problems, are particularly welcome.

Programmes that use diverse methodological approaches to demonstrate patient, service user or carer benefits at an individual or population level, and/or include work packages specifically aimed at addressing important methodological issues in applied health and social care research methodology, are also encouraged.

As part of NIHRs drive to develop research capacity, PGfAR is now offering the opportunity to develop and advance health and care research careers.

Applicants to PGfAR can now include funding for research capacity development, across all stages of the academic career pathway (i.e., from internships to Masters to PhD to post-doctoral).  Applications that include career development for methodological disciplines are particularly welcome.

Individuals undertaking formal research capacity development  within the programme will be a member of the NIHR Academy. Find out more about capacity building in Programme Grants.


PGfAR funds programmes of applied research that generally comprise a number of high quality interrelated projects, usually described in separate work packages, that form a coherent theme, where added value is gained from the combination of the various strands of research.

The research programme should:

  • address stated local and/or national priorities in health, public health or social care 
  • be conducted in and/or recruit from geographical locations of high health and care need, where possible
  • clearly demonstrate how patients, service users and/or carers have been involved and engaged with the programme
  • use a range of multidisciplinary and methodological approaches
  • demonstrate the value of a treatment, package of care or service improvement on clinically relevant outcomes for those programmes addressing health issues. Intermediate outcome measures will only be acceptable where there is convincing evidence that these have strong relationship with clinical outcomes. Similar criteria should be applied to public health and social care studies, where the outcomes should be justified in terms of demonstrating benefits linked to population health, or to service users and carers
  • make a stepped change to practice and/or outcomes. Proposals that comprise application of existing interventions to new patient, service user or carer groups, or the wider public; that are only an incremental development on current practice; or are unlikely to have general application or uptake, are unlikely to be competitive
  • address the integration of aspects of health and social care to improve patient, service user or carer outcomes
  • include clear plans for implementation, knowledge mobilisation and dissemination

All NHS bodies and other providers of NHS services in England may apply for programme awards, in collaboration with an appropriate academic partner or partners. For more information see our tips for applying to PGfAR.

How long and how much? 

The amount awarded and the length of the funding period depends on the nature of the proposed work. Funding in excess of £2.5 million beyond 6 years will be unusual. 

It is anticipated that programmes using novel designs will facilitate shorter, more efficient, less expensive programmes. As a guide, such programmes might be delivered over 3 years with costs of £1-1.5m.

Potential applicants can undertake appropriate preparatory work through a Stream A Programme Development Grant to strengthen their future programme.

When is funding available?

PGfAR has three funding opportunities a year that typically launch in February, June and October. See the dates for our PGfAR funding competitions.

How do I apply?

PGfAR has a two stage application process. Please see the  applicant guidance for stage 1 and applicant guidance for stage 2, and the supporting information, to find out more.  For detailed finance guidance, please see the detailed budget section in the guidance for stage 2 applications (section 11). Potential applicants can seek advice on their proposal from the programme team through the pre-submission enquiry form.

Capacity building within PGfAR research programmes should be in agreement with the scope detailed above.

Research proposals are submitted to PGfAR online through the Research Management System. We supply a template application form for stage 1 and a template application form for stage 2 to help researchers prepare their proposal ahead of submission.

Apply now

What we fund

PGfAR will support:

  • applied health research and social care research, including: health services research; public health research; social care research; economic evaluations; and modelling (e.g. decision analytic studies).
  • research that is tractable, i.e. implementable, within the NHS, public health or social care sector
  • qualitative research, applied epidemiology, observational research, use of existing data from previous research, or routinely collected health and care data to demonstrate patient, service user or carer benefits
  • as part of a broader programme of work, pilot or feasibility studies for large, definitive trials, whose funding would be sought from elsewhere
  • evidence synthesis and systematic reviews, and methodological research
  • capacity building across all stages of the academic career pathway

The programme will not support:

  • laboratory-based research, basic science research and experimental medicine. Applications containing elements of basic research or experimental medicine will not be funded if this research cannot be removed without compromising the delivery of the programme.
  • animal studies or work on animal tissues.
  • exploratory rather than confirmatory research; for example, 'fishing expeditions' to find risk factors. Validation of previously identified factors would be eligible for support.
  • development of theory, although its validation or application would be supported.
  • applications comprising solely a single randomised controlled trial (RCT).
  • applications comprising solely of a collection of small RCTs that are unlikely to be deemed sufficiently coherent.
  • applications consisting solely of evaluations of existing services, where the programme of work does not include work to allow the evidence-based development of these services.
  • applications for funding to complete research originally funded by other organisations.
  • applications for work that is not generalisable beyond the immediate service environment.

The selection criteria used by our funding committees include:

  • the relevant range of applicants' expertise in conducting high quality applied health and social care research
  • the importance and relevance of the proposed research to the priorities and needs of the NHS, public health, social care, patients, service users, carers, or the wider public and population
  • the likelihood of significant benefit to the NHS, public health, social care, patients, service users, carers or public throughout the programme
  • the quality of the research planned
  • the quality of involvement and engagement of patients, service users, carers in developing and supporting the research
  • evidence of attention to issues of equality, diversity and inclusion
  • the value for money provided by the application

PGfAR success rates Stage 1 scoring criteria Stage 2 scoring criteria

Our people

PGfAR recommends research proposals for funding through its main selection committee and its subcommittees. Programme Development Grant (PDG) applications are assessed by  a separate sub-committee drawn in rotation from the PGfAR Committee membership.

The stage 2 subcommittees are standing committees, whereas the stage 1 subcommittee,  PDG sub-committee and main selection committees are convened for each funding competition.

Proposals are first assessed by the stage 1 subcommittee, and then shortlisted proposals are sent for methodological and public review. Stage 2 proposals are sent for peer and public review, before being assessed by the stage 2 subcommittees. The outcomes from each stage 2 subcommittee are then discussed and reviewed by the main selection committee.

NIHR registry of interests

Our Programme Director

Professor Elaine Hay is Programme Director of PGfAR.

Our Stage 2 Subcommittee Chairs

Professor Richard Watt and Professor Catherine Hewitt are the Co-Chairs of PGfAR subcommittee A. View the full membership of Subcommittee A.

Professor Kate Jolly and Professor Simon Heller  are the  Co-Chairs of PGfAR subcommittee B. View the full membership of Subcommittee B.

Meeting minutes

Contact us

We offer a wide variety of assistance during all stages of the research process. If in doubt, please get in touch.

Tel: 020 8843 8056
Our operating hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm

Grange House
15 Church Street
Twickenham TW1 3NL

Do you need help getting started? Contact the Research Design Service.

Do you need assistance running your study in the NHS? Contact the Study Support Service.

Diverse and innovative research approaches are needed to tackle complex health and social care challenges

COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of novel and ambitious research designs. Programme Director of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research, Professor Elaine Hay, explains why bold methodologies should come to the fore as we face another pressing health issue - multiple long-term conditions - and introduces a new initiative for proposals using diverse methods.

Read more about the role of methodological innovation in applied research

Find out more