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MRC Public Health Intervention Development (PHIND) scheme

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

  • Status: Closed
  • Open date: 31 Jul 2020
  • Closing date: 15 Sep 2020 16:00 GMT+1
  • Type: Grants, Researcher-led

MRC will host a webinar on Thursday 20 August at 10am. The PHIND Panel Chair, Professor Graham Hart, will join Office staff to provide an overview of the scheme, tips for writing a PHIND application and to answer any questions.

Please register for the webinar by emailing publichealth@mrc.ukri.org

Zoom details will be available one week before the webinar.

A call for proposals


The MRC Public Health Intervention Development (PHIND) scheme was established to support the early stages of development of interventions that address an important UK or global public health issue. The aim of the scheme is to generate the necessary evidence to underpin the later development and evaluation of novel public health interventions. The PHIND scheme complements funding available from MRC Applied Global Health Research Board, NIHR and other sources for subsequent stages of public health intervention development and evaluation.


The scheme supports projects that will develop innovative new interventions that address an important UK or global public health issue.

Proposals should take a novel, high risk approach to intervention development. Population level interventions, with a focus on non-health care settings (such as: transport, education, employment, leisure and the built environment), are encouraged

  • “Population” is defined as a group of individuals an intervention may take place within, for example, schools, prisons, or larger communities and regions
  • Examples of the focus of population-level interventions include transport, education, employment, leisure and the built environment

Health care settings are not excluded, but projects should demonstrate potential for improved health of general, high risk or vulnerable populations.

For this call, applicants are encouraged to consider the incorporation of systems thinking in population-level intervention development research. To address public health challenges, such as air pollution, domestic violence and alcohol-related harm, public health interventions have to operate in a landscape that involves a wide array of people, organisations, structures and relationships[1]. There is a growing recognition that systems thinking and taking a systems-based approach, involving stakeholders from across the system, can help to ensure a more holistic approach to tackling public health issues. It is justifiable to focus on just one aspect of a system as long as the wider systems context is recognised, for example in the framework for evaluation.

Proposal criteria

Proposals should address the early stage of development of new interventions. This can include qualitative and quantitative primary research and the development of theory and logic models; however, emphasis should be placed on developing the intervention. Co-production with relevant stakeholders is strongly encouraged.

Within the application, the following should be addressed:

  • Definition of the intervention
  • Specification of the form(s) and function(s) of the intervention
  • Identification of the individual components of the intervention and their inter-relationships
  • a clear programme theory
  • how proposals should address continued refinements of interventions and sustainability
  • scalability of interventions

The creation of new interventions where active components of existing interventions are recombined to create a new intervention are allowed within the scope for this call.

Proposals should demonstrate a pathway to further development and evaluation of the proposed intervention and criteria for progression to the next stage of development should be detailed within the Case for Support.

Please refer to the 10 tips for writing a PHIND application, available in the Document Download section.

The following activities are not within the scope of this call:

  • NHS interventions
  • Interventions treating clinical conditions or improving health services delivery
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analyses
  • Standalone feasibility studies and pilot studies
  • The wholesale transfer of a proven intervention to a new context, setting or target population


Applicants can apply for up to £150K (MRC contribution), for a maximum of 18 months. Funds may be requested to support costs attributable to the study including investigator and research staff time, consumables, equipment and travel.

The usual MRC funding and eligibility rules apply. Please see Guidance for applicants for information regarding eligibility.

A limited amount (approximately 15%) of the overall cost could be allocated to some acceptability and feasibility research, to further develop the intervention, help cement a collaboration or to underpin further work to help the case for a future grant application.

Assessment criteria and process

Applicants should consider carefully the following criteria which will be taken into account by the Expert Review Panel when assessing proposals:

  • The importance of the public health question and the need for an intervention to address the issue(s), taking account of the current landscape
  • The proposed approach including methodology, innovation and likelihood of the outcomes of the proposed study to fill a current gap in knowledge
  • The research team, research environment, stakeholder partners and user participation and engagement
  • How novel the intervention is and whether it brings together disciplines and actors that may not normally be involved in public health research
  • Impact:
    • Appropriate engagement plans with users and key stakeholders, such as policy makers, to accelerate impact
    • Appropriateness of communication and knowledge exchange plans

Applications will be assessed by an Expert Review Panel comprised of independent academics and public health research representatives. The panel will have close links with NIHR and MRC Global Health to ensure the public health relevance of the proposals and to increase the potential success of future applications for piloting and evaluative studies. The Expert Review Panel will feedback to all applicants.

Proposals which are outside the scope of the call will not be assessed by the Panel.

How to apply

Proposals for this call must be submitted through the Joint electronic-Submission (Je-S) system.

Please use the Guidance Document when preparing your application and case for support.

The application must consist of:

  • The Je-S Proposal Form
  • Case for Support (maximum 4 pages). This must follow the structure in the Guidance Document
  • Justification of resources requested (maximum 500 words)
  • CV’s (maximum 1 page per applicant) CVs are only required for Principal Investigator, Co-Investigators and named researchers
  • Publications (maximum 1 page per applicant)

In addition, if applicable applicants can also attach:

Applicants may find the following guidance and examples helpful when preparing their application:

Intervention development and evaluation:

Systems thinking and systems approaches:

  • Rutter H (2017) The need for a complex systems model of evidence for public health. Lancet, 9;390(10112):2602-2604
  • Arnold RD and Wade JP (2015) A definition of systems thinking: a systems approach. Procedia Computer Science 44: 669-678.
  • Egan et al. (2019) NIHR SPHR Guidance on Systems Approaches to Local Public Health Evaluation. Part 1: Introducing systems thinking. London: National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research. https://sphr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/NIHR-SPHR-SYSTEM-GUIDANCE-PART-1-FINAL_SBnavy.pdf
  • Egan et al. (2019) NIHR SPHR Guidance on Systems Approaches to Local Public Health Evaluation. Part 2: What to consider when planning a systems evaluation. London: National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research. https://sphr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/NIHR-SPHR-SYSTEM-GUIDANCE-PART-2-v2-FINALSBnavy.pdf
  • Diez Roux A (2011) Complex systems thinking and current impasses in health disparities research. Am J Public Health, 101(9): 1627-1634.
  • Hawe et al. (2009) Theorising interventions as events in systems. Am J Community Psychology, 43 (3-4), 267-276.

Co-production of proposals and research:

Submission deadline and panel date

Application forms must be submitted by 4pm on 15 September 2020. No late submissions will be accepted for assessment.

The Expert Review Panel meeting will take place approximately 8 weeks after the submission deadline.


To discuss your eligibility or any queries please contact the PHIND Secretariat at publichealth@mrc.ukri.org.

[1] Egan M et al. (2019) NIHR SPHR Guidance on Systems Approaches to Local Public Health Evaluation. Part 1: Introducing systems thinking. London: National Institute for Health Research School for Public Health Research