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UK Nutrition Research Partnership (UK NRP): Travelling Skills Awards for Nutrition-related Research

Please note this opportunity is now CLOSED.
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  1. Call process and application
  2. Aims of the Call
  3. Notes for applicants
  4. Post award requirements
  5. Funding available
  6. Important points to note
  7. Assessment process
  8. Assessment criteria for proposals
  9. Key dates
  10. Contacts


The UK Nutrition Research Partnership (UK NRP) for health and disease is a partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which resulted as a direct implementation of the recommendations of the OSCHR Review of Nutrition and Human Health Research (PDF, 3.00MB).

Following the publication of this review, the UK NRP wishes to strengthen the UK nutrition research base by supporting the integration of nutrition-related science with research in health and disease with the aim of optimising health outcomes.

Nutrition research can be defined as the study of the interaction between diet (as whole diets, dietary components, dietary patterns) and the human body at the individual (molecular through to whole-body) or population level. It covers the impact of diet, dietary pattern or food components on normal biological function, health status or the development of disease.

The overall objective is the development of research environments which fully support integrative research, providing novel and robust insights into human nutrition and its role in health and disease, with the potential of transforming the long-term health of the population.

Travelling Skills Awards: the rationale

We wish to accelerate progress in nutrition-related research by encouraging cognate disciplines to work together effectively, to firmly embed nutritional and metabolic science into disease-based disciplines and broader human health research. The aim is to support new linkages between different disciplines and to build research capacity by encouraging the formation of new multi-disciplinary research partnerships that are able to address important health challenges. This cross-disciplinary approach should build a strong pipeline of ideas and collaborative projects that could be competitive for follow-on response mode funding in the near future.

This call is aimed at talented early career researchers who have recently established their independence (or will do so imminently) and have a proven track record of research in their own discipline. The call offers flexible awards to support ‘rising star’ early career researchers to work in the world’s best research laboratories (UK or overseas) to gain deeper knowledge, skills and best practice. This could be a nutrition researcher gaining experience in a different discipline or a non-nutrition researcher receiving training from a world class nutrition group/Institute.

Eligible researchers based within the UK are invited to apply to this UK NRP Call. The research interests of applicants should have a clear relevance to human nutrition research and its role in health and/or the development of disease.

Awards will provide a maximum of £100k (at the 80% FEC level) of funding for up to 12 months. The UK NRP expects to fund a portfolio of different topics related to human nutrition, health and disease.

This is a single stage call; applications will be assessed by the UK NRP in March 2020.

This call is part of a long-term approach to build research capacity and partnerships through phased and strategic development. It is anticipated that this funding will enable the recipient to apply for future funding to lead new multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral research proposals as part of a team.  

1. Call process and application 

Eligibility criteria

Principal Investigator

The MRC will administer this call on behalf of the UK NRP. Standard MRC eligibility criteria will apply. This call is aimed at talented early career researchers who have recently established their independence (or will do so imminently) and have a proven track record of research in their own discipline. The Principal Investigator (PI) must be resident in the UK and an academic employee of an eligible UK higher education institution, or at an eligible independent research institution. Principal Investigators supported on open-ended or fixed-term contracts may apply for these awards; the award and placement must be completed before any fixed-term contracts expire. 

All applications must be submitted through the PI’s own (‘lead’ or ‘home base’) organisation which in turn must be Je-S registered. The PI’s home base organisation will remain responsible for the administration of the award during the fellow’s period at another centre. 

For further details regarding eligibility for funding please refer to the MRC Guidance for Applicants.

MRC reserves the right to reject proposals that are deemed to be outside the remit of the call or are not in the correct format.

Responsibilities of the lead organisation

By submitting a proposal to the MRC, a research organisation indicates their formal acceptance of the proposal, the UKRI Terms and Conditions, MRC additional terms and conditions (and any other terms and conditions specified in the award letter), and their approval of the salary contribution and resources sought.

Host institutions

Institutions which will host the PI during their placement (‘host institutions’) can be based in the UK or overseas but must be internationally recognised organisations engaged in relevant research and demonstrating a strong track record in the relevant scientific field. They must show a clear commitment to supporting and developing the skills of the PI during their time with their chosen host.

Hosting by a research active industry is possible; however, funding can only be provided for the academic partner.

Ethical considerations

MRC expects all of the researchers it funds to adopt the highest achievable standards in the conduct of their research. This means exhibiting impeccable scientific integrity and following the principles of good research practice detailed in the MRC Good Research Practice Guidelines.

Application process

All applications must be submitted via the Joint Electronic Submission system Je-S. The accompanying Applicant Guidance (PDF) for this call advises applicants how to complete their application and the sections required.

Applicants must submit: a Je-S proposal with mandatory attachments which include:

  1. a Case for Support
  2. a short CV for the PI (max. 2 pages for the core CV and 1 page of relevant publications)
  3. a signed headed letter of support from the PI’s own institution, and the proposed host institute (i.e. two separate letters)

Applicants should submit their completed application by 16:00 on 27 February 2020.

No late applications will be accepted.

2. Aims of the call

This call provides the opportunity for the most promising researchers to learn new skills and techniques, and establish new collaborations, by working in the best research environments in the UK or overseas. This should be an immersive experience where applicants are able to obtain focused training in a new environment and to develop skills that may not otherwise be available to them in their current set-up or immediate research environment.

Applications are welcome from talented early career researchers who have recently established their independence and have a proven track record of research in their own discipline. (Please note: This call is aimed at talented early career researchers who have recently established their independence (or will do so imminently) and have a proven track record of research in their own discipline.) The award should be viewed as a timely and important stepping stone in developing their research career which allows them to develop a multi or cross-disciplinary approach to their work.

It should be noted that the main objective of this call is not about directly addressing a research question, but rather the gaining of new skills and potential cross-disciplinary and co-creation opportunities. There will be an opportunity for a small amount of pilot work which may be undertaken at the host institution, however this should not be the main focus of the proposal. It is expected, however, that applicants will be able to clearly articulate how the Award, and the development of new skills, will help to answer important questions in the field of nutrition, health and disease.

Summary of expected primary aims and outcomes

  • Providing researchers with the opportunity to acquire new skills which provides them with a unique cross-disciplinary perspective and expertise
  • For researchers outside the nutrition field: The strengthening of the applicant’s knowledge/skills in nutrition techniques, some/many of whom will have no track-record or previous association with nutrition research
  • Helping to accelerate the career trajectories of successful recipients by enhancing cross-disciplinary skills
  • Enabling researchers to develop a multi-disciplinary, co-creative approach to their work and to broaden their research perspective
  • Stimulating scientifically valuable discussion and facilitating the exchange of interesting new approaches and research ideas
  • Bringing in new approaches and new insights to nutrition and health research arena
  • Enabling researchers to gain a better understanding of a particular aspect (whether this be related to the biological, physiological, clinical or social science) of an important nutrition and human health challenge to inform the development of their future programme of research
  • The utilisation of new skills by the researcher to pursue their research (beyond this award) in new and cross-disciplinary areas
  • Catalysing new links between researchers with the relevant expertise, well-positioned to apply for funding to undertake research to address the specific challenge
  • An end of award Report providing an account of the placement and it benefits (see Section 4)

3. Notes for applicants

  • Applications should have a clear relevance to human nutrition and its role in health and/or the development of disease
  • The applicant’s research interests can:

i) focus on improving health or in the aetiology, prevention or treatment of a specific important disease or group of diseases, a critically important methodological challenge, or the development of transformative new tools and technologies

ii) be part of the spectrum from basic science to behavioural and more applied research, as relevant to the topic/challenge

  • Proposals must offer a degree of innovation and novelty, both in terms of the blend of skills to be acquired and the career development opportunities this will support
  • It is expected that the host organisation will be in a different location and provide a significantly different research environment to the applicants’ own institution. The host institution should be able to provide specific activities which meet the applicant’s development needs.
  • The proposed workplan should provide for significant contact time between the applicant and researchers from different disciplines at the chosen host institute
  • Placements in Industry are allowable. In such cases any pilot research undertaken should be at the pre-competitive stage.
  • Contributions (in cash or in-kind) from the PI’s own institute, or the host institute, and are welcomed where this is appropriate to the proposal

4. Post award requirements

The Principal Investigator for successful applications will be responsible for producing a report which provides a succinct account of the placement and its main benefits including i) activities undertaken ii) new skills and expertise acquired iii) new collaborative links iv) research pilot data or ideas generated v) how the award will provide a foundation for next steps vi) any comments from the host institution.

The report should be submitted within two months of the end of the placement.

5. Funding available 

This call will fund up to eight UK NRP Travelling Skills Awards, with each supported at a maximum total contribution of £100k (at the 80% FEC level). The UK NRP expects to fund a portfolio of different topics related to human nutrition, health and disease.

These awards can be used flexibly to support relevant and fully justified costs. The UK NRP expects applications to demonstrate the maximum value for money from the funding requested.

The Award can support a continuous ‘active’ placement (e.g. one lot of 12 months) or a placement broken into sections (e.g. two lots of 6 months) – however the placement should be no shorter than 6 months in total and completed within 24 months.

Proposals should be between 6 and 12 months in duration on a full-time basis. The awards may be held on a part time basis for a maximum of 24 months. The pattern of work (i.e. blocks of time spent away from the PI’s own institution) can be flexible and should be appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the Principal Investigator. It is expected, however, that the PI will spend sufficient time with the host institute to allow them to fully immerse themselves in the new discipline and environment they have selected to gain experience from.

Requests for funding may include:

  • Cost of the PI’s salary for the time spent at the host organisation
  • Travel (economy class) and subsistence while away from the home institution. All travel must occur between the start and end date of the award and should be costed by the most suitable and economical means at current prices with no allowance for inflation. Subsistence rates, both UK and overseas, should be those applicable within the host research organisation. The cost and destination of each travel item should be entered in the form and should be justified in the Justification of Resources section
  • Consumables for training purposes and a modest amount of novel pilot data generation
  • If the project includes a period overseas of six months or more, costs for fares, baggage, medical insurance and rent of reasonable accommodation should be included and an overseas living allowance may be requested. In general, a request of up to 11% of the PI’s salary is considered a reasonable contribution towards the cost of living overseas
  • Other reasonable costs can be requested and should be fully justified in the context of the overall aims of the application

Costs should be requested at the 80% FEC level where the host organisation, and associated costs, is within the UK. Costs incurred by overseas host organisations should be entered as Exceptions at the 100% level.

Estates and Indirect costs

A contribution to estates and indirect costs can be claimed for the period of the PI’s placement if in the UK.  The PI’s home base research organisation should request estates costs on behalf of the UK host organisation for the duration of the PI’s time there and at the host’s agreed rates for estate costs. A contribution towards estates and indirect costs at the overseas organisations is permissible where the research is being undertaken in a low or middle income country (LMIC). This should be calculated using the overseas institution’s standard overhead calculations but cannot exceed 20% of the total costs claimed by the overseas organisation. Please note that these costs need to be entered on the Je-S form as “Other Directly Incurred Costs” and entered as Exceptions funded at 100%. Estates and indirect costs cannot be claimed by research organisations based in a high income country outside of the UK.

Funding cannot be requested for:

  • Other members of staff, or students at the host organisation (the PI is expected to be ‘hands-on’ and learning the new skills and techniques)
  • Direct replacement salary costs; these should be covered by the home base organisation from the funding source(s) that would ordinarily have met the PI’s salary cost.
  • Equipment costs over £10k (including VAT)
  • Publication costs
  • Membership fees

6. Important points to note

  • The Principal Investigator (PI) may submit only one application.
  • The PI should not have received a similar award to obtain new skills in the past 24 months
  • The flexibility provided by this award may be suitable for applicants wishing to combine their research training with domestic responsibilities or to meet professional clinical requirements
  • The applicant’s own institution must to ensure all necessary arrangements are put in place for travel, the placement at the host organisation (e.g. work permits, travel insurance and other arrangements to ensure the safety of the PI, ethical approvals/ licences for any pilot work undertaken etc.)
  • It is the responsibility of the organisations involved to put any necessary collaborative agreements in place before the award begins. The terms of any collaboration agreements must not conflict with UKRI or MRC terms and conditions.
  • The UK NRP has no responsibility for the salary of any backfill post that might be employed by the applicants host institution, or to any non-salary associated costs related to this post
  • Support will not be provided to make up for any deficits in funding for on-going research or an established long-term research programme. Additionally, the awards are not intended to be used purely for conference attendance or as networking grants
  • All proposals submitted to by the published deadline will be considered complete and final. No additional material can be added to proposals after the deadline, unless specifically requested by the Call Secretariat.
  • Funding requested should be at a level appropriate for the planned placement. Any unspent funds cannot be used for purposes unrelated to the main aims of the award.
  • The MRC reserves the right to withdraw funding if the placement is not being progressed appropriately and/or to plan. In such cases, the Principal Investigator should consult the Call secretariat at the earliest possible opportunity.

7. Assessment process 

Applications will be assessed by the UK NRP which is comprised of senior independent academics and stakeholders. There will be no rebuttal stage and the UK NRP’s funding decision will be final.

An assessment will be made on the basis of the overall quality of the proposal, and its fit to the aims of this Call. The UK NRP will also consider the quality of the applicant, timeliness of the application in relation to career stage and needs, likely benefit to the applicant, host commitment/suitability, importance of the topic to the field. Other factors, such as feasibility of the plans, will also be taken into account when making the final decision. See also Section 8: Assessment criteria for proposals.

8. Assessment criteria for proposals 

Applicants should consider carefully the following criteria which will be taken into account by the UK NRP when assessing proposals:

  • Relevance to human nutrition-related science and fit to the aims of the call
  • The applicant’s current research standing and achievements to date
  • Suitability of the applicant in terms of their track record and career stage and future plans
  • Whether the expertise of the applicant, and the new skills to be acquired, are appropriate to the proposed area of research
  • Degree of novelty and innovation - whether the proposed plans offer new and exciting opportunities to enhance the applicant’s career development
  • The research standing and suitability of the proposed host institution
  • The quality and suitability of the proposed arrangements, including the support to be provided by the host organisation
  • The quality of the skills development activities proposed; how these skills will help to answer important questions in the field of nutrition, health and disease
  • The potential for the award to have a positive, long-term impact on the applicant’s research career
  • Likelihood of generating new ideas and partnerships and to stimulate the development and submission of high-quality cross-disciplinary research proposals relevant to nutrition, health and disease
  • Resources and Management – the appropriateness of the requested resources. Effectiveness of the proposed planning and hosting arrangements

9. Key dates 

Launch of call

19 December 2019

Closing date for proposals

27 February 2020 16:00

Proposals assessed by UK NRP

March 2020

Funding outcomes

April/May 2020

Award report from PI

No later than 8 weeks after the placement ends

10. Contacts 

If you have a query about this call please contact the UK NRP Programme Manager:

Dr Karen Finney - UKNRPTravelling@mrc.ukri.org