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UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund Agile Response call to address COVID-19

This call has now closed for new applications. Any post-deadline submissions will not be considered.

Proposals are invited for short-term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak in countries identified on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients1.

This call is funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund. These Funds address global challenges through disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and strengthen capability for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries, providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need. These Funds form part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment.

Researchers holding existing UKRI GCRF grants should in the first instance consider whether they could repurpose that funding to address the objectives of this call. You can apply to switch your existing funding here. Repurposing your existing grant is the quickest way to start the research.

  • Project length: up to 18 months
  • Eligibility: UK applicants must be eligible to receive Research Council funding.
    Additional eligibility rules apply for international applicants, please see below
  • Closing date: 16:00 BST, 31 July 2020
  • Funding: 80% of the full economic cost (fEC) for Research Council funding.
    Additional funding rules apply for international applicants, please see below
  • The primary benefit of proposals should be to any countries on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients likely to be negatively impacted by COVID-19.
  • Award range: there is no specific budget for this call. We are interested in funding research of any scale that can demonstrate it will deliver impact during the lifetime of the project.

COVID-19 is fundamentally a global crisis. The pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world. While the epicentre of the pandemic is currently focused around Europe and the US, a growing number of cases are reported in Africa, the Middle East, and Central, South America and Asia with potentially serious social, economic and political consequences for these regions. Some of the poorest societies in the world will be the least prepared and most vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Other Low and Middle Income Countries may however have experiences, for example from TB / HIV / Ebola, of responding to epidemics from which they and the rest of the world can learn. 

UKRI will support excellent proposals which meet at least one of the following:

  • New research or innovation with a clear pathway to impact on policy or practice that has the potential (within the period of the award) to deliver a significant contribution to the understanding of, response to, and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in a developing country context.
  • Supports the manufacture and/or wide scale adoption of an intervention with significant potential for impact in developing countries.
  • Gathers critical data and resources quickly for future research use.

Applications for funding that do not, as their primary objective, benefit the welfare of low or middle income countries should apply instead to the UKRI open call for funding to address the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

See our regularly updated list of research and innovation projects and other awards supported by UKRI.

1All Countries identified on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients. This includes Upper Middle Income Countries and Territories.

All applications led by organisations outside of the UK must be able to provide a UKRI grant reference for a grant led and held by the organisation or will not be elligible to apply for this call.

You will need to show that you can start work within 4 weeks of the funding being confirmed.

An individual can be Principal Investigator (PI) on only one bid at any one time. You may support others as co-investigator, as long as you have the capacity/bandwidth to do so without detriment to the project you lead.

You may be asked to become part of wider consortia or join with already existing efforts.

Applying from within the UK

Proposals will be accepted by anyone based in a UK Research Organisation (RO) eligible to receive funding from UKRI Research Councils or based in approved Research Organisations overseas (see applying from overseas, below). This does not include companies or SMEs that would be eligible to receive Innovate UK funding.

It is expected that proposals will engage equitably with research organisations, other organisations, and communities in the partner countries or LMIC countries where impact will be delivered. Proposals must have a minimum of one Co-Investigator based in a country identified on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients and where possible we would expect involvement of Co-Investigators based in the country/ countries in which the study is situated.

Institutions from countries outside of the UK working in collaboration with UK institutions do not need to have previously held a UKRI grant.

Applying from outside the UK

We strongly encourage applicants from countries identified on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients to apply to and participate in this call. LMIC country Principal Investigators from an organisation that lead or have led and held UKRI grant beginning in the past three years and have undergone Je-S registration and due diligence checks are eligible to be lead applicants for this call. The LMIC-based organisation must be able to receive and manage funds from UKRI via a grant and must ensure their application complies with local regulations and has the necessary local approvals.

Applicants are advised that information on UKRI grants, including which institutions hold and lead them, can be found on the UKRI Gateway to Research website.

Applications led from institutions in from countries identified on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients do not need to collaborate with an institution in the UK.

Support for applicants from outside the UK

This call will cover 100% fEC costs for Principal and Co-Investigators from LMICs. This applies to Investigators from countries identified on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients.

International co-investigators from countries not on the DAC list are permitted on proposals and this call will cover 100% fEC of costs for such collaborators. However, salary costs need to be clearly justified and their total cost of the proposal must not exceed 30% of fEC. International co-investigators from countries not on the DAC list are expected to make a significant contribution to their own research costs, including covering their own overheads.

From 2020/21, the UK’s partnerships with China and India under the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Newton Fund will have a renewed focus on delivering global development impact. The UK will continue to work in close partnership with these countries on cutting-edge research, with the primary objective of delivering benefit to developing countries around the world, as well as secondary benefits in the UK, China and India.

Applications that include Co-Investigators from China and India should clearly justify salary costs. Total costs of grant components from China and India are limited to 30% of the fEC of the proposal. It is expected that international co-investigators from China and India make a significant contribution to their own research costs, including covering their own overheads. Applicants from China and India are not eligible to be Principal Investigators under this call.

Health impacts

In parallel to this agile responsive call, the Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) Health Research is a new cross UK government funding call aiming to support applied health research that will address COVID-19 knowledge gaps. The focus is on understanding the pandemic and mitigating its health impacts in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) contexts. The call specification is based on the WHO COVID-19 Global Research Roadmap priorities.

As well as projects addressing direct impacts of COVID-19, projects investigating the indirect consequences of the pandemic through other health issues such as (but not limited to): mental health, domestic violence, inter-personal violence, water and sanitation, maternal and neonatal health, nutrition, chronic conditions, and the wider impact on the health system or health service delivery, will be considered.

Areas 3,4,5 and 9 from the WHO Roadmap are in scope:

  • Thematic Area 3: Epidemiological studies
  • Thematic Area 4: Clinical characterization and management
  • Thematic Area 5: Infection prevention and control including health care workers’ protection
  • Thematic Area 9: Social Sciences and Humanities in the Outbreak Response

As well as projects addressing direct impacts of COVID-19, projects investigating the indirect consequences of the pandemic through other health issues such as (but not limited to): mental health, domestic violence, inter-personal violence, water and sanitation, maternal and neonatal health, nutrition, chronic conditions, and the wider impact on the health system or health service delivery, will be considered.

All projects that are targeting benefits to LMICs in these areas of research should apply directly to the Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) Health Research.

Resubmissions

Applications previously submitted to any of the other calls to address COVID-19, or other GCRF Urgency calls cannot be resubmitted to this call. Applications previously submitted to this call will not be accepted to these other calls. The exception is where an application is redirected between these calls on ground of remit.

This restriction applies to the following calls:

Proposals submitted to this call that are unsuccessful cannot be resubmitted to this call unless invited to do so.

Research and innovation is at the heart of the global response to COVID-19. Focused upon, and closely working in partnership with LMICs, the GCRF and Newton Fund are very well placed to enable the best researchers in the UK and internationally to respond and recover from this global crisis. This agile response programme enables the GCRF and Newton Fund to build on their current portfolios addressing the Sustainable Development Goals in order to help mitigate negative impacts in developing countries of the COVID-19 outbreak. Proposals supported through this programme will contribute to the strategic aims of the 6 portfolio areas:

  • Resilience
  • Security Protracted Conflict, Refugee Crises and Forced Displacement
  • Cities and Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Food Systems
  • Education
  • Global Health

Further information can be found on the GCRF website and Newton Fund website.

This GCRF/Newton Fund call focuses upon mitigating both short and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on health, wellbeing, community cohesion, and economic prosperity. In the health sphere, mental health, health economics, and malnutrition are all impacted by the virus and require interdisciplinary research. As well as a health emergency, COVID-19 highlights the importance of understanding underlying determinants of risk in LMICs, including the quality of public messaging and community engagement, the vulnerabilities of those living in refugee and IDP (internally displaced person) camps and informal settlements, higher incidences of domestic violence resulting from social isolation, remittances from overseas, impacts upon global food systems and supply chains and severely restricted access to education.

You will need to show why it is not possible to resource the work by repurposing existing funds you may have available.

Proposals should:

  • Describe the unmet need developing countries are facing with COVID-19, and how the primary benefit of your research will be realised in these countries.
  • Focus on working in close partnership with LMICs to enable the best researchers and innovators in the UK and developing countries to jointly contribute to recovery from this global crisis.
  • Clearly demonstrate how the proposed research meets the criteria for ODA compliance and Gender Equality.
  • Explain the level of urgency, and why the activity is important now.
  • Demonstrate that the proposal has the necessary critical mass to make a difference, including the global partnerships that will be necessary to realise impact in LMIC countries.
  • Demonstrate their commitment to minimizing the burden their project will place on others. Given the urgency and the demands the development of the proposal and carrying out of the project will place on others, applicants should be mindful of the burden they place on individuals and organisations, both in the UK and overseas. This includes consideration of how to conduct fieldwork and other activities.
  • Demonstrate a clear route to impact within the timescale of the project. Where relevant, this should include demonstration of links to relevant decision makers both in the UK and overseas.
  • Give an estimate of the resources required (within 10%).
  • Name the team that will run this and describe their ability and capacity to deliver including details of how research would be conducted under current restrictions (travel, social distancing) and highlight any requirements for personal protective equipment.
  • Provide evidence that the host institutions support the proposal and that the research can be carried out under present institutional restriction.

Getting approval from your host institution

You need approval to confirm that the work is achievable under whatever constraints are currently in place in your department/university. An appropriate Letter of Support confirming this approval must be provided by all institutions involved in the project.

In addition:

  • UK institutions must confirm that they are content for you to focus on this work under 80% fEC funding.
  • Eligible institutions from counties on the OECD DAC list must confirm that they have previously been awarded UKRI funding and have the processes in place to be able to receive and manage funds from UKRI via a grant; all organisations must also ensure their application complies with local regulations and has the necessary local approvals.

The approval can be from whoever has authority to give such assurance whether that is your department head, university research office or pro-VCs office.

Please note that we would like to see evidence that work could begin within four weeks of confirmation of funding.

Data and software sharing and open access requirements

Data produced as a result of this funding will need to be shared in line with the Joint statement on sharing research data and findings relevant to the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak, to which UKRI is a signatory.

Software, such as analysis scripts, spreadsheets, or modelling codes, created as part of the work under this funding should be similarly shared.

Examples of suitable data depositories include:

Software, analysis scripts and modelling codes should be made available through a version control service such as Github or Gitlab.

Proposals that are out of scope

These include:

  • A proposal where the primary focus is not a DAC list country. The primary focus must be on a country or countries on the DAC list that is not flagged as likely to graduate. Any proposals that do not have a primary focus on a developing country or countries will not be eligible.
  • Funding to directly mitigate the effects of the pandemic on specific institutions and businesses.
  • A proposal that is more appropriate to other existing funding calls and /or other research funders. These include:
  • Longer term research proposals that address the COVID-19 emergency or future pandemics that don't meet the urgency guidelines. These proposals should be submitted through normal responsive mode.
  • Any proposals that were rejected after assessment, or currently have an application submitted to any of the other calls in place to address COVID-19 UKRI Open call for research and innovation ideas to address COVID-19, or the UKRI/DHSC COVID-19 Rapid Response Rolling Call, or the Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) Health Research call, except in circumstances where the proposal is rejected on grounds of being a better fit to this call.

GCRF and the Newton Fund form part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment, which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). ODA-funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee DAC list. Funding within this call will therefore be awarded in a manner that fits with Official ODA guidelines.

To comply with ODA requirements, applications must make clear how their primary purpose is to promote the economic development and welfare of a developing country or countries. There are no priority countries, proposals may relate to any country or countries on the DAC list except those which are flagged as likely to graduate from the list during the course of the proposed project. If a country is flagged as likely to graduate it cannot be the primary focus of a proposal, although it can be included as an additional case study or comparison.

From 2020/21, the UK’s partnerships with China and India under the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Newton Fund will have a renewed focus on delivering global development impact. The UK will continue to work in close partnership with these countries on cutting-edge research, with the primary objective of delivering benefit to developing countries around the world, as well as secondary benefits in the UK, China and India.

Please note, successful applicants will be required to submit a full one page ODA compliance statement as a pre-requisite to funding. UKRI reserve the right to reject the application if the ODA compliance statement is deemed insufficient.

Further guidance for applicants on the ODA compliance statements is available here (PDF, 327KB).

Equitable Partnerships

Equitable Partnerships are a key pillar of the GCRF and Newton Fund. UKRI developed the following statement of expectation for research partnerships in consultation with researchers from East Africa: Partnerships should be transparent and based on mutual respect. Partnerships should aim to have clearly articulated equitable distribution of resources, responsibilities, efforts and benefits. Partnerships should recognise different inputs, different interests and different desired outcomes and should ensure the ethical sharing and use of data which is responsive to the identified needs of society. Further guidance on how to develop and maintain equitable research partnerships can be found below.

To comply with the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, applications must briefly outline how they have taken meaningful yet proportionate consideration as to how the project will contribute to reducing gender inequalities in the Gender Equality section of the application form.

Please note successful applicants will be required to submit a full 1 page gender equality statement as a pre-requisite to funding. UKRI reserve the right to reject the application if no consideration has been given to gender equality or if the proposal is assessed to result in a negative impact for gender equality.

Further guidance for applicants on the gender equality statements is available.

All applicants note that the application form is changing. From Monday 29th June applications will only be accepted on the new form.

To apply you need to:

  1. Fill in the proposal application form
    All proposals must utilise the provided form and be accompanied by:
    • The regulatory requirements annex that forms part of the application form.
    • An optional document of supporting figures, GANTT chart and/or data tables (no more than 1xA4 page).
    • A Letter of Support from each institution participating in the project confirming approval for the work to commence.

    Applications must be collated into a single pdf in the following order - Form plus Annex, Document of supporting figures, GANTT chart and/or data tables, Host Organisation Letters of Support.
  2. Email your single PDF to GCRFCV19@ukri.org

Please ensure you set out clearly answers to all questions asked on the form, as incomplete proposals will be rejected.

Receipt will be acknowledged within two working days. In most circumstances, PIs will have received a decision on funding within 20 working days.

Proposals should be sent through this route for any research or innovation relevant to the above regardless of funding Council or whether relevant to multiple Councils.

Information relating to proposals may be shared, on a confidential basis, across UKRI councils, and with other organisations to support the national and international coordination of research to combat COVID-19 and to seek funding contributions from third parties.

Given the rapid developments in this and other funding calls addressing CV19, we are constantly reviewing our processes to ensure we are reducing bureaucracy and keeping things as simple as possible. In light of this we have simplified the application form, removing the need for detailed financial information at the first stage.

How we will assess your application

All requests for repurposing and new grants will be considered by a UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund Agile Response Panel. This panel will made up of experts from the UK and OECD DAC list recipient countries.

Proposals will be assessed based on the criteria that can be found here. (PDF, 436KB)

If successful before a grant is confirmed, you will be asked to provide additional information including:

  • Full costing and a 2-page justification of resources
  • A 1-page ODA compliance statement
  • A 1-page Gender Equality statement
    • Answers to any specific questions raised by the panel (if applicable)

    Contact

    GCRFCV19@ukri.org

    Additional information

    The AHRC GCRF Urgency Grants Pilot scheme will no longer be accepting applications addressing the impact of COVID-19. Instead, applicants should apply to this call. The AHRC GCRF Urgency Grants Pilot scheme remains open to EOIs addressing other urgent research opportunities which are not primarily or directly responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Should you wish to apply to the UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund Agile Response to address COVID-19 call, you should not submit an application for the same project to the AHRC GCRF Urgency Grant Pilot scheme. Any applications to both schemes must be substantially different, and applications will be cross-referenced across both schemes to ensure there is no duplication or potential for dual funding. UKRI and AHRC reserve the right to reject applications to both schemes if they are considered duplicate applications.