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Innovation Fund to Reduce Demand for Illicit Substances - Phase 1


Supporting Information

*This document is to be used as a guide and to assist with completion of the online application form only. Please do not try to use this as an application form. You must apply using the online form that will become available through the Apply Now button on 14 September 2022.

The new Innovation Fund to Reduce Demand for Illicit Substances is holding a three phase funding call for research on developing, evaluating and implementing interventions to reduce and prevent demand for ‘recreational drugs’.

In the 2021 drugs strategy, ‘From Harm to Hope’, the government committed to developing a world-leading evidence base on what works to reduce drug demand, with the overarching ambition to reduce overall drug use towards a 30-year low over the coming decade. The Innovation Fund, an NIHR partnership with the Office for Health Improvements and Disparities and the cross-government Joint Combating Drugs Unit, will fund research projects that will help build this evidence base and tackle this societal challenge.

The Innovation Fund to Reduce Demand for Illicit Substances call will focus on reducing demand, and therefore reducing use, of so-called ‘recreational drugs’ such as powder cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and nitrous oxide. The fund will support the development and piloting of new population level interventions, their evaluation and future roll-out in the community, if found to be effective.

The call will run over three phases: phase 1 (development), phase 2 (evaluation), and phase 3 (implementation). Phase 1 proposals can be for up to £200k over 6 months, phase 2 proposals up to £500k over 12 months, and phase 3 proposals up to £500k over 10 months. Successful proposals at phase 1 can apply for phase 2 and (if successful) phase 3 funding. However, new proposals can also directly apply for phase 2 funding and phase 3 funding.

Phase 1, calling for proposals for preparatory development work, has now launched. The online application system will be open on 14 September 2022.

The deadline for phase 1 proposals is 13:00 12 October 2022. All applicants must first submit an expression of interest (EoI) form by 13:00 28 September 2022.

Read more about the funding call and how to apply to phase 1 in the call specification and guidance for applicants.

Online briefing event

The NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) hosted an online briefing event on 6 September 2022, 13:00 - 14:00 for prospective applicants to hear more about the funding call, the assessment process, and additional support NIHR can provide. View the online recording.

Applicants to this call should collaborate with the target community and relevant stakeholders - such as police, education services, youth clubs and local authorities - on their application and throughout delivery of the project. Organisations and individuals looking for potential collaborators can indicate this as part of the registration process for the online briefing event, and NIHR may be able to introduce you to other organisations looking for collaborators. Organisations and individuals looking for potential collaborators can also directly email NIHR at Please include a short description of the intervention to be developed/evaluated and the collaborators you are looking for (e.g. academics, practitioners, community based organisations etc) and a description of contributions sought from collaborators. 

Contact details

If you have any queries, please contact