Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: MRC population and systems medicine research grant: May 2021

Funding is available from MRC’s Population and Systems Medicine Board to support focused research projects on population and systems medicine.

We award research grants to UK-based research organisations. Research grants may involve more than one research group or institution.

There is no limit to the funding you can request, but it should be appropriate to the project – typically awards are up to £1 million. We will usually fund up to 80% of your project’s full economic cost.

Projects can last up to five years and are typically three to four years.

Who can apply

Any UK-based researcher with an employment contract at an eligible research organisation can apply. You will need to:

  • have at least a graduate degree, although we usually expect most applicants to have a PhD or medical degree
  • show that you will direct the project and be actively engaged in the work.

You can include one or more industry partners as project partners in your application. International co-investigators can be included if they provide expertise not available in the UK.

The focus of this funding opportunity is population and systems medicine research.

There are similar opportunities across other areas of medical research within our remit including:

  • molecular and cellular medicine
  • infections and immunity
  • neurosciences and mental health
  • applied global health.

There are also other types of awards including programmes, partnerships and new investigator.

You should contact us if you are not sure which opportunity to apply to.

What we're looking for

The Population and Systems Medicine Board funds research to unlock the complexity of human health and disease across the life course.

Our remit includes population health and the impact of environmental factors, including the social environment on health outcomes.

The research we support includes the physiology and pathophysiology of all the major organs and systems, with the exception of the brain and the immune system which are normally supported through our other research boards.

Research we fund includes, but is not limited to, the following areas:

  • cardiovascular
  • respiratory
  • musculoskeletal
  • gastroenterology
  • renal medicine and liver function
  • endocrinology and reproductive health
  • maternal health and the early origins of health and disease
  • nutrition, metabolic regulation, diabetes and obesity
  • trauma, acute medicine and surgery
  • inflammation in relation to disease processes and the resolution of the inflammatory response
  • medical sociology
  • lifestyle, socio-economic and behavioural impacts on health
  • health inequalities
  • population and disease related cohorts.

Find out more about the science areas we support and our current board opportunity areas.

We encourage you to contact us first to discuss your application, especially if you believe your research may cross MRC research board or research council interests. If your application fits another research board remit better we may decide to transfer it there to be assessed.

Medical Research Council populations and systems medicine research grants:

  • are suitable for focused short or long-term research projects
  • can support method development or development and continuation of research facilities
  • may involve more than one research group or institution.

We will fund projects lasting up to five years, although projects typically last three to four years. If your project will last more than three years, you must justify the reason for this;  for example, if you need time for data collection or follow-up.

If your project will last less than two years, it must be for proof of principle or pilot work only. We expect proof of principle proposals to support high-risk and high-reward research by critically testing a key hypothesis or demonstrating feasibility of an approach that could lead to fundamentally new avenues of research.

Contact one of our programme managers for advice if you would like to apply for a short or long-duration project.

You can request funding for costs such as:

  • a contribution to the salary of the principal investigator and co-investigators
  • support for other posts such as research and technical
  • research consumables
  • equipment
  • travel costs
  • data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs
  • estates/indirect costs.

We won’t fund:

  • research involving randomised trials of clinical treatments
  • funding to use as a ‘bridge’ between grants
  • costs for PhD studentships
  • publication costs.

How to apply

Application deadlines for Population and Systems Medicine Board funding are usually around January, May and September, although sometimes launch and application deadlines can change. Check the Funding finder for details.

You can submit to any of the available deadlines in the year. We do not expect you to submit more than two applications at the same time, and encourage you to focus on application quality, not the number you can submit. Read our guidance for applicants for details of the resubmission process.

Applying through Je-S

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

Please read the Je-S how to apply guidance (PDF, 190KB) for more information. If you need help in applying, you can contact Je-S on 01793 444164 or by email JeSHelp@je-s.ukri.org.

You should give your administrative department sufficient notice that you intend to apply. Your organisation must submit your application before 16:00 on the deadline date.

When applying select:

● council: MRC
● document type: standard proposal
● scheme: research grant
● call/type/mode: research boards May 2021 submissions

Indicating the proposal is a research grant

Select the ‘grant type’ option from the proposal document menu, within the Je-S proposal form. Within the section, select the radio button adjacent to the ‘research grant’ option and select the ‘save’ button.

Guidance for applicants

Our guidance for applicants will:

  • help you check your eligibility
  • guide you through preparing a proposal
  • show you how to prepare a case for support
  • provide details of any ethical and regulatory requirements that may apply.

Industrial partners

If you want to include one or more industry partners as a project partner, you must also:

  • complete the project partner section in Je-S
  • submit an MRC industrial collaboration agreement (MICA) form and heads of terms
  • include ‘MICA’ as a prefix to your project title.

Find out more about MRC industry collaboration agreements.

Longitudinal Population Studies

If your application is to fund new or existing longitudinal population studies, you must first submit an outline application for joint review by the Longitudinal Population Studies Strategic Advisory Panel (LPS-SAP) and the Research Board. Should a full application be invited, this may be submitted within a 12-month window.

Applications for longitudinal population studies must be for core infrastructure only; applications may include associated research only if it is for proof of principle work. Applicants must speak to the relevant Programme Manager at least six weeks before the outline submission deadline to confirm the eligibility of their application. Please email populationcohorts@mrc.ukri.org for the outline template, timeline for review and next outline submission deadline. Applications for funding for clinical (i.e. patient specific or disease-focused) cohorts are exempt from this process.

How we will assess your application

When we receive your application, it will be peer-reviewed by 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?

Read the detailed assessment criteria for each grant type.

We will review these scores and comments at a triage meeting and expect to continue with the highest-quality applications with potential to be funded. If your application passes the triage stage, we will give you the chance to respond to reviewers comments.

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

Find out more about our peer review process.

Contact details

Visit our science contacts page or contact the programme manager most relevant to your research area for advice on developing your application and which board to apply to:

Other contacts

For general queries about MRC policy and eligibility or if you are not sure who to contact, get in touch with our research funding policy and delivery team:

Additional info

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