Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Public health intervention development (PHIND): Jan 2022

Apply for funding for the early-stage development of an intervention that seeks to address a UK or global public health challenge.

Any researcher employed by an eligible research organisation, including MRC Institutes and Units (including those in Gambia and Uganda), can apply for this funding opportunity.

You can apply for up to £150,000. MRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost (100% for overseas costs).

Your project can last up to 18 months.

Who can apply

Any researcher with an employment contract at an eligible research organisation, including MRC institutes and units (including those in Gambia and Uganda), can apply for this funding opportunity.

International co-investigators can be included if they provide expertise that’s not available in the UK.

Applicants can also include one or more project partners in their application.

Find more about eligibility in section one of our guidance for applicants.

Research office professionals

You cannot apply for this opportunity (PHIND January 2022) on our Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. It is one of the opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

We’ll contact research offices at organisations whose members have not previously applied through the Funding Service. This is to create a UKRI Funding Service account, with administrator status. This will give you:

  • oversight of every Funding Service application opened on behalf of your organisation
  • the ability to review and submit PHIND January 2022 applications, which must be received by 25 January 2022.

If you anticipate researchers from your organisation applying for PHIND January 2022, but have not already received an invitation to open an account, email

As an administrator, you will be responsible for the final submission of the application to UKRI. Please ensure internal deadlines are made clear to applicants from your organisation.

We’re running a webinar for research offices from organisations with potential applicants to PHIND on 8 December.

Register for our webinar on the new research office functionality (eventbrite).

What we're looking for

MRC is looking to support the early-stage development of interventions that seek to address either UK or global public health challenges. This might include qualitative and quantitative primary research and the development of theory and logic models. However, emphasis should be placed on developing the intervention.

This opportunity supports the incorporation of systems thinking in addressing public health challenges. It is justifiable to focus on just one aspect of a system as long as the wider systems context is recognised, for example, in the framework for evaluation.

It also encourages the use of multi-disciplinary teams and co-production with users and other relevant stakeholders, such as policy makers.

The scope

Population level interventions, with a focus on non-health care settings. Examples of the focus of health-related population level interventions include:

  • transport
  • education
  • employment
  • leisure
  • the built environment.

For the purposes of this funding opportunity, ‘population’ is defined as groups of individuals for which an intervention may subsequently be delivered and evaluated. For example, this includes:

  • organisations such as schools, prisons and workplaces
  • settings such as neighbourhoods, communities, regions and countries.

Healthcare settings can be included, but projects should demonstrate potential for improved health of general, high-risk, or vulnerable populations.

The creation of new interventions, where active components of existing interventions are combined to create a new intervention, is allowable within the scope.

The following activities are not within the scope of this opportunity:

  • NHS interventions
  • interventions treating clinical conditions or improving health services delivery
  • systematic reviews and meta-analyses
  • standalone feasibility studies and pilot studies
  • the wholesale transfer of a proven intervention to a new context, setting or target population. 

The application

You should address the following points about the proposed intervention:

  • its definition
  • a clear theory behind its mechanism of action
  • specification of its form(s) and function(s)
  • its individual components and their inter-relationships
  • its continued refinements and sustainability
  • its scalability.

The application should demonstrate a pathway to further development and evaluation of the intervention, and criteria for its progression to the next stage of development (detailed within the case for support).

Engagement of potential commissioners and users of an intervention is often crucial to its potential success. You should be able to identify potential beneficiaries of your intervention, who would be delivering the intervention and who would commission it.

Your application will be strengthened by demonstrating that users and the target population will be willing to participate in the development study (and potentially further testing and evaluation).

Project costs

Applicants can apply for up to £150,000, for a maximum of 18 months.

Funds requested by UK research organisations will be funded at 80% of the full economic cost. Overseas costs will be funded at 100% of the full economic cost.

Funds may be requested to support costs attributable to the study, including investigator and research staff time, consumables, equipment and travel.

A limited amount (approximately 15%) of the overall cost may be allocated to some acceptability and feasibility research, to:

  • further develop the intervention
  • help cement a collaboration
  • underpin further work to help the case for a future grant application.

How to apply

What follows is a copy of the sections and questions you’ll need to complete and answer on UKRI’s Funding Service. You cannot apply for this opportunity on the Je-S system.

You must follow the guidance here and in the Funding Service. This may be different from the general MRC guidance for applicants.

A full economic costs (fEC) template, available to download from the Funding Service, letters of support and GANTT charts may be attached. Other attachments are not required for this opportunity.

Applicants will need to take the following steps to apply:

  1. select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page
  2. sign in – if you do not already have a Funding Service account you will be given the opportunity to register. You cannot use your Je-S account
  3. start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’ – you can save your work and come back to it later
  4. once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review – they’ll check it and return it to you if it needs editing
  5. once happy, return it to your research office who must submit it to UKRI for assessment.

Make sure you get any necessary approval from your organisation in advance and give yourself plenty of editing time before the closing date.

As this opportunity uses the UKRI Funding Service, many of the attachments described in the general MRC guidance for applicants are not required, for example:

  • data management plan
  • CVs
  • publication lists
  • methodology annex.

1. Details and summary

Application name

This should be the title of your proposed project.

Limited to 20 words.

Add applicants

Provide principal investigator and co-investigator details.

Start date and duration

Provide the start date and planned duration of your proposed project.

Description of your research idea

Describe your proposed intervention stating the public health challenge it’s seeking to address and its potential impact. Make sure you include the study objectives to give assessors an overview of your research plans.

Limited to 400 words.

2. Case for support: public health outcomes

Explain the public health outcomes being addressed with this intervention, including the target population, and how it addresses strategic public health priorities.

Limited to 600 words.

What the assessors are looking for

The assessors are looking for the importance of the public health question and the need for an intervention to address the issue or issues, taking account of the current landscape. In your response refer to relevant literature and what is already known, including what has previously been tested. Please reflect on:

  • utility
  • applicability
  • affordability
  • feasibility.

You should give details of how this project addresses strategic public health priorities. For example, lack of physical activity in sedentary older adults leading to poor physical and mental health.

You should fully justify the target population identified in your proposal, with clear consideration of the potential for differences according to:

  • socioeconomic status
  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • age group
  • other characteristics.

3. Case for support: evidence gap

What is the evidence gap this study addresses?

Limited to 500 words.

What the assessors are looking for

The assessors are looking to understand the need for an intervention in this research area and what gap your intervention will fill.

It’s rare that a proposed intervention will be the first of its kind to tackle a particular public health problem. Explain what the literature shows and why a new intervention is needed. For example, is it likely to be more effective, cheaper or more practicable?

4. Case for support: subsequent development phases

Describe what type of intervention would be studied in the subsequent ‘main study’. Include criteria for progression and the pathway to the next stage of evaluation, and give an indication of what the intervention would likely involve.

Limited to 400 words.

What the assessors are looking for

This question refers to the subsequent intervention development phases that would be informed by, or could lead on from, the proposed intervention development study. It’s important to demonstrate:

  1. the pathway to the main study and later evaluation stages
  2. what the intervention would likely involve, such as the type and format of the intervention, clearly describing the system context, where applicable.

Be as clear as possible about the future plans, including an outline of the design of full-scale trial.

While you’re not expected to know the outcome of your research, a strong application will consider the format of the proposed intervention, what the ‘product’ will be and whether it is likely to be affordable and feasible to deliver.

For example, specifying that you intend to develop an online alcohol reduction programme would give the panel a clearer picture of what you envisage than simply referring to an educational resource.

You may also find it helpful to develop a logic model and relevant programme theory to underpin and explain the intervention and its likely effects.

Not all PHIND projects will necessarily be developed into feasible interventions. But either way, results will be valuable for informing future research and should be appropriately disseminated.

You should also detail the criteria you’ll use to determine whether the project should progress to the next stage of evaluation. This may be related to uptake of the intervention, its feasibility or scalability, or practicality of delivery. It’s not essential to provide figures but give the panel an indication of what you’ll be looking for.

5. Case for support: methodology

Describe the proposed methodology for the early phase study, giving a detailed description of the methods to be used.

Limited to 800 words.

What the assessors are looking for

Detail the methodological approach you intend to use. In your response:

  • provide the expected number of focus groups, participants, people completing a survey and so on, where applicable
  • highlight any novel aspects of this project or proposed approach.

Successful PHIND applications clearly describe robust methods. For example, if you’re using focus groups, specify the number of sessions that will be involved and justify sample sizes. You should also define the selection criteria and recruitment strategy for your study participants.

You should evaluate the potential for unintended consequences. For example, some interventions may risk widening inequalities. App-based interventions may generate negative health effects associated with increased screen-time. Some community-based interventions improve the health and well-being of those directly involved, but not the target population.

Please explain what you could put in place to mitigate these risks. Equally, be open to the possibility of unexpected positive outcomes and consider how these might best be captured.

6. Case for support: research team and capability to deliver

Describe the expertise and experience of the research team as it relates to this project, including any relevant partners or users.

Limited to 1,000 words.

What the assessors are looking for

For each principal investigator, co-investigator and named individual research staff member, including any partners and users, describe their expertise, experience and role on the project to ensure its success.

You should include:

  • their relevant expertise, knowledge and/or skills related to the area of research indicated in the application
  • what they’ll contribute to the project
  • whether they’re in receipt of funding relevant to this research
  • relevant publications or outputs (a maximum of five can be listed for each individual).

7. Case for support: related applications

Has a related application been previously submitted to the MRC or another funding organisation?

Limited to 500 words.

What the assessors are looking for

If the application is a resubmission, provide information on how this new application differs from that submitted previously. It must not be used to cover anything which should be included in the case for support.

If the application was previously submitted to another funder, you should provide:

  • the name of the funding body
  • a brief description of the project.

8. Case for support: references

Detail the references used in your application.

Limited to 800 words.

What the assessors are looking for

The list the references, such as published journal papers, used within the case for support.

9. COVID-19 impact

If applicable, outline the impact of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Limited to 500 words.

What the assessors are looking for

Applicants are invited to provide an impact statement on their personal experience during the pandemic. The purpose is to allow the applicant to provide additional information, of relevance to the application and the research case, to explain specific disruptions to previous or current research caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example:

  • illness due to COVID-19, either themselves or their families
  • caring responsibilities
  • restricted access to facilities and normal research environment
  • clinical responsibilities – details on their specialty, whether they were on the front-line, required to back-fill posts, and so on
  • impact on research and the production of preliminary data, development of collaborations, loss of research resources, and restrictions to research approaches
  • impact on publications or other outputs.

10. Logic model and timeframe

Provide a logic model, Gantt chart or both, to support your proposal (optional).

What the assessors are looking for

You can provide a logic model to describe the anticipated mechanism of action, delivery, key components and their inter-relationships, outputs and outcomes of the intervention.

You can provide a Gantt chart to show milestones and the overall timeframe of your proposal. Please do not use the Gantt chart to include information which should be detailed in the case for support.

You can only upload one PDF file, no bigger than 8MB. You must not use more than one page for each (logic model, Gantt chart). If you want to submit both a logic model and a Gantt chart you will need to combine them in a single two-page document.

For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives to your proposal (when you create an application) immediately followed by the words ‘Logic and time’.

Unless specifically requested, please do not include any personal data within the attachment.

11. Justification of resources

Provide full economic costs and calculate the amount you are applying for using the template contained provided and add justifications.

Limited to 500 words.

What the assessors are looking for

Complete the full economic costings template (downloadable from within UKRI’s Funding Service), then upload it as a PDF that’s no larger than 8MB. For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives to your proposal (when you create an application) immediately followed by ‘fEC’.

For international co-investigators and international staff, enter related costs under the ‘exceptions’ section of the full economic costs template.

Enter 80% of the full economic cost for equipment; 100% in the case of equipment for overseas research organisations.

You must make sure each named or identifiable (from post name) individual included on this form is aware that:

  1. you have shared their personal information with UKRI
  2. UKRI will process their personal information as set out in UKRI’s privacy notice.

Once you’ve done that, provide justifications for the resources you’re requesting using the same headings as those in the template.

12. Supporting organisations

Provide any letters of support from project partners and relevant collaborators

What the assessors are looking for

Use the text box below to detail each organisation’s:

  • name
  • registered office address or website address
  • total amount of direct contributions, indicating the value in pounds. For example, cash, equipment, materials, seconding of staff or other direct contributions
  • total amount of indirect contributions, indicating the value in pounds. For example, use of facilities, staff time and other indirect contributions.

If you have more than one project partner or collaborator, please include the information as a table.

In addition, you must upload a single PDF containing all letters or emails of support from these organisations. Each letter or email should:

  • confirm their commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project
  • detail the nature and equivalent value of any in-kind contribution, and period of support
  • detail the nature and value of any cash contribution, and period of support
  • state whether they wish to claim minor costs, such as small consumables specific to the project.

Copies of your letters and emails must be uploaded as a single PDF file, no larger than 8MB.

Unless specifically requested, please do not include any personal data within the attachment.

13. Human participation

Would the project involve the use of human subjects?

Limited to 500 words.

What the assessors are looking for

Answer either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

If ‘Yes’, justify the number and the diversity of the participants involved as well as any procedures. Provide details of any areas of substantial or moderate severity of impact.

14. Personal information

Will personal information be used?

Limited to 500 words.

What the assessors are looking for

Answer either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

If ‘Yes’, provide details of whether the information will be anonymised and how it will be stored securely.

15. Ethical implications

Are there ethical implications arising from the proposed research?

Limited to 500 words

What the assessors are looking for

Answer either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

If ‘Yes’, provide details of ethical implications and how they would be addressed.

Where approvals are required, confirm the authority who will provide the approval, and whether this has been sought and approved.

How we will assess your application

The expert review panel will use the following criteria to assess your application:

  • the importance of the public health question and the need for an intervention to address the issue(s), taking account of the current landscape
  • the proposed approach including methodology, innovation and likelihood of the outcomes of the proposed study to fill a current gap in knowledge
  • the research team, research environment, stakeholder partners and user participation and engagement
  • how novel the intervention is and whether it brings together disciplines and actors that may not normally be involved in health research
  • its potential impact, including appropriate engagement plans with users, key stakeholders and target populations, and the appropriateness of communication and knowledge exchange plans.

The expert review panel comprises independent academics and public health practitioners. It has close links with NIHR and the MRC Global Health board, to ensure the public health relevance of projects and to increase the potential success of future applications for piloting and evaluative studies.

The expert review panel meeting will take place approximately eight weeks after the closing date.

Panel feedback will be provided to all applicants, approximately four to six weeks after the meeting.

Applications that are outside the scope of the opportunity will not be assessed by the panel.

Contact details

Contact the Funding Service about eligibility or any queries


Phone: 01793 265810

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