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Public Health Research Programme Rapid Funding Scheme


01 March 2018


27 December 2024


  • For help with your application contact
  • For more information about the funding Programme, visit the PHR Page
  • Got a research idea and not sure how to turn it into a funding application? The free NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) supports researchers in England to apply for funding, and to develop and deliver clinical and applied health, social care and public health research post award. Find out how the RSS can help you.

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme funds research to generate evidence to inform the delivery of non-NHS interventions, intended to improve the health of the public, and reduce inequalities in health.

The Rapid Funding Scheme (RFS) offers researchers the opportunity to apply for funds to conduct rapid baseline data collection, as well as other feasibility work, prior to intervention implementation, for unique, time-limited opportunities such as a natural experiment or similar evaluations of a new public health intervention.

This scheme is not intended to fund studies which provide definitive answers to questions to inform service provision – it is to prepare for such studies.

The RFS has been set up to provide the public health research community with an accelerated route to funding for small-scale, short and time sensitive proposals that demonstrate a need for a rapid commissioning process to be followed. Funding will be offered, subject to appropriate scientific scrutiny, on the understanding that a full application to support completion of the evaluation will be forthcoming at an appropriate time point.

Proposals submitted to the RFS will

  • make a convincing case of the urgency to undertake the research and justify why the data collection needs to start within a timescale which can’t be accommodated by the programme’s normal research commissioning processes, taking advantage of an unanticipated, time limited, natural experiment opportunity
  • be clear why the work could not have been proposed earlier
  • meet the remit of the PHR programme, with a view to generate evidence to inform the delivery of non-NHS interventions
  • lead to the submission of a proposal for a full evaluation, which would generate research findings that are generalisable and have clear utility for public health decision makers with the potential to change practice
  • be deliverable for a total cost £50,000 or less
  • be for a duration of six months or less
  • be for base line data collection or urgent feasibility work
  • have a study team established and ready to start work if the application is successful

Application process

If you would like your proposal to be considered for the RFS, please contact with a summary of your intended project of no more than 2 sides of A4 in length describing both the proposed work, how it fits within the remit of the PHR Programme, the reasons for the projects urgency and the trajectory to a full evaluation.

Once the information provided has been considered by the PHR Programme, you will be informed whether your proposal is eligible for the RFS. If eligible you will be given 4 weeks to complete a Stage 2 application form. A final decision will be communicated to the applicant within 4 to 6 weeks of the application.

Common reasons for non-eligibility of proposals and solutions

We have identified the following common reasons for non-eligibility of proposals in this scheme, and have provided suggested solutions to these:

  • the application does not demonstrate urgency, eg it does not show why usual PHR processes could not be used - as a solution we suggest that you clearly demonstrate the urgency and uniqueness of the opportunity, or use standard PHR processes to apply for funding
  • the urgency of the application arises through inaction, eg it has been known for several years that an event will happen, but an evaluation has only been considered at the last minute - as a solution we suggest that you be proactive in identifying research opportunities, and apply through standard processes
  • the claimed urgent opportunity occurs on a regular and frequent basis, eg the start of a school year - as a solution we suggest that you apply through standard PHR processes
  • the scale of the project proposed is too large for the resources available in this funding stream - as a solution we suggest that you apply for the full project through standard PHR processes
  • the proposed intervention is international and outcomes are not deliverable or applicable to the UK population