Programme grant - MRC


How to apply

Pre-application stage

The standard for programme grants is extremely competitive and it is important that applicants discuss their proposals with appropriate staff at MRC head office.

Outline applications are no longer necessary but you must contact the programme manager of the relevant MRC research board to confirm whether your application fits the scheme. This mandatory step applies to all new programme grant applications and must be completed at least six weeks before the submission deadline.

Please select the appropriate board to navigate to the correct remit and scope page:

When contacting the programme manager we ask that you send a case containing a brief description of the proposal by email. The case should be a maximum two pages, plus one page of references, and include:

  • the title of potential MRC programme
  • a list of the principal investigator and co-investigators and their affiliations
  • a list of collaborators (if known at this stage)
  • a high level indication of the likely cost to the MRC.

At this stage the case should address the following questions on suitability for a programme grant, strategic fit and case for a major investment:

  • is the proposed work a programme – a coordinated and coherent group of related projects, which may be to answer an inter­related set of questions on a broad format?
  • does the work require long term and extensive support?
  • is the proposed work in an MRC area of high strategic priority?
  • is there a case for a major investment in the context of the board portfolio and budget?
  • from the applicant’s track record of research, do they have the potential to successfully manage and deliver a major research programme?

The MRC does not expect the initial case to contain detailed research proposals; however this scheme does require that the applicant states clearly the aims of the proposal.

Applicants should also attach a CV containing key publications for the principal investigator (PI) and co-investigators (Co-Is) (maximum 2 pages, plus 1 page for key publications). In addition they should also attach a succinct summary of the PI’s funding history. Attention will be paid to the PI’s track record of research and potential to successfully manage and deliver a major research programme.

Applicants wishing to renew their programme grant should contact the programme manager of the relevant MRC research board during year four of the programme to discuss this further.

Full application stage – new applications and renewals

Applicants invited to complete a full application via the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system will be notified in advance of the relevant research board deadline. New applications should include a cover letter that confirms the name of the programme manager who agreed that an application could be submitted; for renewals the cover letter should confirm the details of the original award.

Applicants should read section 1.7 of the MRC guidance for applicants for information on how to complete the proposal form. If the programme grant will involve a collaboration with one or more industrial partners – contributing either in cash or in kind – then applicants will need to comply with MRC guidance on the Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF).

Case for support

The table below lists specific points that should be addressed when writing the case for support for programme grants but should be read in conjunction with the general guidance in section 2 of the MRC guidance for applicants.

This guidance should also be read in conjunction with the information on the assessment criteria which provides detailed information on what reviewers and research boards are looking for.

Each proposal is unique, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all the reasonable questions that the referees and MRC research boards need to address are answered in the proposal, especially if the plan or resources are unusual or complex.

The case for support for full programme grant applications should consist of no more than 12 pages, including references, and should be completed in Arial 11pt typescript with a 2cm margin on all sides.


  • the title of potential MRC programme


  • state the aims of the programme
  • justification as to why the elements of support requested cannot be met through other means
  • explain why establishing a programme is appropriate in this scientific area
  • explain how establishing a programme will facilitate the work of the applicants, in order to increase productivity and create added value
  • indicate the significance of the programme for this area of research
  • explain how a programme will improve the UK’s international standing in this area.

Scientific potential – participants in the programme and existing funding:

  • brief report on the progress of participants’ recent research, including any preliminary data relevant to the programme
  • scale of support provided – not in detail – for example, number of postdocs or technicians supported together with the total amount of consumables and equipment provided over the course of the grant will suffice.

Scientific potential – environment:

  • describe the environments in which the programme will take place
  • if the proposal is for shared equipment or expertise, describe where this will be sited and how it will be supported by the host research organisations. Also describe the management arrangements for ensuring equity of access
  • describe the host research organisations’ support for the programme.

Scientific potential – research plans:

  • give details of the general experimental approaches, study designs, and techniques that will be used. It is not necessary to describe each experiment, but give enough detail to show why the research is likely to be competitive in its field. For example: highlight plans which are particularly original or unique; describe all foreseeable human studies and animal experiments in as much detail as possible at this stage; explain in greater detail how new techniques, or particularly difficult or risky studies, will be tackled, and alternative approaches should these fail; identify facilities or resources you will need to access; give sufficient detail to justify the resources requested.

Scientific potential:

  • explain opportunities or plans for pursuing commercial exploitation.

Ethics and research governance:

  • please follow the guidance in section of the MRC guidance for applicants (case for support content).

Exploitation and dissemination:

  • please follow the guidance in section of the MRC guidance for applicants (case for support content).


  • provide a simple explanation of how the programme will be managed.

Programme grant renewals: additional requirements

Renewal applications must be accompanied with a progress report. This report should be structured using a defined set of headings and completed in a sans-serif typeface – Arial or equivalent, not Arial Narrow – and font size of 11pt. Margins must not be less than 2cm.


  • title
  • summary (not exceeding 250 words)
  • progress (no more than five pages): describe progress made against original aims and objectives since the grant was awarded or since the last report. If progress has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic please explain this; please note any unpublished data must be included in the case for support.

The progress report should be accompanied by a list of publications arising from the work – with web links to those papers if available – and a list of staff employed on the grant during its present tenure.

The office can alert referees or board and panel members to papers in press or accepted that cannot be accessed. These can be lodged with the office and provided on request. Preprints may be included in publication lists.

Please attach a PDF file of the progress report to your Je-S application as a ‘Final or interim report’ type of attachment.

Last updated: 29 July 2022

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