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Confidence in Global Mental Health Research: Institutional "pump-priming" awards to develop new opportunities in Global Mental Health Research

Please note this opportunity is now CLOSED.
View all OPEN opportunities

  • Status: Closed
  • Open date: 4 Jul 2017
  • Closing date: 14 Sep 2017 16:00 GMT+1
  • Type: Grants, MRC strategic


Please note: updated frequently asked questions are now available.

Aims and remit

The “Confidence in” schemes are used to demonstrate MRC’s support for institutional development in key strategic areas.  We are pleased to announce our “Confidence in Global Mental Health Research” scheme as part of our suite of activities under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The research supported through this call will contribute to the UK’s commitment to research for the benefit of Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC)

The purpose of this call is to provide institutional “pump-priming” funds that will lay the grounds for future large scale, multi-disciplinary, cross-country global mental health research bids to address issues of primary relevance to LMICs. It is expected that these funds will help develop new strategies in global mental health research, with a particular focus on the aetiology and epidemiology of mental illness and healthy mental development, and understanding how challenges to early brain development affect mental illness and cognition. Taking this research into a global context could inform future interventional approaches, provide a better understanding of the mechanisms and dimensions that underlie vulnerability and resilience to mental illnesses, as well as the personal, social and economic impact of mental illness as a consequence of a wide range of external drivers and risk factors.

These are flexible institutional awards that can be channelled towards seed funding for research projects to generate preliminary data and to build, expand or consolidate UK-LMIC partnerships. These funds provide an opportunity to define research questions; assess the viability of proposed approaches relevant to the local socioeconomic and cultural context; and assess the feasibility of establishing sustainable UK-LMIC partnerships. It is expected that “Confidence in Global Mental Health Research” awardees will use these preliminary data and established partnerships to inform more substantive research opportunities in 2018-19, through the MRC Boards and Panels as well as via future GCRF calls.

Proposals should aim to achieve one or more of the following goals specifically relevant to LMICs:

  • Refine standardised instruments, methods and outcome measures for mental health research in LMIC settings;
  • Identify opportunities and assess feasibility of developing sustainable, large-scale global mental health research  projects in partnership with researchers from LMIC Higher Education Institutions and non-profit research institutions;
  • Bring together experts from different research backgrounds, including but not limited to: genetic, biological, psychological, psychiatric, child health, cognitive development, maternal health, epidemiological, social, economic, cultural, environmental, education, and health services research;
  • Develop sustainable, long term UK-LMIC partnerships based on co-ownership and joint management of research, or strengthen existing ones;
  • Facilitate, and provide opportunities for, researchers whose work is relevant to global mental health to extend the scope of their research to address global challenges in LMIC settings, in particular early career researchers; 
  • Produce preliminary data for future grant applications;
  • Develop concepts for long-term investments which can be funded through more substantive funding schemes;
  • Create pathways to impact in LMICs.


As part of this call we held a one-day workshop and information event which took place on the 9 June 2017 in London. A report of the workshop will be available on the MRC website. 

Scope of the funding call

We welcome proposals that explore healthy mental development and the aetiology of mental illness, and understanding how challenges to early brain development affect mental illness and cognition in LMIC settings.

The research supported through this call will contribute to the UK’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC). Applications must demonstrate the research to be primarily relevant to near-term or long-term benefits to the health or prosperity of Low or Middle Income Countries (LMICs). Applicants must provide evidence as to why the research is relevant for LMICs and details of engagement with end users, policy makers, at risk/affected populations, to ensure that the proposed plan is informed by their needs. Further guidance on ODA and demonstrating ODA compliance in applications for funding is available via the RCUK GCRF webpages, in particular ODA guidance.

Subject areas may comprise (but are not limited to):

  • Epidemiology and aetiology of mental illness in LMIC settings;
  • Challenges to early brain development that affect mental health and cognition;
  • Mechanisms and dimensions that underlie vulnerability and resilience to mental illnesses;  
  • The health impacts of child and adolescent mental illness and cognitive impairment as a consequence of a range of external drivers / risk factors, including but not limited to: poverty / socio-economic adversity; poor nutrition; infectious diseases; chronic inflammatory states; war; violence; migration; environmental determinants including air pollution, climate change, urbanisation, natural disasters; alcohol and substance abuse; sexual, physical or emotional abuse; parental and personal support interactions; and education or policy implementation;
  • Insight into culturally-dependent and culturally invariable components of mental illness;
  • Development of context-specific interventions to help mechanistic understanding, and improvements to existing treatment approaches by understanding their efficacy in different settings.  


Institutions may apply for an award of up to £200,000 for the duration of up to 12 months. Projects are required to start as soon as possible after the funding decision and no later than 1 March 2018.  Requested costs for UK activities should be 80% full economic costs. Allowable costs for LMICs should be 100% of eligible costs. Please see Guidance for Applicants, in particular section 3.3.

The funding is intended to support:

  • Networking meetings and other events to develop strategy and partnerships for future activities;
  • Small pump-priming projects to generate preliminary data for future applications;    
  • Salary costs for existing research staff, where these can be shown to be making a clear and important contribution to the development of proposed activities. No new staff should be appointed under these funds;
  • Travel and accommodation expenses.

The funding is not intended to support:

  • Continuation of normal research grants;
  • PhD studentships or fellowships.


The main applicant must be a UK research organisation (including MRC Units and Institutes) and all funding is to be managed through that organisation. It is expected that applications will be led by one or more senior members of the institution. 

UK research organisations can only lead on one application, but individual researchers from any research organisation may be named co-applicants on other applications. 

Although LMIC-based research organisations cannot apply as lead applicants, we encourage researchers from LMIC Higher Education Institutions and non-profit research institutions to make contacts with researchers based at UK research institutions, and vice versa, to discuss opportunities for partnerships in global mental health research. LMIC co-applicants may be higher education institutions, non-profit research institutions or non-governmental organizations.  

Industrial collaborators are welcomed but it should be noted that they cannot be recipients of funding. The role of industrial partners must be clearly explained, with special emphasis on the benefit to LMICs. 

Application Guidelines

Application details and guidelines for the case for support can be found here

Applications must be submitted via Je-S by 14 September 2017.

Assessment Process

Applications will be assessed by a bespoke panel which will both review the applications and make funding decisions. The panel meeting will take place in November 2017. Assessment criteria can be found here.


If you have any queries please contact globalhealth@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.

Key dates


9 June 2017

Funding applications open

4 July 2017

Funding applications close

14 Sept 2017

Funding decision

Nov 2017

Award start date

No later than 1 March 2018

Answers to frequently asked questions about these awards are published here and will be regularly updated