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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 to carry out targeted preparatory work to strengthen a future full PGfAR.

The aim of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) is to deliver research findings that will lead to clear and identifiable patient benefits, typically through promotion of health, prevention of ill health, and optimal disease management (including safety and quality).

PGfAR is researcher led and does not specify topics for research. However, the research must be in an area of priority or need for the NHS and the social care sector of the Department of Health and Social Care, 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.

It is designed to fund NHS and academic partners to work together 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 working in the NHS.

A programme of research is expected to:

  • comprise a number of high quality interrelated projects that form a coherent theme, where added value is gained from the combination of the various strands of research
  • use a range of multidisciplinary and methodological approaches
  • demonstrate clear and identifiable patient benefits, not only from the programme as a whole but also from the individual studies making up 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 how it addresses stated local and/or national priorities in health or social care and where possible, be conducted in and/or recruit from geographical locations of high health need, and address issues relating to equality, inclusion and diversity
  • make a stepped change to 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.

Programmes that use diverse methodological approaches to demonstrate patient benefits at an individual or population level, and/or include work packages specifically aimed at addressing important methodological issues in applied health research methodology are particularly welcome.

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 six years will be unusual. 

We also welcome smaller programmes of research with an emphasis on using novel methodological approaches to produce benefits for patients, the public, the NHS or the social care sector. It is anticipated that 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 Programme Development Grant to strengthen their future programme.

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

PGfAR has a two stage application process. Please see the applicant guidance for stage 1 and stage 2, and the supporting information, to find out more. Potential applicants can seek advice on their proposal from the programme team through the pre-submission enquiry form.

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

Programme Grants for Applied Research will support:

  • applied health research, including: health services research; public health research; social care research; behavioural research; economic evaluations; and modelling (e.g. decision analytic studies).
  • development and testing of interventions (including public health interventions)
  • work that, within the specified timescale, will definitively show the value of a treatment, package of care or service improvement, enabling it to be implemented more widely within the NHS or social care sector (or at least demonstrate justification for feasibility of a larger scale evaluation).
  • applied epidemiology, observational research, use of existing data from previous research, or routinely collected healthcare data to demonstrate patient benefits.
  • as part of a broader programme of work, pilot or feasibility studies for large, definitive trials, whose funding would be sought from elsewhere, as part of the broader programme of work.
  • evidence synthesis and systematic reviews, and methodological research.

The programme will not support:

  • laboratory-based research, basic science research 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, which 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 strength of the research team, including the relevant expertise and track-record of the applicants in conducting high quality applied health research
  • the importance and relevance of the proposed research to the priorities and needs of the NHS, patients and/or the wider public
  • the likelihood of significant benefit to the NHS, patients or public throughout the programme
  • the quality of the research planned
  • the value for money provided by the application

See the success rates for PGfAR proposals.

Programme Grants for Applied Research recommends research proposals for funding through its main selection committee and its subcommittees. Programme Development Grant applications are assessed by the same committees.

The Stage 2 subcommittees are standing committees, whereas the Stage 1 subcommittee and main selection committees are convened for each funding competition.

Proposals are first assessed at by the Stage 1 subcommittee. Shortlisted proposals are then sent for methodological review. Stage 2 proposals are then sent for peer 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.

The main selection committee recommends projects for funding to the Department of Health and Social Care, which approves which projects should be funded.

Members of PGfAR committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with PGfAR programme business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within the PGfAR programme. All members are asked to complete the Register of Interest form (annually), which is intended to capture long term predictable interests that could be perceived to lead to conflicts of interest. These and other interests are judged on a case by case basis at individual meetings.

Our Programme Director

Professor Elaine Hay is Programme Director of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research.

Our Stage 2 Subcommittee Chairs

Professor Tracy Roberts is Chair of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research subcommittee A. View the full membership of Subcommittee A.

Professor Jonathan Mant is Chair of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research subcommittee B. View the full membership of Subcommittee B.

Professor Kate Jolly is Chair of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research subcommittee C. View the full membership of Subcommittee C.

Professor Marian Knight is Chair of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research subcommittee D. View the full membership of Subcommittee D.

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
Email: programme.grants@nihr.ac.uk
Our operating hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm

Our programme team

Assistant Director
Mr Rajinder Flora

Senior Programme Managers
Dr Shaun McMaster
Dr Katie Cook
Miss Emma Thompson  

Programme Managers
Dr Michelle Edye
Ms Fiona Giles
Dr Ramnath Elaswarapu

Research Officers
Ms Saima Siddiqui
Ms Saprina Harrison

Senior Administrator
Ms Mandy Norton

NIHR Central Commissioning Facility
Grange House
15 Church Street
Twickenham TW1 3NL

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Latest blogs about Programme Grants for Applied Research

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The hallmark of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research 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.

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Latest documents for Programme Grants for Applied Research

PGfAR diverse programmes: Beyond maternal death

NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) is seeking to increase the diversity of study type and design submitted for funding. This case study outlines a novel research design for improving the quality of maternity care through national studies of 'near-miss' maternal morbidity.

PGfAR diverse programmes: Improving the quality of care of patients with angina and heart attack

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PGfAR diverse programmes: Optimising diagnosis of symptomatic cancer

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PGfAR diverse programmes: Understanding causes of and developing effective interventions for schizophrenia and other psychoses

NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) is seeking to increase the diversity of study type and design submitted for funding. This case study outlines a novel research design for understanding causes of and developing effective interventions for schizophrenia and other psychoses.

Programme Grants for Applied Research - Diverse methodologies specification document

Call details and scope for Programme Grants for Applied Research diverse methodologies funding call