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UKRI GCRF Health and Context call 2019 - Full (invitation only)

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

  • Status: Closed
  • Open date: 1 Aug 2019
  • Closing date: 12 Sep 2019 16:00 GMT+1
  • Type: Grants, MRC strategic


On this page:

Note: This call will open shortly for applicants who have been invited to submit a full research grant proposal following the outline call that closed in April 2019. Applicants that did not submit to the outline call or who submitted and have not been invited to submit a full application, are ineligible for this call.  Ineligible applications received will be withdrawn


The UKRI GCRF Health and Context call is seeking proposals for interdisciplinary research addressing wider contextual factors contributing to the burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These factors may include social, cultural, historical, and religious beliefs and practices, or wider biological, ecological and environmental factors. We want to fund consortia conducting ambitious research that:

  • goes beyond description to determine causal relationships between contextual influences and health
  • develops or tests feasible interventions that are sensitive to or mitigate contextual influences on health.

Via the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), UKRI will support impactful, three-year research projects of value between £1-2 million (at 80% FEC for UK costs, 100% FEC for overseas costs). This call is being led jointly by the Medical Research Council, Economic & Social Research Council, Arts & Humanities Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and applications may fall within the remit of any of, or across, these councils.


This call is led by the MRC, ESRC, AHRC, NERC and BBSRC with the GCRF Challenge Leader for Global Health. This is one of a series of UKRI GCRF collective calls of relevance to health. Information on the related calls, including themes on education, food systems, and conflict, can be found on the UKRI: GCRF Collective programme webpage.

This call seeks interdisciplinary approaches that determine the impact of contextual factors on the health of the community and/or develop interventions that take account of or mitigate these influences. Successful projects will involve the input of a variety of stakeholders, which could include members of the community where the research is conducted. Proposals are encouraged to cut across disciplinary boundaries to fully understand contextual influences that can promote or obstruct improvements in health (such as water and sanitation, agricultural practices, habitation and urban planning, religion, education, and gender).

Remit and scope

This call will support interdisciplinary research projects addressing contextual influences on infections and/or NCDs. Projects may seek to determine the extent to which contextual factors influence rates of NCD/infection, and/or how this influence can be accounted for or mitigated through culturally-sensitive intervention. To maximise impact, we encourage applications where the contextual factors identified are common to multiple locations within or across LMIC settings. Applications from across the spectrum of basic to applied research are eligible for this call. Where appropriate, applicants should engage with communities in the research planning process, and for applied research, engage with local, regional, and national stakeholders to maximise impact. Subject areas may comprise, but are not limited to:

  • contextual drivers of non-communicable or infectious disease risk (such as contaminated drinking water, agriculture and food production, hygiene, sexual behaviours, air pollution, work practices, wider land-use and environmental changes)
  • contextually driven barriers to management and treatment of infection/NCD, which may include altered diagnostic, vaccine or drug efficacy
  • feasible interventions that take account of or mitigate contextual drivers of increased rates of infection/NCD
  • identification and management of clusters of coexisting health conditions (multimorbidities) that are particularly prevalent in a particular community.

Successfully addressing the above challenges will require an understanding of:

  • the influence that society, history, culture, religion, and the environment might have on risk behaviours and care seeking behaviour, and culturally sensitive approaches to addressing these
  • community centred approaches to data collection and sharing to enable better management and prediction of infectious diseases and NCDs.

This call is only open to PIs who have been invited to submit a full application following the outline stage. It is recognised that final proposals are likely to continue to evolve up to the application deadline, however, the final full proposal must completely reflect the core elements of the outline proposal and team of named investigators. The research team can be drawn from any relevant academic discipline and must be sufficiently broad to support all aspects of the project. For more information on eligible research organisations in the UK and LMICs please see the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants.

We encourage the engagement of community stakeholders in the development and implementation of proposals to allow a deep understanding of context. To help maximise impact, applicants should ensure that research questions, methods and outcomes are relevant to the communities in which they are working.

Given the scale of the awards and the need to demonstrate tangible impact, applicants are required to provide evidence of substantial, relevant preliminary work, existing relationships with stakeholders in the location where the project will take place, and existing partnerships with other named researchers. These existing partnerships may be added to by the proposed work to create a consortium of varied expertise.

Applications involving industrial collaborators are eligible and should follow the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) process.

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and health systems research projects are eligible for this call but must put forward a strong case for how they are grounded in local context and address the other ambitions of the call. Mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) designs are welcomed.

Research projects investigating contextual influences on nutritional status and links to NCDs are not eligible for this call.

Capacity building

Awards funded through this call will build and strengthen UK-LMIC partnerships and should incorporate research training and capacity building activities.

Examples of building capacity include:

  • building of capability to work across disciplines and in partnerships
  • support and mentoring for more junior team members
  • building leadership skills amongst key team members
  • co-design of research
  • opportunities for those with relevant skills to orient their research towards global issues.

Where the PI is based at a UK research organisation, a clear plan for sustaining UK-LMIC partnerships beyond the duration of the award should be presented. Such applications should also demonstrate scientific leadership and intellectual contribution to the development of research from LMIC co-investigators.

Equitable Partnerships

Partnerships are a key pillar of the GCRF strategy. Partnerships should be transparent and based on mutual respect. Partnerships should aim to have clearly articulated equitable distribution of resources, responsibilities, efforts and benefits. Partnerships should recognise different inputs, different interests and different desired outcomes and should ensure the ethical sharing and use of data which is responsive to the identified needs of society.


UKRI has made up to £20 million available for the UKRI GCRF Health and Context call. PIs may apply for research grant funding for a duration of up to three years. In accordance with the funders’ objective to support ambitious, impactful research, individual projects should cost no less than £1 million and no more than £2 million. Awards are required to start before 30 April 2020.

The funding is intended to support:

  • UK and LMIC research consumable costs
  • salary costs for UK and LMIC-based researchers
  • research training and capacity building activities
  • travel and subsistence.

The funding is not intended to support:

  • continuation of existing research grants
  • capital or infrastructure expenditure
  • establishment or continuation of cohorts
  • equipment above £10,000
  • studentships (such as masters or PhD costs).

Requested costs for UK activities should be at 80% full economic cost (fEC) in-line with standard UKRI rules. Please note that all funds will be administered through the lead research organisation. Costs for work undertaken at overseas research organisations are allowed and should be 100% of eligible costs. Please see the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants for more information. Where applicable, the lead UK research organisation must consider the financial controls and risk mitigations that will be put in place for the transfer of funding to overseas organisations.


For this call, proposals must be led by an organisation eligible to receive funding from UKRI (See UKRI: Eligibility) or an equivalent eligible research organisation in a country on the OECD DAC recipient list (see organisational eligibility criteria in the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants). The lead organisation will be responsible for the overall management of the grant including control, disbursement and assurance of funds.

Researchers can be the PI on only one application in this call but may act as a Co-I on any number of applications.

Official Development Assistance and Global Challenges Research Fund

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK government in 2015 to support research addressing the challenges faced by developing countries. UKRI and MRC are GCRF delivery partners. GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment; the research supported through this call will contribute to the UK’s ODA commitment to low and middle income countries (LMICs). Applications must demonstrate the research to be primarily relevant and directly linked to near-term or long-term benefits to the health or prosperity of LMICs. Applications should articulate a clear and specific case for the relevance of the proposed research to the LMIC partners and provide evidence that the proposed plan of research is informed by the needs of LMIC partners. Further guidance on ODA and demonstrating ODA compliance in applications for funding available via the UKRI: Global Challenges Research Fund webpage.

As part of the government’s commitment to ODA transparency and in line with DfID ODA reporting requirements, UKRI is responsible for publishing information about UKRI ODA grants including project titles and summaries via the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) registry and via DfID’s national statistics. The purpose of publishing information via the IATI registry is to make information about ODA easily accessible to governments, stakeholders and other relevant groups in beneficiary countries. All UKRI funded projects from this programme will be published in this way. Please therefore write your project title and summary in such a way that they are meaningful and accessible to non-specialist audiences, following publication. We would be grateful if you would ensure that the project title and summary are written in plain English and avoid the use of jargon, acronyms, puns and plays on words. Please also make clear in your project title and summary how your project is ODA compliant, for example by identifying the development challenge(s) being addressed, the aims of the project and the beneficiary countries.

Key dates



Invitations issued to submit full proposals

31 July 2019

Call opens on Je-S (for invited applications only)

1 August 2019

Submission deadline for invited full applications

12 September 2019

Applicant response to peer review

January 2020

Panel meeting and funding decisions

March 2020

Start of activity April 2020

The councils aim to adhere to the key dates as published but retain the right to alter the timeline as required.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system and must be led by UK institutions eligible to receive UKRI funding by 4pm BST 12 September 2019. 

Proposals will be externally peer reviewed following MRC’s standard review processes, which includes PI response, before being considered by an expert review panel in March 2020.  The Panel will make funding recommendations and the final funding decisions ratified by the funders in late March 2019.

The full proposal will require details and supporting information not seen at outline, however, the final full proposal must completely reflect the core elements of the outline proposal and team of named investigators

Please follow the general guidance for completing an application in the MRC Guidance for Applicants. This will guide applicants through the standard processes for preparing a proposal, costing proposals and how to address any ethical and regulatory requirements that may apply to the research. The case for support must not exceed 8 sides of A4 (Arial 11 pt), including references and governance. Applications exceeding the page limit will be rejected.

Applicants considering collaboration with an industrial partner(s) are advised to refer to the guidance on MRC Industry Collaboration Awards (MICAs). A MICA form and Heads of Terms may be required as supporting documents in this case.

A UKRI GCRF Health and Context call specific Guidance for Applicants document is available on this page. In addition, applicants should read the general MRC Guidance for Applicants and Je-S handbook for general information on how to complete the application.

Proposals will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • research excellence
    • importance and design of the study
  • capability and interdisciplinary research team
  • capacity building and international partnerships
  • community engagement in the development of the proposal and its delivery
  • likelihood and pathways to impact
  • leadership and management
  • organisation governance and evaluation
  • ethics
  • value for money.


To discuss your application, please contact Dr David Pan, MRC Challenge Manager - Global Health, Raquel Pullicino, ESRC Senior Portfolio Manager, Dr Margaret Charleroy, AHRC Strategy & Development Manager, or Sarah Blackburn, NERC Senior GCRF Challenge Manager.