Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: MRC biomedical data science leadership awards: outline

Apply for 24 months’ funding to support those improving the inclusion, quality, and recognition of data science within biomedical research.

Funding is available to understand better quality support for biomedical data science. Innovations should improve career offers, accelerate positive shifts in research culture, or advance leadership for biomedical data science.

Awards will seed engagement, coordination, and evidence to inform the plans for a shared UK-wide biomedical data science initiative.

The full economic cost (FEC) can be up to £500,000. Medical Research Council (MRC) will fund 80% of the FEC.

Who can apply

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for MRC funding. Successful outline applicants will be eligible to apply for funding via the subsequent full application opportunity.

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

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

All applications must identify a lead (the project lead) based at an eligible UK research organisation. The project lead, along with their organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UKRI. The lead should have a collaborative and inclusive mindset, alongside excellent leadership and management abilities.

Where co-leads are required, responsibilities and approaches to management (team and project) can be described in the ‘Team and project management’ section of the application but a single administrative project lead (and lead organisation) are required to lead the application submission.

We encourage diversity of thought and knowledge, and welcome multidisciplinary and team approaches to best assure lasting impact and reach. All contributions should be appropriately recognised and resourced using all eligible UKRI Funding Service roles necessary.

Who is not eligible to apply

A research organisation may submit only one application as lead organisation (employer of a project lead). A research organisation may be included as an employer of roles beyond project lead on any number of applications.

International applicants

You can include international applicants as project co-leads if they provide expertise not available in the UK and make a major intellectual contribution to the design or conduct of the project. You must justify in your application why their expertise is required within the ‘Applicant and team capability to deliver’ section.

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

Due to the need to align all awards, projects are required to start before 15 October 2024. Mitigations to the impact of this required start date on equality, diversity and inclusion should be described in the ‘Organisational support’ section of the application.

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

What we're looking for


Funded activity will develop innovation and evidence to improve how biomedical research includes, resources and recognises high-quality data science.

Applications to this opportunity must include and support those leading positive change for biomedical data science within their research organisations and beyond.

The funding responds to MRC’s Biomedical Data Science Review. The review highlights the need for shared responses that link across four challenges for biomedical data science:

  • developing biomedical data science leadership
  • better access, recognition and support for multidisciplinary biomedical data science teams
  • improving quality, standards and professionalisation of data science within biomedical research
  • inclusive approaches to growing biomedical data science skills capacity, including improving the access and career offer

In this context, data science is defined as the use of scientific methods, and related processes and systems, to extract knowledge and insights from structured and unstructured data.

A broad definition of biomedical data is also used, ranging from omics to microscopy to medical imaging to population cohort to environmental data.

Proposals made within this opportunity will begin to test possible solutions and contribute to a developing evidence case for future national investment. Longer term, we welcome partnership to design a shared national initiative that helps all stakeholders to work together in strengthening the research culture and career offer from UK biomedical data science.


We will support community-driven explorations seeking better approaches for supporting high quality biomedical data science contributions. In this context, a broad definition of biomedical data science contributions is encouraged, covering the roles, expertise and functions described within Figures 1 and 2 of the MRC Review.

In scope activities for funding include:

  • evaluating approaches for the inclusion, resourcing, development and mobility of data science skills at any career stage for biomedical research
  • evaluating approaches or interventions for networking, collaboration, multidisciplinarity, recognition and reward of different data science roles, specialisms, and contributions as part of biomedical research
  • evaluating the flexibility and permeability of different professional development approaches, career models and offers from biomedical research for diverse data science contributions
  • evaluating the impact of different resourcing, management, organisational models on biomedical data science capacity
  • evaluating the impact of different commercialisation or partnership (including legal and contract) approaches on data science skills for biomedical research

This is not an exhaustive list. The primary motivation of all activity must be to maximise learning towards improving the research culture and career offer for biomedical data science across the UK.

Eligible activities can include engagement internationally, or across sectors and disciplines.

Evaluation can include understanding research, skills and careers, economic or equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) impact. All evaluation should develop the evidence for where collaboration or future investment can shift the approach to biomedical data science across multiple stakeholders and deliver lasting increases in value for the UK.

Funding is available for this 24-month pilot stage only and awards do not guarantee further follow-on funding. Although award holders will be included as key stakeholders in developing national initiative strategy, all future activity remains subject to progress and final initiative budget and delivery model remain to be confirmed.

Within scope activities

Funded outputs should contribute progress in any of the following:

  • mapping of existing excellence or responsibility boundaries for UK biomedical data talent across regions, organisations or sectors
  • defining and evidencing the priority barriers for different and diverse data science contributions within UK biomedical research
  • demonstrating optimal approaches for developing (and sustaining) excellence; including applying learning from across sections, disciplines, and other specialist skills or career pathways to biomedical data science
  • evaluating different ways of working to understand where and when innovative approaches or interventions targeting data science capacity will add value to UK biomedical research. Including the potential for spillovers within organisations, between stakeholders or across regions
  • developing and understanding the assurance needed to implement or scale change for biomedical data talent or biomedical data science across multiple organisations

Post award, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) hopes to provide a further total of £200,000 to facilitate networking, learning and community influence across all awards. Examples of potential collective activities include:

  • developing the simplest ontology for skills that is useful to measure impact but remains flexible across biomedical data science, recognises the breadth of different roles and contributions, and is portable for use across the different communities and sectors
  • specifying shared challenges faced by data science talent across the UK biomedical research system
  • understanding the costs and benefits across stakeholders to different potential intervention strategies
  • developing and agreeing a roadmap for curriculum change (or equivalent) that will facilitate multiple stakeholders (including funders) to work together and best support biomedical data talent in the UK

Potential network funding will be delivered separately, is mentioned for awareness only and does not need to be considered in response to this outline or following full opportunity. Any follow-on funding to this opportunity is subject to change.

Out of scope activities

Activities not eligible for funding include:

  • where bridging or extending existing training or research activities is the primary motivation
  • where developing or delivering new training offers is the primary motivation
  • where output or learning is inward facing and is difficult to translate to wider national or international biomedical research activity

These applications will be rejected as out of scope.


The duration of awards within the pilot stage is 24 months. Projects are required to start before 15 October 2024. Mitigations to the impact of this required start date on equality, diversity and inclusion should be described in the ‘Organisational support’ section of the application.

Funding available

All applications should be costed based on the FEC necessary to deliver the activity. If a grant is awarded, we will typically fund 80% of the FEC and the research organisations must agree to find the balance of FEC from other resources.

The FEC of your pilot project can be between £250,000 and £500,000. We will fund 80% of the FEC (£200,000 to £400,000).

What we will fund

You can request funding for costs such as:

  • a contribution to the salary of the project lead and co-leads
  • support for other posts such as research and technical staff
  • research or other consumables
  • equipment under £10,000
  • travel costs
  • data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs
  • estates and indirect costs

The justification for all eligible fund types will be considered within this opportunity.

You can also request costs for work to be undertaken at international organisations by international project co-leads. We will fund 100% of the FEC.

The total of such costs requested for international applicants from developed countries (those not on the OECD DAC List of ODA Recipients), India and China must not exceed 30% of the total resources requested.

There is no cap on costs requested for international applicants from DAC list countries.

For more information on international costs and what we will and will not fund see costs we fund overseas and the Collaborate with Researchers in Norway guidance.

What we will not fund

  • equipment costing over £10,000
  • publication costs
  • patent costs and other IP costs

Costs not covered by the guidance are ineligible for funding unless written confirmation of exemption has been provided by MRC. Contact details are provided below.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

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 where you 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. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

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

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 UKRI 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 UKRI 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. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch our research office webinars about the new UKRI Funding Service.


We must receive your application by 4.00pm UK time on 12 December 2023.

You will not be able to apply or make amendments after this time. Incomplete applications or ineligible applications will be rejected.

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

Two-stage application process

The opportunity will be delivered in two stages: outline and full applications. Only completed outline applications that are invited forward by Panel based on the assessment criteria will be eligible to submit full stage applications. Only applications successful at full stage will receive funding.

Application structure will be consistent between outline and full stages allowing completed sections to be reused between the two applications where possible. Full stage applications will include an expanded approach section, and additional questions to provide full financial and partnership details. Full stage applications will also include an additional question to allow you to describe changes made since outline stage or in response to outline panel feedback (if any).

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.

Publication of outcomes

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


Word limit: 400

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:

  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • context
  • the challenge the project addresses
  • aims and objectives
  • 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))
  • researcher co-lead (RcL)
  • specialist
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

Only list one individual as project lead.

All awards must include resource or in-kind support for an accounting officer and will require annual reporting of spend.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.


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

Within this ‘Vision’ section we also expect you to:

  • describe how the proposal targets at least one of the following priorities:
    • improves the access, resourcing and career offer from biomedical research to those skilled in data science
    • improves development and permeability of biomedical science to data skills across career stages, disciplines, organisational structures and sectors
    • develops collaboration, recognition, inclusion or leadership approaches that advance team and multidisciplinary biomedical data science
    • supports and evaluates innovations in ways of working that have potential to drive persistent improvements in the capacity, quality and standards of biomedical data science
  • describe the proposed work in an organisational context, describing relevant stakeholder roles and responsibilities, such as:
    • the place the proposed work in a multi-organisational national or international landscape, describing relevant stakeholder roles and responsibilities
    • identifying the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be
    • identifying 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

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


Word limit: 750

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:

  • summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed (if applicable)
  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to project delivery and how they will be managed (please note, governance is covered in separate application question below)
  • uses a clearly written and transparent methodology (if applicable)
  • will include, engage and benefit all necessary stakeholders and voices, including within project design
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts for others

Within this ‘Approach’ section we also expect you to:

  • describe the position of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within the approaches selected, and the impact on EDI of the chosen approach
  • define stakeholder or community groups and detail approaches for their inclusion in design, delivery and outputs of projects
  • specify an approach to monitoring, evaluation and influencing relevant stakeholders
  • demonstrate access to the appropriate services, facilities, infrastructure, or equipment to deliver the proposed work
  • consider the sustainability of the proposed projects
  • provide a detailed and comprehensive project plan including milestones and timelines in the form of a Gantt chart or similar

The primary motivation of activities must be to understand or boost optimal approaches for supporting biomedical data science. Activity should help those with great ideas to test them out, to accelerate or scale-up positive change, or to increase support for those leading the way. You have freedom to decide how this is best achieved but learning must be relevant to improving the research culture and career offer for biomedical data science across the UK.

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

Evidence of commitment

Word limit: 750

Can you evidence existing organisational commitment to improving research culture for biomedical data science?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Specify and evidence any existing activity or approaches from within the lead or partnering research organisations that are designed to advance any of the following within UK biomedical research:

  • improving the access, professional development and career offer from biomedical research to those skilled in data science, at both team and leadership level
  • improving the quality, standards and professionalisation of biomedical data science across multiple research teams
  • improving equality, diversity, inclusion and embedding multidisciplinary ways of working for biomedical data science across multiple research teams
  • improving the inclusion, recognition, resourcing and reward of multiple different biomedical data science roles and contributions (some of whom may not currently feature on UKRI research grant support)
  • improving career tracks that are flexible and can support career mobility for biomedical data science skills across career stages and offer permeability across disciplines, organisational structures and sectors
  • improving the approach to planning and resourcing of data (and related activity) as a primary, lasting, and reusable biomedical research output
  • improving the benefits from industry engagement and efficient delivery of academic-industry collaboration for biomedical data science

Evidence must be limited to established existing activity but can cover any steps taken at individual, group, organisational or community level.

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 your team, have:

  • 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

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

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV. UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.


Word limit: 500

How will governance, team management and decision-making assure maximum benefit to those engaging with the project?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Project and team management

Explain how your project will be managed including:

  • approaches to prioritisation, monitoring, and decision-making
  • engagement with other stakeholders in decision-making, including any co-design
  • approach to governance, including strategic (re)direction and resourcing oversight
  • how governance will be equitable, proportional, and actionable
  • team approaches (if any)

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

Organisational support

Word limit: 400

How will organisations contribute to support the delivery and impact of the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You should demonstrate commitment to engaging in cross-award activities, promoting pilot outputs and championing diverse biomedical data science communities. Commitment should specify the buy-in from senior level staff within the lead organisation, and partner organisations as required.

Within this section, we also expect you to:

  • describe how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the in-kind support, place and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work
  • describe your, and if applicable your team’s, research organisation’s commitment to risk tolerance, (de-)implementation costs and sustainability as required to evaluate new ways of working

Project partners

Add details about any project partners’ contributions. If there are no project partners, you can indicate this on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

A project partner is a collaborating organisation 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.

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

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.

For outline applications, only an initial list of partnerships is required (letters or emails of support are not required for the outline), and this may differ within full applications. You are expected to develop partnerships and partnership contributions if invited to submit an application to the full stage.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word limit: 400

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

This section is optional and may not apply to all applications.

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

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


Word limit: 500

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.

Outline costs

Provide costs that reflect, as accurately as possible, the funding you will need.

For outline applications, costs can be indicative and may differ within full applications. Justification of costs is not required at the outline stage.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process. This will be a two-stage assessment process (outline and full). Applications submitted to this opportunity will all be considered by an expert panel (outline).

The outline panel will evaluate applications with reference to the assessment criteria given below and give a consensus score out of ten. Applications will be ranked by consensus score to inform shortlisting.

Applications not meeting the quality threshold (determined by panel ranking within consensus scores) will be unsuccessful. Only invited applications will be eligible to submit a full application via a separate funding opportunity.

Full applications will be considered at a separate expert panel.

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

Peer review

There will be no expert review beyond the outline and full panel meetings.

Timescales and feedback

Applicants invited to submit full applications may receive outline panel feedback and this will be made available for the opening of the full opportunity. You will have approximately eight weeks to submit full applications.

Full applications will reflect the structure and level of information provided within outline applications where possible but will provide additional opportunity for you to further develop partnerships, costings and detail any changes made from outline or in response to panel feedback.

We will endeavour to provide feedback for applications unsuccessful at outline panel but this will be dependent upon available office resource and the level of demand.

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

Principles of assessment

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

Find out about UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

Assessment criteria

The criteria we will assess your application against are:

  • vision of the project
  • evidence of commitment
  • approach to the project
  • management of the project and team capability
  • ethics and responsible research and innovation

Resources and partnerships are indicative only and will not be subject to assessment at outline stage.


Where applications are considered of equivalent quality by panel assessment (equal consensus scores), a portfolio approach may be considered for shortlisting that considers the following ranked criteria:

  1. range of research communities, technical specialists, technical professionals or technical contributions covered within the portfolio of proposals invited to full stage
  2. diversity of applicant team
  3. place and geographical reach of anticipated impact
  4. level of innovation

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 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 remit and scientific aspects of this specific funding opportunity please contact

For general questions related to MRC funding including our funding schemes and policy please contact

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.

Find information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the UKRI Funding Service helpdesk on

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your 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.

Additional info


Further background to this opportunity can be found in the MRC review of the opportunity of biomedical data science.

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

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