Funding

New Investigator Research Grant FAQs

Suitability

Q: What is the difference between a NIRG and a Career Development Award (CDA)?

A: The New Investigator Research Grant (NIRG) aims to support individuals seeking to transition to independence through their first grant as a Principal Investigator with clear host institution support. The time spent on the NIRG should be combined 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).

A Career Development Award is a personal award that aims to support individuals seeking to transition to independence through protected research time to drive forward an ambitious programme of research, training and personal career development. Please see MRC vision for fellowships for more information.

You cannot apply concurrently for a CDA and a NIRG. Given both awards support the transition to independence, you are also not eligible for either scheme if you have already held a CDA or NIRG. For more information on how MRC supports individuals transitioning to independence please see our dedicated webpage: Supporting early career researchers: the transition to independence.

Q: At what stage of my career should I apply for a NIRG?

A: The New Investigator Research Grant aims to support individuals transitioning to independence. There are no eligibility rules based on years of post-doctoral experience. To be considered suitable for the scheme, applicants should be able to provide a clear rationale of why a NIRG will best support their long term career goals and chosen career route, clearly demonstrate that their skills and experience match those of the transition to independence career stage in the Applicant skills and experience table and have clear host institution support.

Q: Can I apply for a NIRG at the same time as another research grant or fellowship?

A: Applicants may only have one NIRG or fellowship proposal under consideration by the MRC at any time.

You may submit a substantially different but related research grant application to another funder in parallel but you should take care to explain the relationship between applications, especially if they are related scientifically or through use of common or shared resources. 

If you have applied for support from other sources as a Principal Investigator, you should provide an update on any other funding applications considered since submission and confirm that you are still eligible to be considered as a NIRG at the response to reviewers stage of the application process. If you do secure funds elsewhere your proposal will be assessed as a research grant rather than a NIRG.

Q: I currently hold funding as the principal investigator. Can I apply for a NIRG?

A: Suitability will be assessed by career stage. Applicants must be able to demonstrate that their skills and experience match those of the transition to independence career stage in the Applicant skills and experience table and have clear host institution support.

Applicants who have already held an award that facilitates the transition to independence, for example an intermediate career fellowship, and / or have already established their own research group are ineligible for the scheme.

Applicants who hold, or have previously held, an MRC skills development fellowship (previously strategic skills fellowships) or other early career training fellowships are eligible to apply for a NIRG provided they fulfil the suitability criteria and have appropriate host institution support.

See also the FAQ on “substantial grant income” directly below.

Q: What do you mean by “substantial grant income”?

A: Substantial grant income is typically defined as grants or fellowships that are 3 years in duration, with >£50k direct science costs (excluding the principal investigator’s salary) per annum. If you are not sure that you fulfil the suitability criteria please contact an MRC programme manager to discuss further.

Q: Can I spend more than 50% of my working time on my NIRG?

A: To enable NIRG applicants to combine their research project with other activities, applicants can spend up to 50% of their contracted working time on a NIRG. MRC’s salary contribution will be commensurate with the time attributed to the NIRG, capped at a maximum of 50% total contracted working time.

If more than 50% of the applicant’s contracted working time is attributed to the NIRG, the case setting out why this is needed to support the transition to independence and scientific rationale will be carefully scrutinised and will need robust justification. The host institution is expected to underwrite the additional time.

Q: What is the remaining ‘non-NIRG time’ supposed to be spent on?

A: The time spent on the NIRG should be combined with a portfolio of other activities, such as (this list is not exhaustive) teaching, administration duties, other time spent in faculty, time spent on other research grants or clinical duties.

The overall portfolio of activities and the associated time commitments across the various activities must be made clear in the application. 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.

Q: When can I add Co-investigators to my NIRG application?

A: It is essential that the NIRG applicant is the sole intellectual leader of the proposed project. Multi-disciplinarity 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 own skill set. CVs must be appended for all named Co-Investigators.

The applicant’s current supervisor or lab head should NOT be a Co-Investigator but if they are providing expertise to the project, the details of what they are providing can be included in the Case for Support. In this latter instance, it may be useful to clarify the nature of any future relationship and overlapping research interests.

Other researchers may be included as named collaborators in the Case for Support, but CVs should NOT be included for them in the application.

Q: I do not have a contract with my host institution, can I still apply?

A: Yes, subject to fulfilling the suitability criteria and having appropriate support from your current host institution.

Q: Can I hold my NIRG at an institution where I am not currently based?

A: Yes, subject to fulfilling the suitability criteria and having appropriate support from your proposed host institution.

Q: I am a post-doc currently abroad and have accepted my first lectureship at a UK institution. Would I be eligible for a NIRG?

A: Yes, subject to fulfilling the suitability criteria and having appropriate support from your proposed host institution.

Q: I am currently employed as a post-doctoral research assistant on a grant. Can I apply for a NIRG?

A: Yes you may apply if you meet the NIRG suitability criteria but, if awarded, the grant may not start until your work as a PDRA ceases. As the NIRG is intended to provide support for new Principal Investigators making the transition to independence, the two cannot run alongside each other. The proposed start date for your NIRG application should be realistic, taking into account any notice period (if applicable) and the time required to process the proposal.

Q: What happens to my NIRG application if it is not considered eligible for the scheme?

A: If your application does not comply with the NIRG criteria and is therefore rejected under remit, we will discuss options with you. This may include taking your proposal forward as a research grant in the current round or for your application to be returned to you for revision and later resubmission. If the application is rejected post peer review, then the applicant cannot re-apply for at least 12 months (as below).

Q: I previously applied as a new investigator but was unsuccessful. Can I apply again?

A: Yes - you can re-apply once more if you still fulfil the suitability criteria. You should complete the ‘Related Proposals’ section of the Proposal form and chose the ‘Resubmission’ option in the ‘How Related’ section. The proposal should have taken into account any comments or feedback received from the previous submission and details of how the proposal has been improved should be included in the Cover Letter. Please note you cannot re-apply unless there are at least twelve months between deadline dates or you are specifically asked to do so by the MRC.

Funding

Q: I have an appointment which pays my salary for the period covered by the NIRG. Can I apply through the grant for my salary to cover this period?

A: The NIRG award would buy out your time for the full duration of the award. You would still need to fulfil the suitability criteria and have appropriate support from your current host institution, noting that MRC salary support is capped at 50% of your contracted working hours.

Q: I have an appointment but I am on a contract so do not have a salary for some of the tenure of the NIRG. Can I apply through the grant for my salary to cover this extra period?

A: The NIRG award would buy out your time from an existing contract and through to the end of the award. You would still need to fulfil the suitability criteria and have appropriate support from your current host institution, noting that MRC salary support is capped at 50% of your contracted working hours.

Q: My NIRG application included salary costs and I have now taken on additional responsibilities at my RO. Can I reduce the amount of time committed to the NIRG and transfer the salary costs to other fund headings?

A: You can reduce the amount of time you commit to the NIRG, but only with MRC’s agreement, and you cannot vire costs between Directly Allocated (DA) headings. For more information see managing your award.