Programme Development Grants

Acting as a pre-cursor to the Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) scheme, the sole purpose of the Programme Development Grant scheme is to increase the rate and number of successful applications by supporting applicants in the preparatory work required for a full PGfAR.


New application forms and guidance

New Standard Application Form - In line with NIHR's launch of a new streamlined application process, from Competition 20 onwards, PDG will be using a revised application form. In view of these changes, applicants are encouraged to read the new guidance for Competition 20 under 'Useful documents' (right hand side).

NIHR 2017 Highlight Notice in ‘Complex Health and Care Needs in Older People’ - This highlight notice indicates the continuing interest of NIHR in receiving research proposals in this area, and particularly those addressing Frailty; Transitions in care, service delivery and models of care; Medicines management/polypharmacy; Promoting healthy ageing/preventing ill health; and Patient-centred decision making. This highlight notice will apply to Competition 20.

For further details, please see  Please note that PDG’s researcher led calls are open to all relevant research areas, and do not just include this highlight notice. If you are responding to the highlight notice, please indicate this in the application form in Section 8, Background and Rationale, Question 1 ‘What is the problem being addressed?’ 


As a mechanism to address and rectify areas of perceived limitation in applying for a full PGfAR, this scheme aims to position and equip a research team in submitting a competitive application in the future (see study example).

Applicants are strongly advised to consult the Programme Directors note before submitting a development grant application but broadly they must: 

  • Identify the fundamental limitations that need to be addressed before a full programme of research could be undertaken
  • Detail the necessary preparatory work, indicating how completion of this would eliminate any limitations and enable the research team to develop a credible PGfAR application 
  • Describe the research to be undertaken should a PGfAR be awarded.

Applicants are also advised to read the generic feedback on the first, second and third rounds of applications to the PGfAR funding scheme before submitting a PDG: Tips-Director’s Messages. These documents identify key issues that should be considered when describing your proposed programme of research in conjunction with the development work that you wish to undertake with funding from the PDG funding scheme.

A PDG will support, but not limited to:

  • Selection or development of interventions or outcome measures
  • Pilot/feasibility studies, for example to determine recruitment and participation retention rates, inform sample size calculations, or optimise delivery of the intervention
  • Strengthening existing collaborations with methodological experts as necessary to deliver the proposed full programme.

NOTE: NIHR and the PDG Programme will only support primary research that is informed by a review of the existing literature. See the Adding Value in Research page.

This scheme does not fund:

  • Basic science work underpinning a future programme of exploratory research
  • Stand alone projects of any type: all constituent projects must be solely designed to inform and strengthen a future full PGfAR application
  • Work to enhance future programmes at highly formative stages of development
  • Endeavours to formulate teams from initial conception. 

Individual can be between £20K - £100k over a period of six to eighteen months. The amount of funding awarded, however, is determined by the scale and nature of the research activity to be conducted.

Research Priorities

We will accept applications in all areas of applied health research. Periodically, NIHR will issue new themed calls, highlight notices or emphasise continued interest in areas of particular importance or priority Information on previous themed calls can be found on the NIHR Themed Call page.

Funding Process and Selection Criteria

For an overview of the funding process, please see our process map. Applicants should note that upon successful completion of the development work, they will be expected to enter into the first stage of the PGfAR competition.

There is however, no formal expectation or guarantee that the recipients of NIHR PDGs will be successful in obtaining a subsequent Programme Grant award in the future; all applications for NIHR PGfAR will be judged on their own merits against the published criteria.

The selection criteria used by the PDG selection panels will be:

  • The relevance and importance of the research to be funded via any future Programme Grant award to the priorities and needs of the NHS
  • The quality of the proposed future Programme, including the likelihood of its potential to deliver significant benefit to the NHS and patients within 3 – 5 years of the end of the funding period
  • The strength of the research team (either now, or as augmented through PDG funding), including the relevant expertise and track-record of the team in conducting high quality applied health research
  • The strength of the work plan for the development phase, particularly the extent to which the proposed development work will enable the applicants to reach the point where they will be able to submit a competitive application to the PGfAR funding scheme
  • The value for money provided by the application

Competition dates

We run 3 competitions a year which typically launch in February, June & October.


All NHS bodies* and other providers of NHS services in England may propose programmes, in collaboration with an appropriate academic partner or partners provided they are capable of fulfilling the role of research sponsor as set out in the Research Governance Framework for Health & Care. Bids may be submitted by consortia including more than one NHS body or other provider of NHS services. Bids may include support for patient/consumer groups leading or participating in programmes of research.

It is possible that the academic partner could be a University outside England, if an appropriate case is made in the application. We would expect the application to make a strong case that the chosen academic partner was the organisation best placed to provide academic input to the planned research.

If the application is successful, a contract will be placed with lead NHS body or other provider of NHS services for delivery of the research.

*Under Schedule 4 paragraph 138(2)(c) of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, ‘NHS body’ means: (a) the Board; (b) a Clinical Commissioning Group; (c) a Special Health Authority; (d) an NHS trust; and (e) an NHS foundation trust.


Competition dates

Competition 19 Stage 1
Submission outcome Mid December 2018
Competition 20 Stage 1
Competition launch 28 September 2017
Submission deadline 22 November 2017
Submission outcome Mid-April 2018
Competition 21 Stage 1
Competition launch 01 February 2018
Submission deadline 28 March 2018
Submission outcome Mid-August 2018
Competition 22 Stage 1
Competition launch 24 May 2018
Submission deadline 18 July 2018
Submission outcome Mid-December 2018

 n.b. The submission deadline for all applications will be at 13:00 on that day

Study example

Professor Angela Harden, Professor of Community and Family Health at the University of East London, was awarded funding to prepare for a full PGfAR application now underway with the Blizard Institute: Antenatal Equity: Improving access to and experience of antenatal care.