Your research question
Start with your research question. For most research programmes, your question should:
- be in remit for the research programme
- be clearly defined in simple terms
- clearly show the potential benefit to the target patient population, public group and/or the NHS
- ideally summed up in one sentence
You should also consider whether the research will still be relevant by the time it is completed, and whether it is already being answered by ongoing research elsewhere.
This does not apply to the Evidence Synthesis Programme.
Does your application meet the assessment criteria?
Your application should address an important and enduring research gap. It should also be scientifically sound.
Each funding opportunity will have specific criteria which you should read thoroughly before applying. If you’d like advice, you can directly contact the research programme you’re interested in.
Involve patients, carers and the public
You should involve members of the public in designing your research to ensure it is relevant. Good public involvement can lead to better designed research and improve participant recruitment. Read our advice on how to involve patients, carers and the public in research in a UK setting.
We are committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do. Diverse people and communities shape our research. It's important to us that opportunities to take part in research are part of everyone's experience of health and social care services. Every person eligible to take part in research should be offered the same opportunity of taking part in that research regardless of: geographical location, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, ethnicity, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and access to health or social care.
We have further information on research inclusion:
- NIHR INCLUDE guidance (General)
- NIHR's promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in research webpage
- The Centre for Ethnic Health Research toolkit for increasing participation of ethnic minority groups in health and care research
- The INCLUDE Ethnicity Framework which aims to improve trial delivery for under-served groups.
If you are applying for Global Health Research, read our advice on involving communities in research. We champion the involvement of patients and communities in Lower Middle Income Countries (LMICs) in all aspects of the research we fund, to improve its reach, quality and impact.
Seek advice on how to run your study
The NIHR Study Support Service can help you plan, set up and deliver your research in the NHS, public health and social care settings.
Develop your research team
Consider the make up of your proposed research team. Does your team have the appropriate expertise including project management, patient and public involvement, statistics, academics and health economics? Are research staff of the appropriate level/grade for their role?
If you are applying for Global Health Research funding, read more about how to build equitable partnerships.
Consider whether your research might generate intellectual property
NIHR-funded research can generate intellectual property in a wide range of forms, including know-how, data sets, copyright, trademarks and patents. Read more about our approach to intellectual property.
Seek regulatory approval
If your study is led from England or Wales, and involves the NHS, you need Health Research Authority and Health and Care Research Wales approval, and to ensure that it is registered. Find out more about regulatory approval and registration.
Plan for impact
Research impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. It’s important to think about who the end user or the research will be, and how you will reach them. It’s also worth looking in to how you think the research will change practice. We must be able to easily understand the potential benefit to the target population, patient or public group or the NHS. Read our advice on planning for impact.
Present your application clearly
Your application must be well presented, concise and clear. Use visible headings, white space and flow diagrams. Make sure it tells the story for non-specialist readers, and leave time to read it through.
Costs and staff time commitments should be realistic and clearly justified.
Applications for research funding are submitted online, through the link on the relevant funding opportunities page.
Sign a contract
The NIHR funds research by contracting researchers’ organisations on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to perform individual research projects. We use contracts that differ slightly depending on what sort of organisation the lead researcher is based in.
Read about how we contract with researchers on our contracts page.
Preparing your Global Health Research application
We have core guidance that outlines key elements of the application process for all our global health funding schemes:
- NIHR Global Health Research Core Applicant Guidance
- NIHR Global Health Research Finance Guidance
- NIHR Global Health Research ODA Eligibility Guidance
Applicants should check the guidance documents for individual funding opportunities to find out specific details of the application criteria and process.