1-1.6 Check if you’re eligible for funding - MRC


1.3 Applicants

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 research organisation (RO) for the duration of the grant prior to application – except New Investigator Research Grants (NIRGs) and fellowships.

Applicants must ensure that they have obtained the permission of any other person named on the proposal form – for example any CoIs or project partners – for the provision of their personal information to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the processing of their data by UKRI for the purpose of assessing the application and management of any funding awarded.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

MRC is committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants and aims to create an inclusive environment that encourages excellence in research through good equalities practice.

Diversity is one of the core MRC values, and we are working to ensure that the ways in which we fund embrace a diversity of thought, people, geographical locations and ideas. Read about our current initiatives.

We strongly encourage applications from under-represented groups including female and ethnic minority researchers, and researchers with disabilities or long-term conditions.

We support researchers and their research teams to work flexibly and in a way that meets their personal circumstances. Read MRC guidance on career breaks and flexible working.

Any issues that may arise throughout the funding process regarding equality and diversity should be directed to equalitymrc@ukri.org.

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.

PIs are normally expected to be based in the UK, unless their research means they spend long periods overseas, or they are from eligible international research organisations, for example, CERN, MRC international units. The PI must have a verified Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system 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.

1.3.2 Co-investigators

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 at an eligible RO. All CoIs must have a verified Je-S account.

Researchers from international ROs may be a CoI if they provide expertise not available in the UK. An international CoI is an individual employed by an international RO who otherwise fits the normal definition of a CoI. The CoI is expected to make a major intellectual contribution to the design and conduct of the project. The international RO must be equivalent to a UKRI recognised UK RO, such as a university, government funded research institute or not-for-profit RO.

Inclusion of an international 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 international 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 CoIs) for the duration of the proposed award.

Find out more about who can be a RCoI.

RCoIs may be included on any research grant application to MRC unless stated otherwise in the call guidance. Research staff this could apply to include post-doctoral research assistants, clinical fellows and technology specialists or equivalent roles.

Please note that RCoIs are not permitted on New Investigator Research Grants.

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 CoIs
  • given intellectual ownership (for example, through corresponding authorship) and grant management duties in relation to the ensuing research.

Please include a signed statement of support (two sides A4 maximum) from the PI or a senior authority, detailing how the RCoI’s will be supported on headed paper clearly detailing:

  • the contribution by the RCoI to the proposal
  • the RCoI’s identified next stage in and long term aspirations for their career
  • a mentor who is not the PI or a CoI should be appointed to provide the RCoI with independent career guidance
  • how the PI and RO will provide the RCoI with assistance and support in ensuring success for the research project, and their professional and career development. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • guidance and training on managing research funds, building partnerships and collaborations, or with public engagement
    • access to career development support and advice to enable future career transitions.

It may disadvantage your proposal if the board/panel cannot see that adequate support for the RCoI is in place, we will not return your application for the statement of support, it is your responsibility to ensure these are attached to your proposal.

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 is a third-party organisation, or third-party person not employed on a grant, who provides specific contributions either in cash or in kind to a project. Project partners provide contributions to the delivery of a project and therefore should not normally seek to claim funds from that project. However, if there are specific circumstances where project partners do require funding for minor costs such as travel and subsistence, this will be paid at 80% of full economic cost (fEC) (unless exceptionally agreed otherwise in advance).

Any project partner costs should be outlined and fully justified in the proposal and will be subject to peer review. Any applicable subsidy control regulation and HM Revenue and Customs guidance will also be taken into account, which may affect the percentage of these costs that we will fund.

Organisations or individuals that are applicants on a project or UKRI head office staff acting in their capacity as a UKRI employee are not eligible to be project partners.

The contribution 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 expertise and responsibilities should be set out for the benefit of assessors.

Please note project partners do not need to be based at an eligible RO or have a verified Je-S account.

Each project partner must provide a letter of support (see section 2.2.6).

If the project partner is from industry, applicants must follow the guidance relating to the Industry Collaboration Framework.

Last updated: 15 August 2022

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