Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Cancer Research Transatlantic Development and Skills Enhancement award

Following the UK–US Cancer Summit, MRC and NIHR, in partnership with NCI, are launching a cancer research transatlantic Development and Skills Enhancement (DSE) award.

These awards are jointly funded by MRC and NIHR with in-kind support from NCI and will provide a unique opportunity for UK early or mid-career researchers to spend six to 12 months at NCI intramural institutes in the US.

These awards will support clinical or non-clinical researchers in developing international collaborations and gaining skills to underpin the next phase of their cancer research career. To be eligible, you should be:

  • looking to establish yourself, or transition to independence, in your field
  • currently a cancer researcher, or looking to apply relevant skills and expertise within cancer research

Your research can focus on any area within the remit of MRC, NIHR or both.

Who can apply

This opportunity is for UK-based early or mid-career researchers who are looking to obtain training, develop skills and experience, and establish international collaborations with NCI researchers, towards supporting their transition to independence in cancer research.

Applicants are likely to have a background in cancer research. Applicants that do not come from a cancer research background are eligible but will be expected to demonstrate how the opportunity would enhance their skills and facilitate ongoing cancer research and sustained collaborations beyond the end of the award.

Who is eligible to apply

Standard UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and NIHR eligibility criteria apply. Applications are invited from individuals at eligible organisations, in accordance with standard UKRI and NIHR practice.

Before applying for funding, see the UKRI web page to check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

You should:

  • have completed a PhD, MD or equivalent
  • show evidence of productivity and potential to lead independent research, for example as demonstrated by critical contributions to independent or collaborative research outputs
  • show clear plans for developing as a leader in your specialist area of cancer research
  • show due consideration as to how this DSE award can be managed alongside existing awards and commitments
  • show what mentoring and support you will have in place to enable you to maximise value from this opportunity

You do not need to currently hold an MRC or NIHR fellowship and there are no eligibility rules based on years of postdoctoral experience. Proposals are welcomed from all early or mid-career researchers but you will be required to demonstrate that you are at an appropriate career stage, including having a robust plan proposed and the capability to maximally take advantage of the training and skills development opportunity available to work with US collaborators, with support of your host institution and mentors.

The ‘transition to independence’ career stage in the MRC applicant skills and experience criteria describes a target career stage well suited to these awards. You should consider whether this award will provide significant support on your trajectory towards becoming a research leader.

There are no eligibility rules based on whether you currently hold a permanent or open-ended academic position or job role. However, you must be based in the UK and have the support of your UK host organisation for the duration of the proposed award.

We would encourage you to get in touch if you are unsure about your eligibility.

What we're looking for

We’re looking to support talented individuals to visit or be hosted by research groups at the NCI over a duration of six to 12-months. NCI is the largest of NIH’s 27 institutes and centres, and it consists of more than 300 laboratories and research groups. NCI is located on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, and in the surrounding area of Rockville and Frederick, Maryland.

Eligible US research groups are directly funded by the NCI at the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) and Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG). For more information about eligible NCI research groups, please see:

Your proposal should support the establishment of new collaborations, or the substantial development of existing collaborations, with researchers at the NCI. You may approach potential collaborators directly but if you are unsure which research group(s) may be best suited to your interests, support and ‘match making’ can be facilitated by contacting NCI central contacts as early as possible (no later than 22 October 2023).

An email inquiry should be sent to both Erika Ginsburg ( and Jackie Lavigne ( and include the following information:

  • up to three sentences describing your scientific focus area(s)
  • CV

Your proposal can focus on any area of cancer research within the remits of MRC, NIHR or both across biomedical and health research (for example discovery and basic disease biology, through to translational, clinical and applied cancer research).

We are particularly keen to see applications that develop skills and experience in the following areas that align with priority opportunities identified during the UK-US Cancer Summit:

  • data science and artificial intelligence
  • health equity
  • molecular and other mechanisms of cancer prevention
  • trial methodology including innovative clinical trial design and delivery

In your application, you must clearly demonstrate:

  • how this proposal aligns with your existing skills and experiences
  • what training, skills and experiences will be gained through the proposal including new or developed collaborations
  • how this award will support and enable your long-term career goals in cancer research

Award length

These awards are to fund visits to the US across a six to 12-month period with the format of these visits being flexible. For example, you may choose to visit once for an extended duration or make several shorter visits. MRC and NIHR are supportive if you wish to combine this award with caring or family responsibilities, and appropriate costs to support this can be included within the application.

You must spend substantial time within the duration of the award visiting eligible research group(s) at the NCI CCR, DCEG or both. The time spent overseas must accommodate the specific training and skills development aims of each application and your individual circumstances. While virtual interactions will support ongoing development and skills over the duration of the award, taking advantage of the opportunity for in-person visits is expected to be prioritised.

In your application, you must clearly justify:

  • the proportion and pattern of time spent overseas and in the UK
  • how this will support and enable skills development, knowledge transfer and building or enhancing collaborations


There is no defined funding limit, but awards are anticipated to be in the range of £100,000 to 200,000. Full economic costs (FEC) are not covered by this award. Direct costs will be supported at 100%.

Awards will provide funding for:

  • the salary of the grant holder for between six to 12 months (between 50% and 100% full time equivalent)
  • training and development costs of up to £5,000
  • research costs and consumables (NCI partner research groups will support standard consumables, but where substantial or additional research costs are required for the proposed research and skills development, costs may be requested where justified)
  • conference costs of up to £2,000
  • travel, personal and family subsistence and relocation costs (includes visa costs and health insurance)

Funding for clinical trials will be ineligible, but costs for collecting pilot data, add-on research linked to established trials or trial methodology and conducting preliminary work to support future research funding applications can be included.

Host organisation commitment

Both the UK host (applicant employer) and NCI host (organisation being visited) should provide applicant-specific statements that outline appropriate commitment to supporting skills development, training needs and long-term career goals.

UK host (applicant employer) commitment:

  • support that will be provided by the UK host organisation to enable development and progression of the applicant’s research career
  • how the UK host organisation will liaise with the US host organisation to ensure appropriate support is in place, including arrangements for pastoral care
  • the names of a senior academic(s) who have supported you during the development of your application and who will continue to do so

NCI host (organisation being visited) commitment:

  • additional details on in-kind commitment including access to space or equipment
  • support that will be provided by the NCI host organisation to enable development and progression of the applicant’s research career
  • evidence of the US host organisation’s commitment to creating and maintaining an inclusive and supportive research culture, including evidence of commitment to the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion, and research integrity
  • how the US host organisation will liaise with the UK host organisation to ensure appropriate support is in place, including arrangements for pastoral care
  • the names of a senior academic(s) who have supported you during the development of your application and who will continue to do so

Ethics considerations

You must ensure that all proposed research, both that in the UK and in the US, will comply with the standard principles and expectations for UK research using animals, human participants and human tissue (including stem cells).

More detail on expectations is included in the guidance document for this funding opportunity. For example, additional joint letters of support accompanying the application will be required when or animal research is proposed, and animal welfare standards should be consistent with the principles of UK legislation.

Trusted Research and Innovation (TR&I)

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. 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.

For further guidance and information about TR&I, including where you can find additional support, visit the TR&I page.

How to apply

All applications must be completed and submitted using the NIHR online application system.

You can find guidance on completing your application in the Cancer research transatlantic DSE guidance notes.

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application


NIHR must receive your application by 1 December 2023 at 1:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place, for both UK and US partners.

For successful applicants, it is expected awards will be completed by 31 March 2025. Exceptional requests for later end dates will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Your application must also include the following attachments:

  • NCI host letter of support (required)
  • training and development Gantt chart (required)
  • letter of support where research involves human participants, human tissue or animals
  • use of animals overseas form, if applicable

How we will assess your application

More information is provided in the guidance document for this funding opportunity.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance.

Ask about this funding opportunity

This funding opportunity is jointly funded by MRC and NIHR with in-kind support from NCI.

Queries related to funding opportunity scope and purpose may be addressed to any of the below.

For MRC related queries, email:

Include ‘UK US Cancer DSE’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five  working days.

NIHR related queries


Phone: 0113 532 8410

Get help with applying

The funding opportunity is administered through the NIHR Academy and NIHR will be best placed to address queries related to applying for the funding opportunity.



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