1. Who can apply and how to apply
On this page
- 1.1 Types of research organisations (ROs)
- 1.2 Responsibilities of research organisations
- 1.3 Applicants
- 1.3.1 The principal investigator
- 1.3.2 Co-investigators
- 1.3.3 Researcher co-investigator
- 1.3.4 Project partners
- 1.4 Responsibilities of applicants, including declaration of interests
- 1.5 Multiple applications
- 1.5.1 Applications to MRC
- 1.5.2 Resubmissions and Renewals
- 1.5.3 Applying to MRC and other funders for Research Grants
- 1.5.4 Applying to MRC and other funders for Fellowships
- 1.6 What can be applied for by whom
- 1.6.1 Studentships
- 1.6.2 New Investigators
- 220.127.116.11 Experienced Investigators
- 1.7 How to apply - submission process
- 1.7.1 Using the joint electronic-submission system
- 1.7.2 Applying for a call or board round
- 1.7.3 Who can submit
The MRC reserves the right to make funding decisions based on independent scientific judgments of its board and panel chairs, deputy chairs and members.
The MRC reserves the right to amend the application process.
The principal investigator (PI) must be based at the lead organisation, which should be one of the following:
- Higher education institutions
All UK higher education institutions (HEI) that receive grant funding from one of the UK higher education funding bodies are eligible to receive funds for research, postgraduate training and associated activities. These bodies consist of Research England, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy.
- Independent research organisations (IROs) and NHS bodies
A number of IROs are also eligible to apply for funding. A full list of IROs and the application process to become an IRO can be found on the UK Research and Innovation website.
NHS bodies with research capacity (the Board, NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Special Authority, NHS Trust, NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Local Health Board) are eligible to apply as lead applicants.
- Government-funded organisations (other than MRC-funded units and institutes)
Government-funded organisations such as PHE or the Met Office can apply for MRC funding only as a co-investigator (CoI). 80 per cent of full economic costs (FEC) will be awarded in the same way as all other CoIs (please note that some awards are made at different FEC rate, for example global health funding opportunities). Institutes and units funded by other research councils are eligible to apply as a lead applicant for MRC funding due to a reciprocal arrangement between councils. They should also apply for 80 per cent of full economic costs.
- MRC institutes (MRC Harwell, MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology)
Eligible individuals from MRC institutes may for MRC grants as either a principal or co-investigator. Applications to the Research Boards can only be made with prior agreement between the Institute Director and MRC Head of Theme. See section 3.8 for more information.
- MRC units and the Francis Crick Institute
Eligible individuals from MRC units and the Francis Crick Institute may apply for all MRC grants as either a principle or co-investigator. These grants are intended to support research relevant to the unit that is clearly additional to existing ‘core’ support. MRC units apply as a department of the University. See section 3.9 for more information.
By submitting a proposal to the MRC, a research organisation (RO) indicates their formal acceptance of the proposal, their acceptance of the terms and conditions of an MRC award, and the approval of the salaries and resources sought. Submission also signifies that the RO accepts the terms and conditions of Research Council fEC Grants, the MRC additional terms and conditions and any award-specific terms and conditions, as specified on the award letter, for the entire life of the award.
Administrative authorities have responsibility for ensuring that the salaries and resources cited in the proposals are sufficient to undertake the proposed research, to attract sufficiently experienced and skilled staff, and represent good value for money.
Research teams include a range of individuals and grant applicants will have one of the following roles. For guidance on detailing the research staff that will be involved see section 3.2.1.
Individuals can be involved in more than one MRC grant at a time. The award of a grant does not guarantee any further commitment to funding by the MRC.
A Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Investigator (CoI) must have a contract of employment with the RO for the duration of the grant prior to application (except NIRGs and fellowships). If a PI or a CoI is to leave their post prior to a project ending, the RO has responsibility for ensuring there are suitable arrangements in place to replace that PI or CoI.
1.3.1 The principal investigator
Each proposal must have one Principal Investigator (PI). The PI is usually responsible for the intellectual leadership of the research project and for the overall management of the research. If intellectual leadership of the research is shared, the PI should be the individual who will act as the MRC’s main contact and coordinator.
By the time the grant starts, the PI must be based in the UK at the eligible RO at which the grant will be administered (the lead organisation). The PI must have a verified joint electronic-submission system (Je-S) account to apply.
We will consider proposals for research grants from any researcher who can demonstrate they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through. The minimum formal qualification required is a graduate degree, most applicants are also expected to have a PhD. Proposals from less experienced PIs should normally include a senior colleague as a Co-Investigator (unless applying for a NIRG or Fellowship).
If the PI leaves the RO for any reason, the RO must notify us and seek permission for a named replacement. If possible, one of the Co-Investigators usually takes on the role of PI. If the PI is moving to another RO it may be possible to transfer the grant subject to the agreement of both organisations. If the PI wishes to do this, they need to contact us (see Guidance for MRC award holders for more information).
An Emeritus Professor can be a PI. Please refer to section 3.2.1 or how they should be included on applications.
Research is often undertaken by teams and the PI may be supported by one or more individuals who can be named on the application as Co-Investigators (CoIs). A CoI assists the PI in the management and leadership of the research. CoIs should normally be able to meet the eligibility criteria for PIs and be based in the UK at an eligible RO. All CoIs must have a verified Je-S account.
Researchers from overseas research organisations may be a CoI if they provide expertise not available in the UK. Inclusion of an overseas CoI must be discussed and agreed with the relevant programme manager in advance of application. Please provide details of the agreement in a cover letter. For more information on how to include costs for work undertaken at an overseas organisation please see section 3.3.
1.3.3 Researcher co-investigator
A researcher co-investigator (RCoI) is someone who has made a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the project but is not eligible to be either PI or CoI in their own right (they do not have a contract of employment with the RO of the PI or any of CoI(s).
Research staff this could apply include postdoctoral research assistants, clinical fellows and technology specialists or equivalent roles.
A RCoI will be:
- working on the proposed research project as a postdoctoral research assistant or equivalent
- making a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the project
- employed on the project up to 100% FTE by and based at, the RO of either the PI or any CoI(s)
- given intellectual ownership (for example, through corresponding authorship) and grant management duties in relation to the ensuing research.
The PI and the RO need to identify and explain how the RCoI will be supported in their career and personal development throughout the duration of the project and a Letter of Support from the PI should highlight this support. A mentor who is not the PI or a CoI should be appointed to provide the RCoI with independent career guidance.
1.3.4 Project partners
MRC encourages and supports collaborative research projects and team approaches, especially between academic and industry researchers. Collaborators based in different organisations to the investigators or in industry can be formally recognised in applications as named project partners.
A project partner provides a substantial intellectual contribution to the project, and their organisation may also provide resources either in-kind or financially, project partners are not expected to request MRC funding to participate. The contribution and involvement of project partners should be acknowledged in the project partner section of the application form and described in detail in the case for support (see section 2.2.3), where the whole team and their skills/expertise and responsibilities should be set out for the benefit of assessors.
Each project partner must provide a letter of support (see section 2.2.7).
If the project partner is from industry, applicants must follow the guidance relating to the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA).
The MRC expects all funded researchers, both clinical and non-clinical, 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.
As part of this, any private, personal or commercial interests relating to an application for funding to the research councils must be declared in a covering letter included as an application attachment.
Where the MRC is involved directly with a co-funder, the co-funder will be named in the guidance for the MRC call for proposals and the applicant should state if there is any potential conflict of interest. This should be included in the covering letter and be discussed with the relevant programme manager before application.
What constitutes a conflict of interest?
A conflict of interest is a situation in which a person named on the application (or a senior member of the lead organisation who may be involved in the management of the grant) is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their capacity as grant holder, or has interests which might influence their objectivity in conducting the research or reporting the findings.
What interests should be declared?
Applicants should declare any interests which anyone named on the application (or a senior member of the lead organisation who may be involved in the management of the grant) has with any individual, organisation, project partner or supplier involved in the research, or any interest that might be perceived to influence the applicant’s objectivity in conducting the research.
1. Personal Remuneration from organisations or project partners involved in the proposed research (other than the named employing organisation)
Includes consultancies, directorships, honoraria (both past and present) from organisations other than that listed within the application as the employer.
Example: a consultancy, directorship or significant research collaboration with a company that makes a drug, treatment or piece of equipment that will be evaluated or used during the research.
2. Significant Shareholdings or other Financial Interests in organisations which are involved in or might benefit from the research
Include the name of the company and the nature of the interests. Indirect shareholder interests (eg via unit trusts or pension funds managed by others) need not be declared.
Example shareholdings with a market value equal to or greater than £10,000 or represent more than 1% of the total shares in the company.
3. Research support (financial or in kind) from commercial organisations involved in the grant or which might benefit from the outcome of the research that are not mentioned in the application
Also include ownership of intellectual property whose value may be affected by the outcome of the research
4. Un-remunerated involvement with any organisation named on the application or which might benefit from the research or its outcomes
This may include non-executive and advisory positions, directorships and other positions of authority.
5. Political/pressure group associations
Any relevant political/pressure group associations of the applicants (including paid posts and high-profile unpaid roles) should be declared.
Example: trusteeship of a charity with interests relevant to the area of research in the application.
Declarations should also include any relevant known interests of immediate family members and any persons living in the same household. Applicants should also consider whether they need to disclose relevant known interests of any other person with whom they have a relationship which is likely to appear, to a reasonable person, to influence his/her independence and objectivity. Please indicate which category of interest applies. Family members do not need to be identified, either by name or their relationship to the applicants.
Example: a family member or close friend who works in sales for (or has a significant financial interest in) a company that is a potential supplier of major equipment or materials that will be purchased using the grant funding.
Research Council terms and conditions include a requirement for ROs to have effective processes in place to manage conflicts of interest. Where the applicant or RO considers that an interest does give rise to a clear conflict, a proposed plan for managing that conflict should be included in the covering letter. If new conflicts arise once an award has been made these should be declared and managed using the ROs established processes.
Interests declared will be scrutinised by Research Council staff and drawn to the attention of members of panels or boards making the decision on funding. Conditions relating to how conflicts should be managed may be attached to awards.
1.5.1 Applications to MRC
Each PI may submit a maximum of two grant proposals to each board or panel deadline. However, applicants are strongly advised to seek funding on the basis of quality rather than the number that can be submitted.
Applicants may only have one NIRG or fellowship proposal under consideration by MRC at any time.
1.5.2 Resubmissions and Renewals
Applications previously declined by the MRC, another research council or other funding body, will not be considered by the MRC within 12 months (from the original submission date), unless invited in writing to resubmit by the MRC.
Please note this time restriction does not apply to outline applications.
Follow up to an outline application
Quote outline grant reference in the ‘Related Proposals’ section
Quote previous grant reference in the ‘Related Proposals’ section
Submit a cover letter explaining the differences as an attachment.
Renewal (centre grants, programme grants)
Quote the previous grant reference in the ‘Related Proposals’ section
Submit a progress report as an attachment.
1.5.3 Applying to MRC and other funders for Research Grants
By submitting a proposal to the MRC the applicant confirms the resources requested are proportionate and the research proposed is not already supported by the MRC or any other funding body. If the MRC has concerns about the credibility of resources requested in an application it will be rejected.
The same or a substantially similar research grant application, in terms of objectives or resources, cannot be submitted at the same time to MRC and any other UK or international funding body. This includes all research councils, the Department of Health (including NHS and NIHR), charities such as the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK, European Research Council etc. (this list is not exhaustive). The MRC will immediately reject any grant application we receive that is already being assessed elsewhere.
Applicants submitting a substantially different but related research grant application to another funder in parallel should take care to explain the relationship between applications, especially if they are related scientifically or through use of common or shared resources. All support from other sources that has been awarded or applied for must be listed in the ‘Other Support’ section of the MRC application (see section 2.1). MRC reserves the right to request the full details of the applications and awards listed. Concerns about overlap of objectives or resources between a parallel application and an MRC application may lead to the MRC application being rejected.
Applicants must inform the relevant programme manager about progress of all related applications and detail the funding decision and the impact on MRC resources as soon as possible (usually within 10 days of provisional notification of the funding outcome and prior to the scheduled MRC board/panel meeting). If not appropriately notified the MRC application may be rejected or existing MRC awards suspended.
1.5.4 Applying to MRC and other funders for Fellowships
Fellowship applicants may simultaneously apply to MRC and other funders’ fellowship schemes.
Please refer to the Guidance for Fellowship Applicants (PDF, 810KB) for further information.
The MRC supports students by providing block grants and individual studentship awards, via competitions such as CASE, direct to ROs who then recruit and manage the students. We do not award grants directly to individual students. Studentships can also be included on centre and partnership grants, but must not be included on research grants. Refer to information on Studentships for further details.
1.6.2 New Investigators
New investigators can apply for a fellowship, a New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) or research grant.
1.6.3 Experienced Investigators
Please refer to browse funding opportunities for details of other types of grants which are available.
It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure they apply to the correct funding call/board/type of grant and that their application is submitted with adequate time to allow their research organisation, to complete necessary checks and complete the final submission (through Je-S), to the MRC by 16:00 (GMT/BST), on the advertised MRC submission deadline.
The applicant must read and understand all guidance. If in doubt, please contact the relevant programme manager for further information. Incorrect selection will incur significant delay and is likely to cause deferral to a later meeting – typically a delay of four months or more.
For some schemes or calls applicants may need to submit outline proposals before making full proposals. Usually feedback will be given at the end of the outline stage. Such feedback is designed to help applicants improve the quality of their subsequent full proposal (if invited) to strengthen its competitiveness.
1.7.1 Using the joint electronic-submission system (Je-S)
Proposals for MRC grant schemes must be submitted through the (Je-S) system (to the MRC), by 16:00 (GMT/BST), on the advertised call closing date.
New Je-S users should select (Create Account - Terms and Conditions) to commence the create account process and gain access to the Je-S System.
Should applicants require assistance with any Je-S related matter, please contact the (Je-S) Helpdesk, which is the first point of contact for the Research Councils.
Phone: +44 (0) 1793 44 4164*
The Je-S Helpdesk is staffed Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5pm and Fridays 8:30am to 4:30pm (excluding bank holidays and other holidays).
*Phone calls that cannot be answered during working hours will be redirected after 30 seconds to Voice Mail. The helpdesk will normally return your call within 3 hours.
1.7.2 Applying for a funding opportunity
Applicants can only access the proposal forms via Je-S between the call opening date and the deadline date. Please refer to MRC application deadlines for a list of forthcoming funding opportunities and their respective opening and deadline dates.
A frequent cause of error when submitting an application arises from the applicant not ensuring that the call selected on the first page of Je-S (when creating the document), corresponds to the selection made further in the application under ‘Board’ to allow the proposal to be directed to the correct board/panel/committee scheme (see Je-S guidance).
A detailed list of science areas covered by each of the board or panels is available. For a research grant to a board, the applicant will need to choose the following options on Je-S:
- Standard proposal (not fellowship or studentship)
- Research grant (scheme)
- The relevant board eg MCMB Aug (call)
Each board will only have one call so it is no longer necessary to choose the type of grant as a call in its own right. To select the type of grant applied for, please select the grant under the heading ‘Grant type’ which includes the following options:
- Centre grant
- Methodology research panel
- New Investigator Research Grant
- Partnership grant
- Programme grant
- Research grant
If the incorrect grant type is chosen, MRC will return the application to the applicant for amendment. For further information in regards to the above Grant Types please refer to “How we fund research”
1.7.3 Who can submit
All applications need to be submitted through the lead RO which in turn must be Je-S registered. Further information and guidance is available on the Je-S help pages (accessible from the top right of the Je-S home page).
Technical information on accessing and navigating Je-S is available through the Je-S help pages (please use the ‘show’ link in the top left corner of the screen).
All applicants should consult the team responsible for proposal submissions at their RO to confirm how much time they will need to process the application and complete the submission process. All applications must be submitted to the MRC via the Research Council Je-S system by 4pm on the advertised closing date.
Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.