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Momentum Awards: Institutional pump-priming awards for dementia research

The purpose of this rapid action call is to boost the UK research base in biomedical science, in readiness for the new UK Dementias Research Institute (DRI).  MRC and its founder charity partners the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK are investing £250M to establish the Institute in fulfilment of the ambition identified in Prime Minister's 2020 Challenge on Dementia.

MRC DRI Momentum awards are three-year pump-priming awards aimed at UK universities already engaged in biomedical neurodegeneration / dementia-related research.  Awards will create a foundation for the DRI development by building essential capacity, through supporting the recruitment of research leaders and ‘rising stars’ from within and outside the UK and/or developing new disciplinary interfaces that might exploit emerging scientific opportunities. Awards may also be used to fast-track the development of UK high flyers and to open up new scientific avenues, involving novel science and/or the creation of enabling infrastructures, novel technology and methods development.

HEIs in receipt of funding through this call will have the flexibility to use the awards in the context of an approved investment plan. The use of the awards should be for new activities and new science, and will not be provided to simply expand existing HEI activity. Awards will be made by the MRC and may be held by any institution eligible for MRC support. Universities may only submit one application to this scheme and hold one award.

Rationale and background information

Around 850,000 people in the UK have dementia and its incidence will continue to grow as the population ages, with the number of people affected projected to reach 2 million by 2051. There is currently no cure for any of the neurodegenerative conditions that give rise to dementia, which represents one of the toughest medical and economic challenges facing our society today.

The UK Dementia Research Institute (DRI) is to be established in response to this challenge, and will bring together world-leading expertise in biomedical, care, public health and translational dementia research. Centred around the need for innovative, discovery science to unlock our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the development and progression of the dementias, the DRI’s research will invigorate the therapeutic pipeline and drive new approaches to diagnosis, treatment, care provision and prevention.

The new Institute will be catalytic for the UK's dementia research effort, and will be built in a way that optimally connects existing capabilities within the UK research landscape and engages emerging research opportunities. It will be established as a single entity but based on a hub and centres model spanning several university sites. The first phase of identifying the hub and centres for the DRI, to take place in 2016, will focus on the biomedical research agenda of the DRI, with its care and public health activity to be integrated two years into the DRI development.  The core scientific programmes for the Institute will be selected from 2017, with the DRI expected to be operational from 2018. Once fully established, the DRI will engage up to 400 scientists at steady state undertaking cutting edge research across the full range of neurodegenerative diseases that gives rise to dementia.

In parallel with this MRC call for DRI Momentum awards, the Alzheimer’s Society has issued a call for programme grants in Care and Public Health which will also support the development of the DRI though building capacity in dementia research.

Application remit

HEIs wishing to submit a Proposal will be recognized research centres with a national profile in age-related neurodegenerative disease research, including prevention. The remit covers Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Fronto-Temporal Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia, Huntington's disease, CJD etc.

Up to £8M will be made available for DRI Momentum awards, with the potential to support awards of between £0.3M to £1M for up to 3 years. Universities may only submit one application to this scheme and hold one award. Should an HEI prefer to partner a bid submitted by another institution, any subsequent award can be split to reflect each HEI’s contribution.

Momentum awards will build capacity and connectivity in UK dementia research, and open up new scientific avenues and enable a rapid UK response to emerging strategic opportunities. Awards should be used for new activities and not simple expansion of existing activity.  The scope covers:

  • biomedical and clinical science, that has relevance to dementia research. This may include disciplines outside of neuroscience, where there is a clear connection with understanding the cause, progression, treatment or prevention of dementia
  • support for recruitment of research staff who are likely to be competitive for DRI positions once available
  • support to fast-track the development of high flyers
  • support for new science/ response to emerging opportunities
  • stimulation of new approaches / scientific avenues, with cross-disciplinary science encouraged
  • creation of enabling infrastructures
  • novel technology and methods development.

It is expected that bids will cover a number, if not all, of these areas.

Momentum awards may not be used to support:

  • plans for recruitment beyond summer 2017
  • continuation / extension of existing research grants
  • research directed at generating or validating preliminary data for a ‘follow-on’ grant from already established lines of enquiry
  • administration costs
  • staff between posts/funding (i.e. as “bridging” funds)
  • PhD studentships.

Universities are encouraged to contact MRC to discuss plans in advance of submission if there are any uncertainties over remit or the content of the case. 

How to apply and timings

The DRI Momentum Awards application form can be downloaded on the right-hand side of this page. Once completed forms should be returned to as a bookmarked PDF, no later than 4pm on Monday 18th July 2016.

The proposal should be submitted as a single pdf document using a typeface of 11 pt Arial font, single spacing.

The case for support should be no more than 12 sides of A4, with margins of 1.5 cm on all page borders. Pages should be numbered and references provided where appropriate.

No annexes will be allowed, except for:

a) Schematic diagram: A single diagram to illustrate the local research landscape and the plans for the Momentum award, identifying the relevant research groups/resources and their locations within the University (one side of A4)

b) A Gantt chart to illustrate the Momentum award plans

c) One page CVs for principal and lead investigators (either in post or to be recruited)

Any additional diagrams, tables etc. must be included within the body of the application. An additional cover letter of one side of A4 should be provided to highlight University support and other relevant key information.

The case to be submitted must be specific to neurodegeneration / dementia research; generic university information should not be included. To maintain a level playing field, proposals which do not follow the specified format may be rejected without assessment.

Successful institutions will be expected to allocate awarded funds transparently and be able to explain the rationale behind decisions to MRC. 

Funding may be requested for capital items in support of the delivery of the proposed scientific programmer, up to a maximum of 7.5% of the amount requested. This capital request must be fully matched by the HEI.

There is no direct relationship between HEIs in receipt of DRI momentum awards and the HEIs to be selected to host the DRI hub or centres. Where such awards do coincide, the funding may be integrated into the DRI programme, once established and in line with the DRI Director's vision.


An independent review panel with MRC Board representation will assess the proposals received in a one-stage review process. The standard MRC assessment criteria for Boards will be used by the panel to assess the applications.

Successful applicants will be requested to submit their applications via the Je-S system following the panel meeting.

Key Dates

Proposals should be structured as above and sent as a single, bookmarked, pdf document to:

The e-mail header should be presented as follows:

 University of [Name]: Application for a DRI Momentum Award

The deadline for receipt of Proposals is 16.00h on Monday 18th July 2016.

Submission of proposals by this deadline is mandatory. Late proposals will not be accepted.

The funding decision is expected to be taken in September 2016 and award decisions will be communicated to HEIs shortly afterwards. Universities will be expected to participate in joint communications arrangements about the awards.

Contact details

For queries please contact

The scientific programme manager responsible is Dr Catherine Moody, also contactable on or 020 7395 2231