Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Clinical academic research partnerships: 2021

Apply for funding to develop your research interests through a collaborative partnership.

You must be a research-qualified healthcare professional at consultant level or equivalent. You must not be currently undertaking any substantial research activity.

Your project can be across any area from MRC or NIHR’s remits.

You must supply a letter of support from your employer.

Funding is available for 20% to 50% of your basic salary and costs to undertake the project.

Awards can last between one and three years.

Who can apply

You can apply if you:

  • are a member of NHS staff, staff contracted to the NHS or working in the care or public health sectors. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • nurses
    • midwives
    • allied health professions
    • healthcare scientists
    • pharmacists
    • clinical psychologists
    • doctors
    • dentists
    • registered public health practitioners
    • others, in either primary care, secondary care, community care or public health
  • are working at consultant level or other senior role, for example Agenda for Change Band 7 or above
  • are working at a senior level with specialised knowledge and demonstrable capacity for professional independence and leadership
  • hold a PhD, MD or equivalent postgraduate qualification, for example three years’ consolidated research time where you have been the intellectual drive behind a project and achieved strong outputs from your research experience
  • are not undertaking any substantive research activity.

Applicants will usually have limited or no research funding. We expect you will have less than one programmed activity (PA), four hours a week, of research time within your current job plan (contracted duties).

We welcome proposals from applicants with more than one research PA, but you should ensure that you articulate the added value of the award. For example, to support you in working in new environments or with new research partners.

Eligible research partners

Your research partner must have a proven track record of securing funding and delivering high-quality research. The research partner should hold funding for the duration of the planned partnership, from funders such as:

  • UKRI
  • the National Institute for Health Research
  • significant third sector research funders.

They must also be based at an organisation eligible to hold research council funding. This includes:

Your research partner must hold a contract of employment with the host research organisation for the duration of the award.

You must include a letter of support from the research partner as part of your application.

Support you need from the host research organisation

You should hold a contract of employment or an honorary contract with the host research organisation for the duration of the award.

The host research organisation must:

  • be eligible to hold research council funding (this includes NHS bodies)
  • be registered in the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S)
  • accept responsibility for administering the award, including making local arrangements where necessary to, for example, make payments to the NHS Trust to support backfill appointments
  • demonstrate appropriate support (such as access to facilities) to enable you to successfully undertake your project.

All applications must be approved by the appropriate administrative authority on behalf of the host institution. Administrative authorities are responsible for ensuring salaries and resources cited in the proposal are enough to undertake the proposed research.

Find out more about eligible organisations.

You must include a letter from the host institution confirming its support and approval as part of your application.

Support you need from your employer

The NHS organisation (or equivalent, such as a local authority, care organisation, Public Health England) that employs you must provide a letter of support:

  • confirming that you will have protected research time and will therefore be released for the proportion of time funded by MRC and the National Institute for Health Research
  • including clear and feasible plans for your time to be backfilled, especially for applicants from niche specialties where this will present challenges
  • guaranteeing that you can re-enter the clinic full-time without any loss of career progression or status at the end of the award, if you choose to do so.

Please note that as a condition of the award we will ask for a copy of your NHS job plan to confirm the number of research PAs.

What we're looking for

We’re looking for research-qualified (PhD or MD) healthcare professionals at consultant level or equivalent, not currently undertaking any substantial research activity, to take part in collaborative high-quality research partnerships with established leading biomedical and applied health researchers.

We welcome project proposals across all remit and interest areas of MRC and the National Institute for Health Research. Your project can range from basic discovery science to translational and applied health research.

You can address research questions from disease-specific mechanistic hypotheses through to research in priority areas such as:

  • primary care
  • population health
  • public health
  • mental health
  • molecular pathology
  • multimorbidity
  • other areas.

outlined in:

We welcome applications proposing interdisciplinary approaches.

Your proposed project should be tailored to your interests and expertise and those of your research partner and designed to provide a mutually beneficial collaboration. The awards are flexible so you can tailor the support to your individual collaborative plans.

Awards will be for at least one year and no more than three years. Each award will provide between 20% to 50% of your basic salary to support protected research time, and costs to undertake the project.

We do not expect salaries of research staff other than the applicant to be costed into the application. For example:

  • co-investigators
  • postdocs
  • research fellows
  • research assistants.

Staff costs can be requested where essential for the delivery of the project. For example:

  • to assist data collection in another country
  • requirement for an independent statistician
  • a trial coordinator for blinding participants in a trial.

This is not an exhaustive list. Costs should be reasonable, fully justified and only form a small part of the request for funding.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When applying select ‘New document’, then:

  • council: MRC
  • doc type: standard proposal
  • scheme: research grant
  • call: CARP Nov 2021

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

If you need further help, you can contact the Je-S helpdesk on 01793 444164 or by email

Your host organisation will be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application.

Before submitting a proposal, please ensure you have thoroughly read the guidance for applicants (PDF, 139KB).

Proposals which do not include the required components, or which are not formatted according to the guidance will not be considered.

How we will assess your application

When we receive your application, we will check it to make sure it is within remit. It will then be peer-reviewed by at least three independent experts from the UK and overseas.

You can nominate up to three independent reviewers. We will invite only one to assess your application and may decide not to approach any of your nominated reviewers.

Assessment criteria

Peer reviewers will assess your application and provide comments. They will also score it using the peer reviewer scoring system against the following criteria.


How important are the questions, or gaps in knowledge, that are being addressed?

Scientific potential

What are the prospects for good scientific progress?

Resources requested

Are the requested funds essential for the work? And do the importance and scientific potential justify funding on the scale requested?

Does the proposal represent good value for money?


We will review these scores and comments at a triage meeting carried out by a sub-committee of members of the Clinical Academic Research Partnership Panel.

We will continue with the highest quality applications with potential to be funded. If your application passes the triage stage, we will send you copies of the external reviewers’ comments and give you the chance to respond to the comments.

A panel meeting will then discuss your proposal and decide if it is suitable for funding. We aim to make a decision within six months of receiving your application.

We will assess your proposal on:

  • the track record of your proposed research partner, including their funding and current productivity, and their ability to provide you with a suitable research environment
  • evidence of your research capabilities, shown by your productivity and the skills you have gained during your PhD or medical degree, and any other past research experience
  • how well the proposed project aligns with your research strengths and interests and those of your research partner
  • how well the project will provide a mutually beneficial collaboration, enhancing your research experience and the contribution you can make to your research partner’s existing team
  • the strength of institutional support provided, including the facilities and experience your research partner is able to provide, and the strength of support from your employing NHS organisation.

We will share proposals with our co-funders, the National Institute for Health Research, as part of the review process.

Find out more about the MRC peer review process.

Contact details

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