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NIHR announces new funding programme to strengthen research capacity in low and middle income countries

Published: 14 October 2020

The NIHR has launched a new funding programme to create Global Health Research Centres, which will undertake high quality applied health research in low and middle income countries (LMICs) and develop research capacity.

Each centre will comprise a consortium of research institutions in LMICs and the UK that will undertake research on a specific topic where a need for coordinated, high quality research and research capacity strengthening has been identified.

By delivering high quality research evidence and strengthening individual, institutional and system level research capacity, the centres will improve health outcomes for people in LMICs and support sustainable growth of the LMIC research ecosystem.

The first funding call for Global Health Research Centres programme will fund and designate Global Health Research Centres in non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Each year 41 million people die from NCDs such as heart disease, stroke and cancer (71% of global deaths), 15 million of whom are under 70 years of age. More than 80% of these premature deaths from NCDs occur in LMICs. 

The new Global Health Research Centres programme will focus on capacity building and training in LMICs by:

  • strengthening career pathways for researchers, from masters students to senior academics
  • developing and retaining a trained and networked global cohort of research experts and future leaders
  • supporting the training and development of research managers and other non-academic staff.

Dr Lesong Conteh, deputy chair of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for NIHR's Global Health Research Portfolio, said: “The NIHR Global Health Research Centres programme represents a new funding model for NIHR.

“The programme’s focus on research capacity strengthening will mean that individuals and institutions based in LMICs are able to develop and expand world-leading research well into the future. This first funding call will build capacity to conduct contextually relevant NCD research in LMICs and help tackle the growing burden of NCDs worldwide.”

Funding awards of up to £10 million over five years will be available to consortia made up of up to five institutions - up to four in LMICs eligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA) and one in the UK. 

Each consortium will be led by an LMIC director supported by a UK co-director or deputy director, both research leaders in their field and based at institutions with substantial critical mass of existing expertise and capacity in NCD research. The other LMIC partner institutions - of which there can be up to three - do not need to have a strong track record in NCD research, but should be keen to build expertise in the area.

Enhancing the ability and resources of individuals and institutions to undertake, manage and disseminate high quality global health research is a key principle of the NIHR Global Health Research Portfolio. Research capacity strengthening is already the focus of a number of career development programmes within the portfolio, such as the Global Research Professorships awards for research leaders and funding to support early career researchers in partnership with Wellcome.

The NIHR has developed a significant and diverse portfolio of global health research in NCDs, such as multimorbidity and mental health. The new Global Health Research Centres in NCDs will build on this investment and help increase the number of internationally competitive LMIC researchers and research institutions in NCDs.

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