Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: MRC Clinical academic research partnership: Oct 2020

You can apply for this scheme if you are a research-qualified healthcare professional at consultant level or equivalent, not currently undertaking any substantial research activity, and looking to develop your research interests through collaborative partnerships.

We welcome projects across all areas of the funding partners’ remits, from basic discovery science to translational and applied health research.

Awards are flexible to enable you to tailor support, and last between one and three years. You can get funding for 20% to 50% of your basic salary and some costs to undertake the project.

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, doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, allied health professions, healthcare scientists, pharmacists, clinical psychologists, registered public health practitioners and others, in either primary care, secondary care, community care or public health
  • are working at consultant level or equivalent. You should be 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) of research time in your current job plan. 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.

What type of research partner you need

Your research partner must have a proven track record of securing peer-reviewed research programmes from funders such as UKRI, the National Institute for Health Research or significant third sector research funders for the duration of the planned partnership.

They must also be based at an organisation eligible to hold research council funding. This can include higher education institutions and NHS bodies with research capacity. 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.

What 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.

What 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 commitment to:

  • provide protected research time
  • ensure 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.

You must include a letter of support from the NHS organisation (or equivalent employer) that is employing you as part of the application. This must:

  • confirm that you will be released for the proportion of time funded by MRC and the National Institute for Health Research
  • include clear and feasible plans for your time to be backfilled, especially for applicants from niche specialties where this will present challenges
  • guarantee that you can return to your previous role and job plan at the end of the award.

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 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 and other areas, as outlined in MRC’s strategic plan.

We also welcome applications which address global health issues and primarily benefits those living in low and middle-income countries, or 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 for consumables to undertake the project.

We will not accept requests for salaries of research staff other than the applicant (for example, postdocs, research fellows, research assistants, research nurses, technicians, statisticians, technologists, methodologists).

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: Clinical academic research partnership.

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

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

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

Supporting documents:

If you have any queries, email

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.

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

  • importance: 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 our peer review process.

Contact details

If you have any queries, email

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