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The Applied Global Health Research Board supports research that will be of direct and primary benefit to the health of vulnerable populations living in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Applied research is defined as research seeking practical solutions to health challenges from late stage intervention development onwards. This includes implementation research, scale-up activities, health services research, health economics, health policy research, and research with a predominantly applied focus that does not fit within the remit of other MRC Boards and Panels.
The Board also welcomes cross-sector research combining expertise to meet a global health challenge (e.g., urban planning, health policy, and non-communicable disease research within a single proposal). The research question might necessitate the involvement of different disciplines and approaches from outside of the health sector, but the primary objective must be health focused.
The resources requested should be commensurate with the objectives of the proposal. Both large- and small-scale applications will be accepted with no set limits on award value. Value for money will be taken into account by the Board when assessing proposals.
Examples of areas in which applied research may be conducted include, but are not limited to, the following health topics and focus areas:
- Maternal and neonatal health;
- Child health and early childhood development;
- Adolescent health;
- Healthy ageing;
- Sexual and reproductive health;
- Infectious diseases, including neglected tropical diseases;
- Non-communicable diseases, including mental health;
- Nutrition and food security;
- Intentional and unintentional injury;
- Urban health, including indoor/outdoor air pollution, road traffic accidents, and healthy housing;
- Planetary health;
- Informal settlements, conflict zones, and displaced populations;
- Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention;
- Detection and diagnostics;
- Treatment, including surgery;
- Pain management and palliative care.
Three grant schemes are available through the Board:
Please refer to the guidance available via the grant scheme links. It is crucial that you also consult the Applied Global Health Research Board guidance document that indicates where requirements differ from standard MRC awards, as well as detailing assessment criteria.
The Board is committed to strengthening research capacity within LMICs and the UK. All applicants are required to complete a capacity building annex as part of their full submission (not at the outline submission stage). Applicants will be asked to describe the capacity assets, gaps, and needs within the research project and describe plans to address them. The proposed approach to capacity building within a proposal will be assessed as part of the review process. Examples of capacity building include, but are not limited to:
- Co-design of research and its implementation;
- Building leadership skills amongst early career researchers;
- Opportunities for mutual learning across the project team, for example, in the subject of the research, the context where it is being conducted, engagement with policy-makers and managers, research management;
- Working collaboratively, across countries, disciplines and across practice-research boundaries (for example policy-makers, managers, practitioners in the system);
- Providing mentoring to improve the capacity of less experienced researchers to generate new knowledge and attain policy impact;
- Opportunities for staff and associated health managers to author/co-author journal and conference papers and participate in national and international conferences;
- Building organisational capacity, where relevant (for example in management, finance, communications);
- Formation of LMIC research networks.
Although New Investigator Research Grants (NIRGs) are not available through the Applied Global Health Research Board, the Board is committed to supporting early career researchers in applied global health. The applicants career stage and proposed mentorship arrangements will be considered by the Board during funding discussions.
The following areas are outside of the Board’s funding remit:
- Discovery research, and research that includes an applied component that fits within a current Board or Panel remit, including early translation;
- Health systems research within the remit of the DFID/ESRC/MRC/Wellcome Health Systems Research Initiative;
- Large-scale clinical trials (i.e., within MRC DPFS remit if Phase I/II, or MRC-DFID-Wellcome-NIHR Joint Global Health Trials remit if Phase III/IV);
- Global public health intervention development up to £150,000 and led by a UK PI (within Public Health Intervention Development scheme remit). Proposals costing more than £150,000 or led by an LMIC PI are eligible to apply to the Board;
- Vaccine development research (i.e., within IIB and DPFS remits).
Applications are particularly encouraged from LMIC PIs, as well as PIs based in the UK working in equitable partnerships with LMIC investigators.
LMIC PIs must be based at a higher education institution, non-profit research institution, or non-governmental organisation with sufficient research capacity to manage and deliver research. LMIC co-Investigators can be based at the aforementioned organisations or at an implementing partner, including government ministries. Applicants should check with their Research Office whether previous applications have been awarded by MRC or UKRI. If they have not, applicants should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to determine eligibility prior to submitting their application.
Researchers from high income countries (HIC) outside of the UK may be CoIs if they provide expertise not available in the UK or an LMIC. Inclusion of HIC costs must be discussed and agreed with the relevant MRC Programme Manager in advance of application (via email@example.com).
Funding for the Board forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. Applications must demonstrate the research to be primarily relevant and directly linked to near-term benefits to the health and economic development of the poorest and most vulnerable populations within LMICs, as defined by the OECD Development Assistance Countries (DAC) list. Applications should articulate a clear and specific case for the relevance of the proposed research to these LMIC populations and identify and provide evidence that the proposed plan of research is informed by the needs of the LMIC.
Proposals are assessed in a two-stage process. The first step involves review of an outline proposal. Successful outline applicants are invited to submit a full application, which undergoes external peer review before a further, more detailed, review by the Board. The total assessment time for an application submitted to MRC, from outline deadline to full decision, is approximately nine months.
All applicants will receive feedback from the assessment process. Guidance for preparation of full proposals will be provided to successful applicants with the outline Board feedback.
There are two types of Board opportunity:
- Ring-fenced opportunities deliver a defined financial commitment to a specific area of focus.
- Prioritised opportunities are areas of strategic interest that are used to inform funding discussions at the Board meeting.
Board opportunities represent areas of specific strategic focus that help to inform discussions at funding meetings, but note that applicants are welcome to submit research proposals focusing on any applied global health topic. Further information on the scope and remit of each of the Board opportunities is provided via the links below. This information must be consulted prior to applying.
In 2019, MRC and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) launched a call for proposals in Global Maternal and Neonatal Health based on extensive consultation with stakeholders in the UK and LMICs. This consultation was formalised in the MRC-NIHR Overview of Global Maternal and Neonatal Health Research Priorities, which continues to inform MRC activity in this area. From now on, applications addressing maternal and neonatal health should be submitted to the Board and will not be supported by separate funding calls.
The Board supports research in Early Childhood Development (ECD), a recent area of focus that bridges the gap between neonatal health and adolescent health, during a critical period where health and education intersect. Proposals funded in this area will be co-funded by the UK Department for International Development as part of a coordinated effort to increase and scale up the evidence-base for ECD interventions
Adolescent Health has been a recent focus of investment for MRC and DFID (via the MRC-DFID concordat) and NIHR, in partnership with ESRC with four strategic funding calls for applied research that addresses the health needs of adolescent populations in LMICs. The focus of these calls was developed in line with the 2014 and 2017 adolescent health guidance produced by the World Health Organisation and other agencies as well as expert consultation. From now on, applications addressing adolescent health should be submitted to the Board and will not be supported by separate funding calls.
Maximising impact from research remains a priority for the MRC. To ensure that this priority is met, the Board aims to fund research to address the implementation gap and progress interventions towards real world impact. This complements existing applied global health schemes addressing late phase trials and health systems research, by providing a regular funding opportunity for research utilising robust implementation science approaches. The research is expected to ensure that evidence-based health interventions are implemented in an accessible and equitable way for the poorest and most vulnerable populations living in LMICs.
If you have a query about scientific aspects of your research proposal, or are unsure which Board to apply to, please contact the MRC International inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the first instance. Your query will be routed to the relevant Programme Manager, who broadly cover the following areas:
Programme Manager for Global Health Challenges
Dr Philip Woodgate (Philip.Woodgate@mrc.ukri.org)
Including: Maternal and neonatal health, early child development, ageing, multimorbidity, non-communicable disease, mental health, neurodegeneration.
Programme Manager for Global Health Strategy
Dr Caroline Harris (Caroline.Harris@mrc.ukri.org)
Including: Global health trials, implementation science, health systems research, infectious disease, adolescent health, capacity building.
UKRI Challenge Manager for Global Health
Dr David Pan (David.Pan@mrc.ukri.org)
Including: Urban Health, planetary health, inter-sectoral global health research.
Head of Global Health Strategy