Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: African Research Leaders

We are reviewing this scheme and there are no future opportunity dates currently available. To check the remit of your project against other opportunities contact

Apply for funding to support exceptional early to mid-career African researchers to conduct excellent global health research across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Researchers should be supported by an enthusiastic local research environment and by a UK-based partner as part of a partnership between the African and UK institutions.

We aim to attract and retain exceptionally talented ‘rising star’ individuals who will lead high quality research on key global health issues pertinent to SSA.

Awards will provide support for up to five years and the requested amount should not exceed £750,000 in total.

Who can apply

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

You can apply for this funding opportunity if you are a researcher based at an eligible African research organisation with sufficient research capacity to manage and deliver research. This includes:

  • universities or higher education institutions based in SSA with degree-awarding powers recognised by the government in which the organisation is based. This includes Medical Research Council (MRC) units at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Uganda and the Gambia
  • research focused institutes based in SSA either funded by the government of the country in which the organisation is based or by a not-for-profit organisation
  • research focused not-for-profit organisations based in SSA with dedicated research capacity

If an applicant is returning to work in SSA, they are expected to make their own arrangements for relocating and obtaining a tenured academic position at an eligible African research institution if one is not already held (and should be in post by the start of any award).

The successful applicant would be expected to continue their appointment at the African research institution beyond the term of this award.

The African candidate will:

  • have, at a minimum, a PhD and three years’ post-doctoral research experience, or an MD plus an MSc with three years research experience
  • have some evidence of independent funding as a project lead or co-lead
  • be building a track record of independence in their selected field and demonstrating promise as a future research leader (at a minimum to be demonstrated by at least four publications as first or last author)

Applications from women are encouraged. Applicants wishing to combine their research with domestic responsibilities may seek the award on a part-time basis. The terms and conditions of the award make allowances for maternity or paternity leave. Allowance will also be made to those researchers whose career has been affected, either by a late start or by interruption, for personal or family reasons.

For more details on institutional and individual eligibility, please see the MRC eligibility requirements.

The African research leadership application should be submitted in partnership with a UK co-lead (partner) with complementary scientific expertise, offering relevant opportunities, such as:

  • skill strengthening
  • discipline widening
  • technology sharing
  • mentoring

The UK partner institution may be any eligible UK research organisation, including MRC institutes and units based in the UK.

Other named applicants are permitted where they bring expertise from another discipline required to fully address the health challenge identified.

Who is not eligible to apply

African researchers who already have a well-established record of securing significant international research grant funding or have reached a level of seniority (for example, professor or head of department) should not apply to this funding opportunity.
These individuals may apply at any time as a co-lead together with a UK-based project lead to any of our responsive mode funding opportunities, and as project lead to the MRC Applied Global Health Research Board, depending on the focus of your research.

Limit on the number of applications

You may only make one application to this funding opportunity at any one time. There is no restriction on the number of applications submitted by each institution. However, MRC and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) aim to foster research leadership in a breadth of academic environments. It is therefore unlikely that several awards will be made to any one institution in a single round.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for


Lack of grant funding and research infrastructure in many SSA countries can make it difficult to attract and retain talented African scientists. As a result, African nationals are currently under-represented as leaders in medical research in the region.

This funding opportunity seeks to support talented early-to-mid career African researchers who are either already based in a SSA country, or currently working overseas who wish to return to a SSA country.


Your application will be required to meet the four key elements of the funding opportunity, namely a:

  • talented ‘rising star’ African research leader candidate
  • high quality research proposal
  • research conducive academic African environment or institution
  • firm partnership with a UK partner institution

Each should be described in the Vision and Approach sections as indicated in the ‘How to apply’ section. Further details on each of these elements are provided below. Please read each section carefully.

‘Rising star’ candidate

We’re looking for ‘rising star’ African research leaders. You will be a high-calibre, early-to-mid career researchers, who show a clear ability to cultivate a dynamic and innovative research group, likely to attract increasing international recognition and external funding by the end of the award.

You will hold (or make arrangements for obtaining) a tenured academic position at an eligible African research institution.

As a ‘rising star’, you will:

  • be developing a research team and undertaking original research
  • be building a track record of independence in your selected field and demonstrating promise as a future research leader
  • be well-qualified for academic research having spent at least the last three years in active research. This may be evidenced:
    • through a growing track record of staff and student supervision
    • through an expanding portfolio of lead author publications
    • by securing local or national funding
    • by attracting recognition through prizes and awards.

In addition to supporting scientific collaboration with the partner UK institution, the funding opportunity offers you an opportunity to spend time (up to three months) for further career development activities, training or skills development in either country.

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • research management
  • mentoring
  • publication writing
  • industry internship.

Proposed research programme

We’re looking for talented and enthusiastic investigators working in all biomedical and health research areas. Priority will be given to applications that address key health problems relevant to national and regional health needs, hence best conducted in SSA countries.

We welcome high quality applications across a broad range of research activities within Medical Research Council (MRC) and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)’s global health remits. Please refer to MRC’s and FCDO’s strategic priority pages.

Examples of areas in which research of relevance to SSA may be conducted include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • research focused on the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, cancer, respiratory disease and mental health
  • prevention and control of infectious diseases (major diseases such as malaria, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis), neglected tropical diseases (including snakebite), zoonotic and emerging diseases, co-infections and issues associated with emerging resistance to current drugs
  • multimorbidity (the co-existence of two or more chronic conditions, including long-term infectious and non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions)
  • basic, discovery health research approaches, experimental medicine providing mechanistic insight to human diseases, epidemiological (social, genetic and immunological) research, and prevention research
  • applied research approaches, including public health, health systems, health policy and implementation research
  • maternal and newborn health research
  • sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • climate and human health
  • research targeting vulnerable or disadvantaged groups including refugees, people living in informal settlements, those living with disability, neonates, children, adolescents or older people

Please note, COVID-19 related applications will be assessed according to the scheme specific assessment criteria in a competitive manner with wider non-COVID-19 research applications.

This funding opportunity will not support clinical or health related trials including ‘phase one’ safety, proof of principle, efficacy or effectiveness trials of any new medicinal product, device, vaccine or other clinical intervention.

However, it will support observational programmes of epidemiological, laboratory, field and clinical research and early stage developmental or formative research that may be associated with or lead to future health intervention evaluation. If this is the case, the outcomes of the research and how these will be anticipated to inform future work should be made clear.

The majority of the proposed research is expected to take place in the African environment. The African research leader should be supported by a robust research environment in their own local institution and by a strong linkage with a UK partner. The resources requested should be specific, justified and relevant to the research proposed.

This funding opportunity is not primarily intended to support PhD students in obtaining their degree. PhD fees, allowances and stipends will not be supported. However, if the candidate does propose to involve PhD students to deliver elements of the work within their research programme, it will be necessary to explain how the supervision and input of those students will be managed to ensure their training is protected.

The African research institution

The funding opportunity is offered to candidates employed by eligible institutions based in SSA countries with sufficient research capacity to manage and deliver research.

The host African institution must offer a clear research and career development environment with appropriate laboratory, field or clinical facilities to enable the research activities proposed as well as supportive administrative functions. The candidate should be able to draw on mentoring from senior individuals, and their career development should be nurtured. Where appropriate, fostering of scientific links across SSA institutions is encouraged.

The African institution will be expected to provide a strong commitment to the continuity of appointment of the researcher beyond the term of the award, such as a tenured position or equivalent. There is also an expectation that over time, the African institution would increase its level of financial support of the individual (if not 100% from the outset).

The African institution may build into the application a funding contribution for institutional development to support a set of institutional strategic objectives, the outputs of which should be verifiable and be able to be monitored. This could include capacity strengthening such as improved finance, data or research management, and professional training.

Tools and good practice documents on capacity strengthening in low and middle-income countries are available on the Tropical Diseases, Special Programme for Research and Training (ESSENCE) website.

Partnership between the African and UK institutions

This funding opportunity aims to encourage a research supportive environment for the developing African research leader, both in the host African institution and importantly involving strong support from, and access to, expertise in UK academia.

The African research leadership application should, therefore, be submitted in partnership with a UK co-lead (partner) with complimentary scientific expertise offering relevant opportunities, such as:

  • skill strengthening
  • discipline widening
  • technology sharing
  • mentoring.

The individual scientific partnership between the candidate and the UK mentor must be underpinned either by an established track record of partnership at the institutional level or a clear plan for developing and sustaining long-term cross-institutional collaboration.

Previous partnering need not be in exactly the same area of research proposed in the application, however, the relevant strengths that each institution brings to the research proposed should be indicated.


This award is intended to provide long term support and will normally run for four to five years with a maximum tenure of five years. Candidates wishing to combine their research with domestic responsibilities may seek the award on a part-time basis over a maximum of five years. The terms and conditions of award include provision for maternity or paternity leave.

Funding available

MRC contribution should not exceed £750,000 in total.

The majority of the funding will be for work taking place in the African research institution and so would be eligible for full economic costing (FEC) at 100% and must be entered as exceptions. Any costs specifically for the UK research institution will be provided on the basis of 80% FEC as usual. Please refer to the MRC guidance for applicants.

The total award package is anticipated to include the following elements:

  1. The African research leader (ARL), who is the project lead, will be expected to commit a significant proportion of their time (50 to 100%), over the entire duration of this award, to delivering the research programme. The African research institution will be the employer of the ARL. A contribution to the personal salary for the ARL may be requested. This may be up to 100% in the first years where a persuasive case is made. The expectation is that over time, the African research institution will demonstrate their commitment to the ARL by taking increasing responsibility for providing the salary. In the final year of award, this should be at least 50% of the personal salary.
  2. Resources to undertake the proposed research programme, which could include research support staff, research consumables and equipment, travel costs (between partner institutions), and other necessary costs. MRC will support indirect and estates costs for organisations based in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Each LMIC research organisation can request indirect costs up to the value of 20% of their direct costs. Fees and stipends for PhD students contributing to the research will not be provided.
  3. The award has provision for a personal development element for the ARL candidate to support leadership development, strategic planning, research management and continuing professional development or other similar activities. As part of this, support may be requested for the opportunity to spend time (up to three months in total) in an organisation other than the host African research institution. This may be at the UK partner institution, or any other UK or African organisation including a biomedical or pharmaceutical company where skills and knowledge may be strengthened. This element is to provide a concentrated period of training or career development that cannot be achieved effectively within the African research institution. This would be in addition to collaborative scientific visits to the UK. Justification for the placement should be robust. Candidates should be prepared at interview to discuss in detail any career development visit proposed.
  4. An institutional development element is available for the African research institution to support a set of institutional objectives, the outputs of which should be verifiable and be able to be monitored. Support can be requested for help to strengthen institutional capacity to host and sustain competitive research groups. This could include, for example, improved finance management, data or research management and other professional training. Tools and good practice documents on capacity strengthening in low and middle-income countries are available on the ESSENCE website.
  5. A salary contribution for the UK partner may be requested although we would expect this to be kept to a minimum. Other named SSA-based investigators are permitted on the application where they bring expertise from another discipline required to fully address the health challenge identified.

What we will fund

You can request funding for:

  • 100% salary costs for project leads and project co-leads (international), based within an LMIC
  • support for other posts such as research and technical
  • research consumables
  • equipment
  • travel costs
  • data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs
  • estates and indirect costs

What we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • masters and PhD studentships
  • UK publication costs (publication costs where all the authors are from LMICs can be included)

Team project partner

You may include team project partners that will support your research project through cash or in-kind contributions, such as:

  • staff time
  • access to equipment
  • sites or facilities
  • the provision of data
  • software or materials

Each project partner must provide a statement of support. If your application involves industry partners, they must provide a company letter of support if the team project partner falls within the industry collaboration framework.

Find out more about subcontractors and dual roles.

Who cannot be included as a team project partner

The individual named as the contact for the project partner organisation cannot also be a named applicant, such as those with a role of project lead or project co-lead and any other named member of staff.

Please note that the UK partner should not be listed as a project partner. Please list as a project co-lead instead.

International collaboration

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is committed in ensuring that effective international collaboration in research and innovation takes place with integrity and within strong ethical frameworks. Trusted Research and Innovation (TR&I) is a UKRI work programme designed to help protect all those working in our thriving and collaborative international sector by enabling partnerships to be as open as possible, and as secure as necessary. Our TR&I Principles set out UKRI’s expectations of organisations funded by UKRI in relation to due diligence for international collaboration.

As such applicants for UKRI funding may be asked to demonstrate how their proposed projects will comply with our approach and expectation towards TR&I, identifying potential risks and the relevant controls you will put in place to help proportionately reduce these risks.

Further guidance and information about TR&I, including additional where applicants can find additional support, can be found on UKRI’s website.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service so please ensure that your organisation is registered. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

You can register your organisation by contacting and provide your organisation name, country and city.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect the UK partner, other team members and any project partners to contribute to the application.

Check if the lead African research organisation is available in the Funding Service. You are encouraged to check this early as there may be additional steps for the organisation to be set up before you can apply.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

To apply

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email Please allow at least 10 working days for your organisation to be added to the Funding Service.
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. You should:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • ensure files are smaller than 5MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:


We must receive your application by 24 April 2024 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the submission of your application to the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected.

Personal data

Processing personal data

MRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your Funding Service account and the registration of your funding applications.
We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Medical Research Council (MRC), as part of UKRI, will need to share the application and any personal information that it contains with the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) so that they can participate in the assessment process. Find out more about how FCDO uses personal information.

Publication of outcomes

MRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at African research leaders – funding decisions.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.


Word limit: 550

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • goals to be addressed, identifying a concise and clearly articulated ultimate aim of the research
  • context
  • the African challenge the project addresses
  • potential applications and benefits

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • project co-lead (international) (PcL (I))
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

Only list one individual as project lead, this should be the African Research Leader candidate. All projects should also list a UK partner as the project co-lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s core team roles in funding applications.

Application questions


Word limit:10

Provide up to five keywords that describe your application.

What assessors are looking for in your response

Provide up to a maximum of five keywords, for example: maternal health, malaria, implementation science, sub-Saharan Africa.

This is for administrative purposes to help with the initial application processing and will not affect the overall assessment of your application.


Word limit: 500

What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, or generate new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context, and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy, or the environment
  • is driven by the needs of populations in the SSA country where the research is taking place
  • is generalisable beyond the research setting

Within the Vision section we also expect you to:

  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be
  • identify potential improvements in human or population health, whether through contributing to relieving disease or disability burden, improving quality of life or providing benefit to the health service or health-related industry
  • identify the evidence-gap that the research will fill
  • describe the changes that might be implemented as a result of the project, and by whom

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.


Word limit: 5,000

How are you going to deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you have designed your approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed (if applicable)
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • uses a clear and transparent methodology, ensure you:
    • provide details of the methodological approaches, study design and techniques that will be used. Enough detail must be given to show why the research is likely to be competitive in its field. Particular care should be taken to explain any innovation in the methodology or where you intend to develop new methods
    • briefly describe any pilot or preliminary data you have available to help the reviewers assess the feasibility of the proposed study
    • if applicable, clearly explain the intervention you will be testing, what it consists of and why
    • if applicable, demonstrate that you have carried out a datasets review, and explicitly state why currently available datasets are either appropriate or inadequate for the proposed research
  • explain the proposed timeline including milestones and a diagrammatic workplan, such as a Gantt chart, which can be embedded within the text box

You have the option to use 500 words to provide additional information about reproducibility and how you will ensure reliability and robustness of your work, such as further details of statistical analyses, methodology and experimental design. If this information is not applicable, then you should not use this space to expand on other areas of your approach and your response to this section should be around 4,500 words.

The reproducibility information should be clearly identified using the heading ‘Reproducibility and statistical design’. We expect you to seek professional statistical or other relevant advice in preparing your response, which may include:

  • experimental approach to address objectives
  • sample and effect sizes
  • planned statistical analyses
  • models chosen (for example animal model, cell line)

Refer to the MRC guidance for applicants, section ‘Reproducibility and statistical design’, for further information, examples and online tools.

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Gender equality

Word limit: 500

How will your research project contribute to reducing gender inequalities?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Outline how you have taken meaningful yet proportionate consideration to how the project will contribute to reducing gender inequalities. Within this section we expect you to consider:

  • whether measures have been put in place to ensure equal and meaningful opportunities for people of different genders to be involved throughout the project. This includes the development of the project, the participants of the research and innovation, and the beneficiaries of the research and innovation
  • the expected impact of the project (benefits and losses) on people of different genders, both throughout the project and beyond
  • the impact on the relations between people of different genders and people of the same gender. For example, changing roles and responsibilities in households, society, economy, politics or power
  • how any risks and unintended negative consequences on gender equality will be avoided or mitigated against, and monitored
  • whether there are any relevant outcomes and outputs being measured, with data disaggregated by age and gender (where disclosed)

ODA compliance

Word limit: 500

How does your proposed work meet ODA compliance eligibility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

As part of your application, you are required to provide an ODA compliance statement which explains how your research is compliant. Your statement should answer the following questions:

  • which country or countries on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients will directly benefit from this application and are these countries likely to continue to be eligible to receive ODA for the duration of the research? Refer to the DAC list for information about countries that will be considered for graduation at the next review
  • how is your application directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of these countries? Provide evidence of the development need and articulate how the proposed activity is appropriate to address this need
  • how do you expect that the outcome of your proposed activities will promote the economic development and welfare of a country or countries on the DAC list?
  • what approaches will you use to deliver development impact within the lifetime of the project and in the longer-term? Consider the potential outcomes, the key
    beneficiary and stakeholder groups in the DAC list country or countries and how
    they will be engaged to ensure opportunities for them to benefit and to enable development impact to be achieved

The African environment or institution: demonstration of a research-conducive environment

Word limit: 1,500

How will the African research institution support the candidate and the project?

This section should be used to describe the proposed African institution’s research environment including:

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Ensure you explain:

  • the African institution’s mission, scientific objectives, strategy, management and governance policies
  • the level of the African institution’s commitment to the mid to long-term career of the proposed research leader. Describe how the institution intends to increase its level of financial support of the proposed research leader
  • the commitment of the African institution for supporting the proposed programme of research and career goals of the candidate
  • what relationships have been established with the research relevant health services and Ministry of Health
  • what the African institution’s commitment is to developing systems for translating research outputs towards health policies, practices and products
  • that the institution is a valued partner in south-south or north-south links (or both), demonstrated through contribution to research networks, joint training and development of initiatives nationally and internationally
  • how the proposed research leader’s activities will generate added value or synergies for the African institution
  • that any request relating to the African institution’s institutional development needs relating to the proposed African research leader candidate (appropriateness, quality, feasibility, value for money and likely benefit)
Vice Chancellor statement of support

Upload a PDF containing a letter of support from your host organisation. This must be a maximum of two sides of A4 (or equivalent), on headed paper.

This is a statement of support from the vice chancellor or equivalent at your research organisation. It should include:

  • a declaration that it is a government-owned or not-for profit institution
  • confirmation that you have a contract in place. If you are moving back to SSA, we require confirmation that you will have a contract in place if awarded
  • commitment to the continuity of support for the African research leader. Describe how the research organisation will support you following the end of the award
  • formal confirmation that the institution agrees to the roles and responsibilities as detailed in the application
  • provide access to laboratory space or investment in equipment to establish the applicant’s laboratory, and access to communal departmental resources
Stakeholder statement of support (Optional)

Upload a PDF containing a letter or email of support from a single key stakeholder. This must be a maximum of one side of A4 (or equivalent), on headed paper or 450 words in an email from an institutional email account.

If applicable, have appropriate co-production plans been embedded in the study, as well as appropriate engagement and dissemination plans with relevant stakeholders?

The African-UK institutional partnership

Word limit: 1,000 words

How will the African-UK partnership benefit the candidate and the project?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Describe how the partnership will enable the research including:

  • the existing strength and equity of the research partnership between the UK and African institutions, demonstrating a commitment to research excellence, capacity development and research to improve the health of disadvantaged populations
  • how the existing partnership provides a platform for the proposed research leader activities, both in scientific and developmental terms
  • any existing links between the African research leader candidate and UK co-investigator
  • the proposed broader benefits of the partnership to the African research leader candidate over and beyond collaboration on the specific research proposed
  • how the partnership will provide a unique opportunity to catalyse both leadership and research activities for the candidate.

Upload a PDF containing a letter or email of support from your UK partner. This must be a maximum of two sides of A4 (or equivalent), on headed paper or 700 words in an email from an institutional email account.

This should describe:

  • how the UK partner will support you in terms of providing scientific and developmental guidance and why they consider you to be a suitable candidate for an African research leader grant

Research placement

Will you undertake a placement during the project?

Word limit: 250

What the assessors are looking for in your response

A research placement may take place at the UK partner institution, or any other UK or African organisation including a biomedical or pharmaceutical company. If you plan to undertake a placement in an organisation other than the host African research institute, then provide the following:

  • the name of the proposed research organisation and head of department
  • the duration and timing of the placement
  • justification for the placement, including the benefits to the applicant, indicating why the training or career development cannot be effectively achieved within the African institution
  • how the learning will be used for the wider benefit of the African partner

Upload a PDF containing a letter or email of support from the Head of Department of the proposed placement organisation, confirming their willingness to host the African research leader’s proposed training visit. This must be a maximum of one side of A4 (or equivalent), on headed paper or 450 words in an email from an institutional email account.

If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Career progression

Word limit: 700 words

Why is the proposed work, the environment it will be conducted in, and the support provided by the host organisation and UK partnership the right way to develop your career?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Ensure that you have identified:

  • career progression goals appropriate to the opportunity
  • necessary support to enable you to transition, change and grow to the next career stage and achieve your stated career progression goals
  • how the proposed work will provide a feasible and appropriate trajectory for you to acquire additional skills, like leadership, communication and management skills

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word limit: 1,500

Why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community
  • demonstrated you are a rising star in African research with the potential to lead an independent research group

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

The word count for this section is 1,500 words: 1,000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. Use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit

Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences, or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.


Word limit: 1,000

List the references you have used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Include all references in this section, not in the rest of the application questions.

You should not include any other information in this section.

We advise you not to include hyperlinks, as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application.

If linking to web resources, to maintain the information’s integrity, include persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers) where possible.

You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.

Project partners

Add details about any project partners’ contributions. If there are no project partners, you can indicate this on the Funding Service.

A project partner is a collaborating third party organisation, such as an industrial partner, who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include direct (cash) or indirect (in-kind) contributions such as expertise, staff time or use of facilities.

Important note: If your application includes industry project partners, you will also need to complete the Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF) section. Find out more about ICF.

You must ensure that any third party individual or organisation you include within the Funding Service as a project partner, also provides you with a supporting statement (see next section ‘Project partners: letters or emails of support’).

The individual (including their organisation) named as the project partner contact, cannot also be included within your application as an applicant, such as project lead or any other core team role.

You cannot include a different department (based within the same organisation as a member of your core team) as a project partner.

Add the following project partner details:

  • the organisation name (searchable via a drop-down list or enter the organisation’s details manually, as applicable)
  • the project partner contact name and email address
  • the type of contribution (direct or in-direct) and its monetary value

If there are specific circumstances where project partners do require funding for minor costs such as travel and subsistence, these project partner costs should be claimed and justified within the resources and costs section of your application.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

If an individual or organisation outside the core team is responsible for recruitment of people as research participants or providing human tissue for this project, list them as a project partner.

Important information when completing the Project partners section within the Funding Service

When completing your application in the Funding Service, if you discover that you have entered project partner information incorrectly and you have saved the entry, you should remove the specific project partner record and re-add it with the correct information.

Project partners: letters (or emails) of support

Word limit: 10

Upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the ‘Project partners’ section.

If you do not have any project partners, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

What supporting statements we are looking for

Important note: we are only looking for you to provide a project partner letter or email of support from the following:

  • a third party individual
  • a third party organisation

You must ensure that any third party project partner providing a supporting document, are also added to the ‘Project partners’ section.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

What supporting statements we are not looking for

We are not looking for you to provide any supporting emails or letters of support related to any individual or organisation already included within your application (this includes other departments within the same organisation). Any individual or organisation included in your application with a role cannot also be a project partner.

Check the opportunity specific roles available in the core team section for the definitive list.

Do not include any additional documents, email communications or any other type of information we have not requested, including supporting statements (letters or emails), simply expressing supportive opinions. We only expect to see emails or letters of support from third party project partners uploaded to this section.

If you include any information not requested by MRC, your application will be rejected.

Supporting document guidance for third party project partners

Each third party project partner supporting letter or email you provide, should:

  • be no more than two A4 pages, only one email or letter of support is permitted for each project partner
  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance, and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project
  • include the name of the project partner organisation and contact information. This should match the partner contact and organisation name details you must add to the separate ‘Project partners’ application section)

Project partners letters and emails of support are not required to be on headed paper or include handwritten signatures (electronic signatures are acceptable from the nominated partner contact).

Project partner responsibility for the recruitment of people

If the project partner is responsible for the recruitment of people as research participants or providing human tissue their email or letter of support should include:

  • agreement that the project partner will recruit the participants or provide tissue
  • confirmation that what is being supplied is suitable for the proposed work
  • confirmation that the quantity of tissue being supplied is suitable, but not excessive for achieving meaningful results (if applicable)
Multiple project partners

If you have multiple project partners, you should:

  • ensure each separate email or letter of support, does not exceed two pages of A4
  • consolidate all the supporting documents provided by each project partner into a single PDF file before uploading
  • ensure the PDF does not exceed the maximum file size of 8MB

For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Project partner’.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply.

Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF)

Word count: 1,500

Does your application include industry project partners?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If industry collaboration does not apply to any of your project partners, or you don’t have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box.

If your research project involves collaboration between an academic organisation and an industry or company you are likely to need to follow the industry collaboration framework and answer this question, check using the ICF decision tree.

By ‘industry or company’ we mean an enterprise that puts goods or services on a market and whose commercial activities are greater than 20% of their overall annual capacity.

The assessors are looking for information relating to the nature, goals and conditions of the collaboration and any restrictions or rights to the project results that could be claimed by the project partner.

Find out more about ICF, including:

  • collaboration agreements
  • definitions of basic or applied research
  • internationally based companies
  • subsidy control
  • Intellectual property (IP) arrangements
  • fully flexible and gated contributions
  • the ICF assessment criteria

In addition to the project partner information completed in the previous section, confirm your answers to the ICF questions in the text box, repeat this process for each ICF project partner:

  1. Name the industry or company project partner considered under ICF.
  2. Indicate whether your application is either basic research or applied research.
  3. Explain why, in the absence of the requested UKRI funding, the collaboration and the planned research could not be undertaken.
  4. State whether your application is under the category of either fully flexible contribution or gated contribution (based on the IP sharing arrangements with the ICF partner).
  5. Outline the pre-existing IP (‘background IP’) that each project partner, including the academic partner, will bring to the collaborative research project and the terms under which project partners may access these assets.
  6. Outline the IP that is expected to be developed during the collaborative research project (‘foreground IP’) and briefly outline how it will be managed, including:
    • which project partners will own this IP
    • what rights project partners will have to use academically-generated foreground IP during and after the research project, for internal research and development or for commercial purposes
    • any rights of the academic partner to commercialise the foreground IP (including foreground IP generated by project partners)
  7. Outline any restrictions to dissemination of the project results, including the rights of the project partner to:
    • review, approve or delay publications (including the time period associated with such rights)
    • request or require the removal of any information
  8. Declare any conflicts of interest held by the applicants in relation to the project partners and describe how they will be managed.
  9. If applicable, justify collaborating with an overseas industry or company under ICF.

Failure to provide the information requested for industry partners under ICF could result in your application being rejected.

You are recommended to discuss the goals and conditions of any collaboration with an industry or company project partner with your university technology transfer or contracts office before applying.


Word limit: 250

Does your proposed research require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you will need to use a facility, follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Ensure you have prior agreement so that if you are offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project.

For each requested facility you will need to provide the:

  • name of facility, copied and pasted from the facility information list (DOCX, 35KB)
  • proposed usage or costs, or costs per unit where indicated on the facility information list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required

If you will not need to use a facility, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Data management and sharing

Word limit: 1,500

How will you manage and share data collected or acquired through the proposed research?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a data management plan which should clearly detail how you will comply with MRC’s published data management and sharing policies, which includes detailed guidance notes.

Provide your response following the MRC data management plan template.

The length of your plan will vary depending on the type of study being undertaken:

  • population cohorts; longitudinal studies; genetic, omics and imaging data; biobanks, and other collections that are potentially a rich resource for the wider research community: maximum of 1,500 words
  • all other research, less complex, the plan may be as short as 500 words

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word limit: 500

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations
  • how you will manage these considerations

Consider the MRC guidance on ethics and approvals.

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Genetic and biological risk

Word limit: 700

Does your proposed research involve any genetic or biological risk?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

In respect of animals, plants or microbes, are you proposing to:

  • use genetic modification as an experimental tool, like studying gene function in a genetically modified organism
  • release genetically modified organisms
  • ultimately develop commercial and industrial genetically modified outcomes

If yes, provide the name of any required approving body and state if approval is already in place. If it is not, provide an indicative timeframe for obtaining the required approval.

Identify the organism or organisms as a plant, animal or microbe and specify the species and which of the three categories the research relates to.

Identify the genetic and biological risks resulting from the proposed research, their implications, and any mitigation you plan on taking. Assessors will want to know you have considered the risks and their implications to justify that any identified risks do not outweigh any benefits of the proposed research.

If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Research involving the use of animals

Word limit: 10

Does your proposed research involve the use of vertebrate animals or other organisms covered by the Animals Scientific Procedures Act?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you are proposing research that requires using animals, download and complete the Animals Scientific Procedures Act template (DOCX, 74KB), which contains all the questions relating to research using vertebrate animals or other Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 regulated organisms.

Save it as a PDF. The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply. If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Conducting research with animals overseas

Word limit: 700

Will any of the proposed animal research be conducted overseas?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you are proposing to conduct overseas research, it must be conducted in accordance with welfare standards consistent with those in the UK, as in Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research, page 14. Ensure all named applicants in the UK and overseas are aware of this requirement.

If your application proposes animal research to be conducted overseas, you must provide a statement in the text box. Depending on the species involved, you may also need to upload a completed template for each species listed.


Provide a statement to confirm that:

  • all named applicants are aware of the requirements and have agreed to abide by them
  • this overseas research will be conducted in accordance with welfare standards consistent with the principles of UK legislation
  • the expectation set out in Responsibility in the use of animals in bioscience research will be applied and maintained
  • appropriate national and institutional approvals are in place

Overseas studies proposing to use non-human primates, cats, dogs, equines or pigs will be assessed during NC3Rs review of research applications. Provide the required information by completing the template from the question ‘Research involving the use of animals’.

For studies involving other species, select, download, and complete the relevant Word checklist or checklists from this list:

Save your completed template as a PDF and upload to the Funding Service. If you use more than one checklist template, save it as a single PDF.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply.
If conducting research with animals overseas does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Research involving human participation

Word limit: 700

Will the project involve the use of human subjects or their personal information?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you are proposing research that requires the involvement of human subjects, provide the name of any required approving body and whether approval is already in place.

Justify the number and the diversity of the participants involved, as well as any procedures.

Provide details of any areas of substantial or moderate severity of impact.

If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Research involving human tissues or biological samples

Word limit: 700

Does your proposed research involve the use of human tissues, or biological samples?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you are proposing work that involves human tissues or biological samples, provide the name of any required approving body and whether approval is already in place.

Justify the use of human tissue or biological samples specifying the nature and quantity of the material to be used and its source.

If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 1,200

What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Justify the application’s more costly resources, in particular:

  • project staff
  • significant travel for field work or collaboration (but not regular travel between collaborating organisations or to conferences)
  • costs associated with any placements (if applicable)
  • costs in relation to the African institution’s development
  • any equipment that will cost more than £10,000
  • any consumables beyond typical requirements, or that are required in exceptional quantities
  • all facilities and infrastructure costs
  • support for preserving, long-term storage, or sharing of data
  • support for public and patient involvement and engagement
  • support for international co-leads, demonstrating this is within the 30% costs cap for co-leads from developed countries, India and China. There is no cap on costs requested for international applicants from DAC list countries
  • animal costs, such as numbers that need to be bred or maintained and to maintain high welfare standards

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources. Overall, they want you to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

You may claim up to an additional 20% on top of the total host African organisation exception costs claimed. This additional 20% is a contribution towards indirect costs related to the work being undertaken at the host African organisation. This additional cost is claimed as an exception cost, under the ‘Other’ funding heading within the Funding Service.

Related applications

Word limit: 500

Is this application related to another application to MRC or other funding organisation?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not enter ‘N/A’.

If yes, state your previous reference number and explain how this new application is related to the other application.

If the related application was submitted to another funder you should identify the name of the funder and when you applied.

If this is a resubmission describe how it differs from the previous application and how feedback on the previous application has been considered and acted on.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

We will invite experts to review your application independently, against the specified criteria for this funding opportunity.

You will not be able to nominate reviewers for applications on the new UKRI Funding Service. Research councils will continue to select expert reviewers.

We are monitoring the requirement for applicant-nominated reviewers as we review policies and processes as part of the continued development of the new Funding Service.

We reserve the right not to process an application if the funding opportunities eligibility criteria and key elements are not met or if the application has not been completed in full or is received after the submission deadline.

Official development assistance (ODA) compliance

Applications will be assessed by a competitive expert review process with ODA eligibility being a criterion for approval, that is projects must be fully ODA compliant to be considered for funding. Initial ODA compliance checks will be carried out by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Applications that do not meet the eligibility as defined in this document may be rejected without expert review. Expert reviewers will also be provided with this guidance and asked to comment on ODA compliance and likelihood of significant impact.


We will review the comments and scores for each application. Shortlisted applications will have the opportunity to respond to the expert reviewers’ comments and will be interviewed by an expert panel who will make a funding recommendation.

If your application is shortlisted, you will have 14 days to respond to reviewers’ comments.


For shortlisted applications, an expert interview panel will conduct interviews with applicants after which the panel will make a funding recommendation. The co-lead partner from the UK partner institution will also be invited to the interview with the candidate for research leader.

We expect interviews to be held in December 2024. It is the responsibility of candidates to ensure that they have the necessary visa to attend for the interview. Reasonable travel costs (economy class) for the candidate and UK partner will be met by the Medical Research Council (MRC). Accommodation costs for the candidate will also be reimbursed. Those who cannot attend in person can participate remotely.

MRC will make the final funding decision.


We aim to complete the assessment process within eight months of receiving your application.


If your application was discussed by a panel, we will give feedback with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

Sharing data with co-funders

We will need to share the application (including any personal information that it contains) with Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) so that they can participate in the assessment process.

For more information on how FCDO uses personal information, visit FCDO privacy notice.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Assessment areas

The assessment areas we will use are:

  • vision of the project
  • approach to the project
  • the African institutional environment
  • the African-UK partnership
  • the research placement (if appropriate)
  • the career progression plans of the applicant
  • capability of the applicant and the project team to deliver the project
  • resources requested to do the project
  • ethical and responsible research and innovation considerations of the project
  • the ODA compliance of the project
  • the gender equity of the project

Find details of assessment questions and criteria under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the UKRI Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline and/or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact Details

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity email:

For general questions related to Medical Research Council (MRC) funding including our funding opportunities and policy email:

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

You can also find information on submitting an application here: Improving your funding experience.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please contact

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your UKRI Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.


  • 4 July 2024
    Alert box added the the summary about reviewing the scheme. There are no future opportunity dates currently available. Removed future round open for applications in the timeline.

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