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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 and to enhance the outcomes of existing PGfAR awards.

Guidance on impact of COVID-19 on NIHR funded and supported research

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 well-being, prevention of ill health, and optimal disease management (including safety and quality).

PGfAR is researcher led and does not commission specific topics for research. However, the research 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.

It is designed to 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 which 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.


What do we fund? 

PGfAR funds programmes of applied research which 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 should:

  • address stated local and/or national priorities in health, public health or social care 

  • where possible, be conducted in and/or recruit from geographical locations of high health and care need

  • demonstrate how it addresses issues relating to equality, diversity and inclusion

  • 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 / 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, or are only an incremental development on current practice, or are unlikely to have general application / uptake are unlikely to be competitive

  • address the integration of aspects of health and social care to improve patient/service user and carer outcomes

  • include clear plans for implementation, knowledge mobilisation and dissemination

All NHS bodies and other providers of NHS services in England may propose programmes, 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 six 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 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 funding competitions.

How do I apply?

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.  For detailed finance guidance, please see section 11: Detailed budget. 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.

Apply now


What we fund


Programme Grants for Applied Research 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 ie 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.

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 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 and/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

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 by the Stage 1 subcommittee, and then shortlisted proposals are 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 NIHR Committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with NIHR business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within NIHR programmes. 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.

NIHR registry of interests

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.


Meeting minutes

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

Our programme team

Assistant Director
Mr Rajinder Flora

Senior Programme Managers

Dr Shaun McMaster
Dr Katie Cook
Mr Thomas Hutchinson

Programme Managers
Ms Fiona Giles
Dr Ramnath Elaswarapu
Ms Saima Siddiqui

Senior Research Officer
Ms Saprina Harrison

Research Officer
Ms Amrit Mann
Ms Batool Khan

Senior Administrator
Ms Mandy Norton

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

Latest funding opportunities for Programme Grants for Applied Research

Programme Grants for Applied Research - Competition 34

Applications are invited for Stage 1 proposals to develop programmes of applied health research.

All Programme Grants for Applied Research funding opportunities

Latest news from Programme Grants for Applied Research

Latest blogs from Programme Grants for Applied Research

Evolving NIHR's Programme Development Grants

Professor Elaine Hay, Director of NIHR’s Programme Grants for Applied Research, explores how Programme Development Grants are evolving to support further work based on previously funded programmes of research.

Seeing through the rain: How research is adapting during the pandemic

Dr Rakesh Modi, a GP and researcher on a landmark NIHR-funded trial investigating screening to detect an undiagnosed heart condition responsible for one-in-ten strokes, writes on how the study has launched an additional feasibility study to test the ability to deliver their intervention remotely following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic data collection challenge

John Gibson and Debra Richards are part of an NIHR-funded trial looking at improving collaborative mental health care. They explain why they decided to continue the trial during lockdown as the UK responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top NIHR blog picks from 2019 - Part One

It’s been another very busy year for the NIHR. As we draw to the end of 2019, we take a look back at some of our most popular blogs over the last 12 months.

Increasing diversity in design to accelerate research into practice

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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Increasing diversity in design to accelerate research into practice

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

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Case study: joint funding with Versus Arthritis to tackle shoulder pain

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