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Global Health Research – Researcher-led bands 1 to 3

Opens

17 July 2024

Closes

1pm on 06 November 2024

Contact

Supporting Information

This document is to be used as a guide and to assist with completion of the on-line application form only, for example to see how many characters are accepted in each section and how the printed complete form is laid out. Please do not try to use this as an application form, you must apply using the online form available through the links available when calls are open. You should also refer to the application form guidance notes.

Our Global Health Research (GHR)  Researcher-led programmes are looking for applications to this new, annual funding opportunity. GHR – Researcher-led funds research that aims to improve health outcomes for the most vulnerable people in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Research must address evidence needs that are locally identified and prioritised, and must promote health equity, aligning with the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 3. Applications can span from broad, ambitious programmes of research to projects with a narrower scope.

GHR – Researcher-led replaces the previously run GHR Units and Groups Programmes and commissions research through 3 programme bands.

This is a two-stage funding opportunity.

Timeline

This timeline shows each stage of the application process for this funding opportunity:

  • Stage 1 opens: 17 July 2024
  • Stage 1 webinar: August 2024 – further information and sign up opportunity to follow
  • Stage 1 closes: 6 November 2024
  • Stage 1 shortlisting: January 2025
  • Stage 1 decision: February 2025
  • Stage 2 opens: February 2025
  • Stage 2 closes: June 2025
  • Stage 2 shortlisting: September 2025
  • Stage 2 decision: November 2025

We cannot guarantee we will be able to answer all queries about the remit or content of applications for those submitted within 2 weeks of the Stage 1 closing date. We also cannot guarantee that new application system accounts (for Lead or Co-applicants) will be verified and approved after 18 October 2024.

Background

Funding bands

There are 3 programme bands of funding based on the scale and ambition of the proposed research, the maturity of partnerships, the teams’ experience and expected capacity strengthening plans.

GHR – Researcher-led band 1

This is for more established research partnerships and experienced teams. This band is suitable for teams proposing a broad, ambitious programme of research and capacity strengthening. Where research is being undertaken by an existing partnership, it is expected that the proposed research will be a significant extension of their previous research. The research will be delivered through linked work packages typically across multiple country contexts. Funded programmes are expected to lead to significant impact on health outcomes, policy and practice, and strengthen research capacity.

GHR – Researcher-led band 2

This is for developing or less mature research partnerships with varying levels of experience proposing to undertake a significant new programme of research, extend existing research and capacity strengthening, and/or include more LMIC settings. The scope and complexity of these programmes can include multiple linked components. Alternatively, they can comprehensively address a single research theme. Funded programmes will lead to lasting impact on health outcomes, policy and practice, and strengthen research capacity.

GHR – Researcher-led band 3

This is for new research partnerships and/or less experienced teams. This band is suitable for teams proposing a research project which may be at an early or developmental stage. It may be delivered in a single country context. Funded projects will have a narrower scope than band 1 and 2 programmes. Proportionate to the amount of funds requested, the project can range from a single to a combination of studies. Projects should offer opportunities for early to mid-career researchers to develop leadership skills and progress their own research ideas. Funded projects will have clear outcomes and defined pathways to impact on health outcomes, policy and practice.

Across all 3 bands, the scope, complexity and ambition of your proposal should be proportionate to the amount of funding you are requesting.

Regardless of your level of experience, you are eligible to apply for a band 3 award where this is appropriate to the research plans. However, where less experienced researchers apply for bands 1, 2 and 3 funding, your application should show appropriate mentoring and support is in place. Mentoring for a less-experienced lead researcher cannot be solely from a more-experienced co-lead.

Each band enables you to develop your leadership skills and those of your team.

See our funding availability section for details on funding amounts available.

Eligibility

We will accept applications in any field of applied global health research, if the research benefits people living in one or more Official Development Assistance (ODA)-eligible country/countries.

To be eligible to receive GHR – Researcher-led funding, your application must demonstrate how it meets ODA compliance criteria.

You will need to outline:

  • which country/countries on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) list of ODA-eligible countries will directly benefit
  • how your application is relevant to the development challenges of those countries
  • how the outcomes will promote the health and welfare of people in a country/countries on the OECD DAC list

Where elements of your research are undertaken outside an ODA-eligible country you must clearly state the reasons for this in your application. For example, you may need specialist expertise. If you know a country will be removed from the ODA-DAC list during the lifetime of your project, you will need to show how your research benefits ODA-eligible countries.

If the majority or sole focus of your application is health policy and systems, you should apply to future Global Health Research Health Policy and Systems (GHR HPS) opportunities instead. However, if your research has a health policy and systems element to it which is not the sole focus, you can apply for this GHR – Researcher-led opportunity.

We reserve the right to transfer applications between Global Health Research funding opportunities where these align more closely with another programme remit.

If you are unsure which programme to apply for, please email nihrglobalhealth@nihr.ac.uk.

GHR  Researcher-led programmes will support applications which:

  • address the programme aims, scope, eligibility and key criteria for funding
  • deliver projects/programmes with a planned start-up phase that will:
    • develop or expand research partnerships and networks
    • undertake LMIC-led needs analyses by engaging with policymakers, evidence users and local communities which will help refine research questions and priorities and ensure their relevance to the setting(s)
  • target research areas that will lead to improved outcomes for all specifically for the most vulnerable
  • address issues of health equity by considering, but not limited to, sex, gender, age, ethnicity, geographical and socioeconomic barriers to improved health, access to healthcare and economic impact.
  • include interdisciplinary applied research teams with appropriate health systems, clinical, social science, political science and related disciplines, epidemiology, medical statistics, implementation science, community engagement and working with community groups, and health economics expertise. Experts should have relevant experience and/or a track record of ensuring research is transferred into benefits for people living in LMICs
  • meet locally or regionally identified needs, which inform local and national plans for change
  • demonstrate equity and collaboration in programme leadership, decision-making, capacity strengthening, governance, distribution of funds, ethics processes, data ownership, and dissemination of findings
  • support and embed South-South, South-North and North-South bidirectional learning
  • include relevant engagement with communities throughout the lifetime of the project/programme
  • include a trajectory for developing future leaders, where less experienced Investigators are fully supported and mentored by an experienced Joint Lead or Co-applicant to jointly lead the research programme or selected components
  • demonstrate a level of institutional commitment to support and facilitate the research partnership and provide appropriate administrative, technical and financial services

GHR – Researcher-led leadership model

Depending on the funding band you are applying for, GHR – Researcher-led applications can have either:

  • one Sole Lead employed by an eligible LMIC institution. Sole Leads from UK institutions are not eligible to apply

or

  • two Joint Leads - one must be employed by an eligible LMIC institution. The other Joint Lead can be employed by a different eligible LMIC institution, or an eligible UK institution. UK based lead organisations can only apply in equitable partnership with a LMIC Joint Lead organisation (please refer to our equitable partnership guide)

Each Sole Lead or named Joint Lead, whether LMIC or UK institutions, must be from an eligible Higher Education institution (HEI) or Research Institute.

If you are applying as a Sole Lead, your institution will need to sign the funding contract.

If you are applying as Joint Leads, the funding contract can be signed by either of your institutions.

Whichever institution signs the funding contract becomes the contracting institution.

We will disburse funding to the contracting institution only. The contracting institution will be responsible for the onward disbursement of funds to all collaborating institutions. This includes all named LMIC or UK Joint Lead institutions, as relevant. You should confirm that for your contracting organisation this disbursement is within your national government rules on receipt of ODA funds. The contracting institution must also be responsible for ensuring due diligence and financial governance is completed across the partnership.

Normally, Joint and Sole Lead applicants will be principal investigators employed by an LMIC or UK HEI or Research Institute. There may be other affiliated Co-applicants and Collaborators, including service level providers, needed to deliver the funding. There are no restrictions on the number of Co-applicants or Collaborators you can include in your application. You must, however, justify each of these roles, how these complement each other, and why they are necessary to effectively deliver the aims of the GHR – Researcher-led opportunity.

If your application includes high income country Co-applicants or Collaborators outside the UK, you must justify their role and expertise. You should also explain why this cannot be performed by an LMIC Co-applicant or Collaborator. For more detailed information, see our Core Guidance: Structure of Team.

Funding available

Through this opportunity, funding ranges from £0.25-£7 million, over a period up to 5 years, depending on the band you apply for.

The funding limits are a guide and budgets must clearly relate to the work being proposed. We welcome applications which ask for less than the maximum funding amount. We expect to fund across the range of bands (indicative numbers in table below).

Amount of funding per award (GB £ million)Length of awardEstimated number* of awards fundedLeadership modelLMIC leadershipNumber of DAC list country/countries involvedNumber of separate institutions involvedNumber of academic training posts required
Band 1 £ 4.0-7.0m Up to 5 years 6 Joint Leads (LMIC-LMIC or LMIC-UK) in separate institutions Yes At least 2 At least 3 At least 10
Band 2 £ 2.0-4.0m Up to 4 years 9 Joint Leads (LMIC-LMIC or LMIC-UK) in separate institutions Yes At least 1 At least 2 At least 4
Band 3 £ 0.25-2.0m Up to 3 years 7 A Sole LMIC Lead or Joint Leads (LMIC-LMIC or LMIC-UK) in separate institutions Yes At least 1  At least 1 Optional, however formal training posts (e.g. MSc, Post Doc) must be completed within project duration

Teams should locate their research in the appropriate band given the mix of experience of the team and ambition of the research. When deciding which funding band to apply for, you should match your ambitions to the requirements of that band. The budget should reflect the scale and complexity of the research.

There is flexibility across the bands, for example, more experienced researchers are eligible to apply for a band 3 award where their research plans are more focused and are in the developing or early stage. A less experienced researcher can apply for bands 1, 2 or 3 with appropriate mentoring and support in place from Joint Leads or Co-Applicants, if their research plans are broader and more complex. Each band enables you to develop your leadership skills and that of your team.

All research and training activities must align with the aims set out in the funding opportunity. You will also need to complete all research and training within the contracted funding timeframes.

You will need to include the costing for an initial start-up phase within your proposed budget. We expect funds will be distributed equitably between partners (Joint/Sole Lead and Co-Applicant Institutions), with the flow of funds reflecting where the majority of work is taking place (i.e. in LMICs). Where this is not possible, you should justify how the funds will benefit LMIC organisations and populations. When assessing your application, the Funding Committee will carefully scrutinise the appropriate distribution of funds between all LMIC and UK institutions.

Across all bands, there is provision to include a small component:

  • to respond to urgent priorities or needs which may arise during the lifetime of the funded programme

and/or

  • a component of methodological development work. Proposed methodology research must:
    • meet a clear methods gap
    • contribute to the aims of the funding
    • have generalised applicability to improve health research methods in low and middle income countries (LMICs)

The total funding for either of these components must not exceed 5% of the total budget requested and must fit within the maximum funding limit for that band. You must not use these funds as contingency i.e., a reserve of money set aside to cover possible unforeseen future expenses. We will regularly monitor your research activities as part of our routine checks.

Across all 3 bands, the scope, complexity and ambition of your proposal should be proportionate to the amount of funding you are requesting.

In addition to academic training posts, we encourage the inclusion of wider research capacity strengthening and mentoring.

Please see our GHR finance guidance for more information.

How to apply

GHR – Researcher-led is a two-stage assessment. Stage 1 is a shortlisting outline stage. If you are successful at Stage 1, you will be invited to submit a full application for Stage 2.

When you are ready to apply, click the ‘Apply now’ button. You can then select which band of funding you want to apply for and will be taken to our online application system where you will need to complete and submit your application form.

The closing date for this funding opportunity is 13:00 UK time on 6 November 2024.

To help with your application, you will need to read the information on the following pages:

Key criteria for funding

We will assess your Stage 1 application to make sure it meets the eligibility and scope of the funding opportunity. You will need to address key criteria 1 to 4 (below) at Stage 1. You should also briefly indicate the approach for meeting key criteria 5 to 8 (below). Ensure that you meet and embed all eligibility criteria throughout your proposal development.

Our Funding Committee assesses Stage 2 research proposals based on all key criteria 1 to 8. If you are successful at Stage 1, you should further develop your proposal and provide sufficient detail on meeting all key criteria at Stage 2.

At Stage 1, key criteria assessed are:

1. Relevance of the proposed research - you should demonstrate that the proposed research:

  • is designed by LMIC partners from the outset based on a review of the local context/health system(s) and existing literature
  • fulfils a significant gap and addresses unmet health needs and priorities in ODA-eligible countries
  • aligns fully with the scope of this funding opportunity
  • will enable individuals and research institutions to produce relevant high-quality evidence that addresses unmet needs in ODA-eligible countries

2. Research quality and excellence - your application should demonstrate:

  • that the research plan is robust and includes clear research questions, objectives and sound design
  • detailed methodology showing how the research will address the questions and meet planned objectives. You should include clear milestones, the identification and mitigation of possible risks, and ethical considerations
  • appropriate plans for effective programme management, governance, institutional support and contract management

3. Strength of the research team - your application should demonstrate:

  • the research team has an appropriate range and depth of relevant expertise
  • the research team promotes interdisciplinary approaches to working
  • appropriate mentoring arrangements where the lead applicant is a less-experienced researcher

4. Impact and sustainability - your application should demonstrate:

  • the potential for research outputs which improve practice, inform policy, and support the future implementation and sustainability of research and partnerships in LMICs beyond the end of the award
  • a clear and implementable strategy to achieve impact, including research uptake and dissemination

At Stage 2, in addition to 1-4 above, we also assess:

5. Capacity strengthening - this means there should be clear plans for:

  • research and research management capacity and capability strengthening at individual and institutional level. These plans should be proportionate to the funding band and scale of the award
  • appropriate training in research support functions (training in finance, programme and research management and informal training opportunities) and training for community stakeholders

6. Community Engagement and Involvement (CEI) - research plans should:

  • include relevant and appropriate stakeholders and CEI throughout all stages of the research
  • address barriers and effectively engage the most vulnerable and marginalised groups, relevant stakeholders or actors in the context over the lifetime of the research programme
  • be proportionate to the ambition and scale of the research

7. Equity of partnerships - your research proposal should:

  • ensure that equity and collaboration has been embedded across all aspects of the research proposal, including, but not limited to:
    • programme leadership
    • decision-making
    • capacity strengthening
    • governance
    • distribution of funds
    • ethics processes
    • data ownership
    • dissemination of findings
  • demonstrate promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the planned research, and within and across the research teams. It is important to ensure diversity, in particular gender balance and leveraging existing expertise within ODA-eligible countries

8. Value for money - you should:

  • include a clear, well-justified budget that demonstrates good value for money
  • show that all planned expenditure is proportionate and appropriate against the planned activities outlined in the application. Consider economy, efficiency, effectiveness and equity

For more information, please read our Global Health Research Programmes - Core Guidance for applicants.

Selection process

Your application will be considered by an independent international funding committee. The committee will make recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on which applications should be supported.

If you have previously submitted an application which has been unsuccessful, you are still eligible to submit a revised application. However, your application should address all prior committee feedback.

DHSC retains the right to make strategic decisions at the final outcome stage (following stage 2 Funding Committee). DHSC final funding decisions will be based on available budget, overall portfolio balance, alignment with relevant UK Government policies, NIHR strategic priorities, institutional balance and ranking based on scientific quality.

Contracting institutions should review the terms of the current DHSC ODA research contract. Please consider how these terms will be shared with your research delivery partners.

Prior to contracting we will ask you to complete a Due Diligence assessment from your contracting institution.

Monitoring and deliverables

We will include the submission of Risk Registers and a Theory of Change as contracted milestone deliverables.

We will monitor annual milestones and deliverables. These will be reviewed/agreed annually and aligned with original approved aims and deliverables. We will also review the progress of funded applications after the first 6 months of contracting. This allows us to ensure the effective set-up and delivery of initial milestones has been achieved. We will then actively monitor contracts through quarterly finance/high-level progress reporting.

Submitting multiple applications to GHR – Researcher-led

You, as an individual, cannot be named as Joint Lead or Sole Lead on more than one application to this funding opportunity.

However, HEIs or Research Institutes may submit more than one application to this funding opportunity as Joint or Sole Lead, provided each application is distinct in its aims and objectives.

Institutions submitting multiple applications to this funding opportunity as Joint/Sole Leads must take into account that we will fund no more than 3 awards per Joint Lead institution.

Our expectation is that if there are multiple applications from a single institution, at least 50% of the Lead applicants should be women. You should justify where this is not possible and make plans to address this over the longer term.

If you are from an Institution submitting multiple applications as Joint/Sole leads, you should consider our position on equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels of the awards, including leadership, governance and delivery. This includes, but is not limited to, gender balance. You should also consider the aims of GHR – Researcher-led to support a breadth of research related activity. This includes research capacity strengthening and career development through a diversity of leadership models to develop future global research leaders. If you are an existing award holder, you are eligible to apply to this funding opportunity, provided you assure us that you have sufficient time and resources available to deliver concurrent awards successfully. You should make a robust and compelling case for funding in your application.

You can find further details on eligibility for this funding opportunity on our GHR – Researcher-led programmes page.