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New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG)

What is a New Investigator Research Grant?

The New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) is aimed at researchers who are capable of becoming independent Principal Investigators and who are now ready to take the next step towards that goal. You can apply across all areas of the MRC’s remit. From January 2020, all successful New Investigator Research Grant holders are eligible to register for the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) mentoring scheme.

We want to help early career researchers applying to our NIRG scheme by explaining what we expect from a great NIRG application in this short video:

Applicants are expected to combine time spent on the NIRG with a portfolio of other activities, such as time spent on other research grants or clinical duties, teaching, administration duties, or other time spent in faculty (this list is not exhaustive). As such, applicants are normally expected to request up to, but no more than, 50% of their contracted working time on the NIRG.

A NIRG is normally of three years duration and is not renewable. Exceptionally, applications for a longer period of time may be accepted if the case supporting the transition to independence and scientific rationale is sufficiently justified. NIRGs do not normally last for less than three years as it is unlikely a shorter period of time will fully enable the transition to independence to be achieved.

The scheme does not cover research involving trials of clinical treatments. If your proposed research will lead directly to a separately funded clinical trial, you must contact an MRC programme manager to discuss your eligibility.

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Who can apply?

To be considered suitable for the scheme, applicants should be able to clearly demonstrate that their skills and experience at the time of their application match those of the transition to independence career stage, as set out in the Applicant skills and experience table. Eligible applicants also need to provide a clear rationale of why a NIRG will best support their long term career goals and chosen career route, see Supporting Key Career Stages.

Applicants who have already achieved independence, usually evidenced by substantial grant income as a Principal Investigator and / or having already established their own research group, are not eligible.

There are no eligibility rules based on years of post-doctoral experience. The minimum formal qualification required is a graduate degree. Most applicants are also expected to have a PhD or an MD. Applicants can hold a lecturer appointment, a junior fellowship, or be in another research staff position. Applicants who hold, or have held early career training fellowships, such as MRC skills development fellowships, are eligible to apply. If you are unsure whether your current funding or position makes you ineligible, please contact the subject-relevant MRC programme manager.

To enable NIRG applicants to combine their research project with other activities, applicants can spend up to 50% of their contracted working time on the NIRG. MRC salary contribution will be commensurate with the time attributed to the NIRG, and is capped at 50% of NIRG applicant’s total contracted working time. If applicants wish to attribute more than 50% of their contracted working time to the NIRG, a strong scientific rationale must be provided and the host institution is expected to underwrite the additional time.

The remaining time (and therefore salary) not attributed to the NIRG must be underwritten by the host organisation. The overall portfolio of activities and the associated time commitments across the various activities must be made clear in the application, together with how this wider portfolio will contribute to the transition to independence. The case put forward will be assessed through peer review in the context of how this will enable the applicant to establish their independence within a career structure supported by the host institution.

You may apply for funding for research that you will be carrying out at the UK institution where you are already based, or at any eligible UK research organisation (RO) to which you wish to move.  A statement of support from a senior authority within the host RO should be attached to all applications.

It is essential that the NIRG applicant is the sole intellectual leader of the proposed project. Multidisciplinarity may be an important aspect of a project, and one which facilitates career development into a new field. Co-Investigators are therefore permitted on NIRGs, but only when they bring expertise to the project which is outside the applicant’s field. The applicant’s current supervisor or lab head should not be a Co-Investigator on the proposal, but if they are providing expertise to the project the appropriate details can be included in the Case for Support. Other researchers may also be included as named collaborators in the Case for Support.

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Financial Support

Under the NIRG scheme you may request support for:

  • MRC salary contribution commensurate with the time attributed to the NIRG, capped at a maximum of 50% of the applicant’s total contracted working time. The amount of time attributed to the NIRG project (and therefore the proportion of salary requested on the grant) must be commensurate with the requirements of the project and will be assessed by peer review. The individual’s working time not supported by the NIRG must be underwritten by the RO.
  • The salary for the hours directly attributable to the project of any co-investigators
  • Support for additional research or technical posts
  • Consumables and equipment
  • Travel costs
  • Data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs.

There is no arbitrary limit to the funding that can be requested under the scheme, but requests should be appropriate to the project and sufficiently justified in terms of delivering the objectives of the research proposal in the Justification of Resources.

Please note that costs for PhD studentships cannot be requested within NIRGs.

Your proposal must show 100% of the full economic cost throughout. The MRC will fund on the basis of 80% of the full economic cost of your research to your institution. Further details on full economic costing can be found here.

Research Organisation Support

Partnership with the grant holder’s host RO is a cornerstone of this scheme, which recognises the importance of the host’s commitment to developing individuals at this early career stage. The RO statement should clearly lay out plans for appropriate mentorship, guidance and career development support of the applicant, and demonstrate commitment to the proposal, underpinned by secured long-term financial commitment by the host.

A signed statement of support (2 sides A4 max) from a senior authority within the host RO on headed paper should be attached to all applications, clearly detailing:

  • why the RO considers the applicant a suitable candidate for the NIRG scheme
  • details of how the ‘non-NIRG time’ will be supported, including financial commitment to supporting at least 50% of the applicant’s salary
  • assurances that the NIRG awardee is recognised and valued as an essential part of their research workforce and is integrated into the RO and the host department, whilst ensuring that they are able to develop their independence and focus of their research programme.
  • a named senior academic who has supported the NIRG candidate during the development of their application, and who will continue to provide the necessary assistance and support to ensure success for the research project, and their professional, career and leadership development. The letter should capture how this support will be provided including, but not limited to:
    • guidance and training on setting up a research group, building partnerships and collaborations, or with public engagement;
    • rapid access to resources at the RO through knowledge of appropriate processes and systems;
    • access to career development support and advice to enable future career transitions;
    • support for any proposed leadership activities.
  • how the RO will support the applicant following the end of the award
  • the internal process the proposal has gone through prior to submission i.e. was there an internal assessment procedure for NIRG applications at your institution.

Support must include provision of adequate laboratory space, but may also include investment in the equipment necessary to establish the applicant’s laboratory, access to communal departmental resource, etc.

Any proposals submitted without this signed statement of support will be rejected.

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. The salary requested should be in line with the level the RO would provide were the New Investigator appointed within the RO’s own pay structure.

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How to apply

  • Check which of the MRC’s research boards/panel below awards grants in your scientific area and check its application deadline dates.
  • Read our Guidance for applicants and NIRG FAQs which will guide you through preparing a proposal including eligibility, case for support, costing your proposal and any ethical and regulatory requirements that may apply to the research.
  • All New Investigator Research Grant proposals must include a declaration that the applicant has originated the research question and written the research proposal. This should be in the form of a letter to be uploaded separately as a ‘Letter of Support'.
  • A signed statement of support from a senior authority within the host RO on headed paper must be attached as a 'Letter of Support'.
  • Your completed proposal must be submitted through the Je-S system (see How to apply through the Je-S System for more details). This is done by your research organisation’s administrative department (the organisation’s Je-S submitter pool), after they have completed their section of your Je-S application form.
  • To ensure that your application reaches us in time, please give your administrative department at least two weeks’ notice of your application and the MRC research board/panel deadline date.
  • Applications may be submitted to any one of the available deadlines in the year. Applicants may only submit a second proposal if the first is not awarded; in addition you must wait at least 12 months between deadlines. Once two applications have been made no further submissions to the scheme can be accepted.

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How to apply through the Je-S System

Applications can be submitted through the Je-S System to the Methodology Research Programme or any of the four research boards:

  1. Infections & Immunity Board
  2. Molecular & Cellular Medicine Board
  3. Neurosciences & Mental Health Board
  4. Population & Systems Medicine Board

For details on how to do this please see ‘How to apply – New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) (PDF, 140KB)’.

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Research board application deadlines are usually around January, May and September; Methodology Research Programme deadlines are usually around June and November. These may vary and it is the applicants’ responsibility to identify the correct deadline for their submission. All proposals are assessed by external experts before they are considered by the relevant MRC research board/panel at their meeting.

Your proposal must be submitted through the MRC Je-S system by 4pm on the relevant research board/panel deadline date.

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The assessment procedure

Applicants will be assessed against the criteria listed for the transition to independence in the Applicant skills and experience table, taking into consideration the support provided by the host research organisation. You are strongly advised to review these criteria and discuss these with your research organisation when developing your application and in securing an appropriate statement of support from your host organisation. Your proposal will be peer reviewed by independent scientific experts in the UK and overseas. For more information please see our pages on Peer Review at the MRC.

Contacts and guidance

For further information or guidance please read our New Investigator Research Grant Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a query about scientific aspects of your proposal, contact the relevant MRC programme manager for your area:

For any other queries please contact:

Research Funding Policy and Delivery team: RFPD@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk