MRC/DfID African Research Leader scheme
This call is now closed for applications and is available for reference purposes only.
The MRC/DfID African Research Leader scheme is a highly prestigious award, jointly funded by the MRC and the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), for non-clinical and clinical researchers of exceptional ability. The aim of the scheme is to strengthen research leadership and capacity across sub-Saharan Africa by attracting and retaining researchers of high ability. The scheme will be launched as a pilot in the first instance, initially aiming to award support for two or three research leaders.
- Who can apply?
- Research remit
- Funding available
- Tenure of award
- How to apply?
- Assessment process
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Key Dates
- Other work responsibilities
- Applications for other grant support
Lack of grant funding and research infrastructure in some sub-Saharan African countries can make it difficult to retain and attract talented African scientists. As such, African nationals are currently under-represented as leaders in medical research in the region. We will, therefore, particularly welcome applications from researchers from sub-Saharan African countries. Applications are also encouraged from African researchers currently working overseas who wish to return to sub-Saharan Africa.
This pilot scheme also aims to build on existing strong research partnerships between African and UK research organisations.
Key principles of the scheme:
- Provides support for outstanding non-clinical and clinical researchers, ideally from sub-Saharan Africa. Applicants are expected to be proven independent researchers and research leaders, and to be well-qualified for academic research.
- Open to all research areas within the MRC’s remit that address the priority health problems of people in developing countries. This includes biomedical and health research (including social sciences and public health research) and translation relevant to national and regional health needs and priorities.
- Provides support for up to five years in the first instance, with the possibility for renewal subject to scientific review. The award package will include funds for a programme of research and a contribution to the research leader’s salary.
- Aims to build on existing strong research partnerships between African and UK research organisations. Applications should be submitted jointly between the researcher’s host African research organisation and a partner UK research organisation, which demonstrate a strong track record of a high quality research partnership at the institutional level. Please note that due to MRC administrative processes, funds will be awarded to the UK partner research organisation, which will be responsible for administration of funds to the African research organisation.
- Offers an institutional development element for the African institution.
- Provides for the personal development of the researcher, including an opportunity to spend time in a UK institution. The UK partner research organisation will be expected to provide a programme of mentoring and support for the researcher.
Applications require three key elements, namely the candidate for research leader, their African research organisation, and a UK partner research organisation. Further details are provided below. Please note that due to MRC administrative processes and constraints the UK partner must be the Principal Investigator (PI) named on the application and the candidate must be the first co-investigator (Co-I). Funds will be awarded to the UK partner research organisation which will then be responsible for administration of the funds to the African research organisation.
The candidate for research leader
This MRC scheme is open to both non-clinical and clinical researchers.
Candidates are expected to hold a PhD and have at least three to five years' relevant post-doctoral research experience.
Candidates are expected to have a tenured academic position at an eligible African research organisation prior to taking up any award. Candidates are expected to make their own arrangements for obtaining a tenured academic position in an eligible African research organisation if one is not already held.
African nationals are currently under-represented as leaders in medical research in sub-Saharan Africa. The MRC therefore particularly welcomes applications from researchers from sub-Saharan African countries. Applications are also encouraged, from African researchers working overseas who wish to return to the region. Successful candidates would be expected to continue their appointment at the African research organisation beyond the term of the award.
There are no UK residence eligibility restrictions for this scheme as the researcher will be based in sub-Saharan Africa.
African-UK institutional partnership
This scheme aims to encourage a research-supportive environment for the researcher, including access to, and support from, research expertise in UK research organisations. The scheme also aims to build on the breadth of existing strong partnerships between African and UK research organisations. These awards are, therefore, only available to African-UK institutional partnerships where there is a demonstrated strong track record of a high quality research partnership at the institutional level. This need not be in exactly the same area of research as the application, and need not have involved the potential research leader. The African and UK institutions must submit a joint application to the MRC. Both institutions will be expected to demonstrate their long term commitment to the career of the successful candidate, throughout the life time of the award and beyond.
The African research organisation
The scheme is only offered to African Government-owned institutions in sub-Sahara Africa, such as universities, medical/dental schools and academic institutes, and where reasonable access to research funding is not already available.
The research leader must be based in a research-conducive environment, including the environment offered by the research institution itself and the sub-Saharan African country.
The African organisation would be expected to provide continuity of appointment of the researcher beyond the term of the award, such as a tenured position or equivalent. There is also an expectation that over time, the African organisation would increase its level of financial support of the individual.
The African research organisation is eligible to submit only one application per organisation.
The UK partner organisation
The UK research organisation will be responsible for the receipt and administration of the funds. However, it is anticipated that most of the funds would be spent in the African organisation. It is expected that the UK partner organisation would provide a tailored programme of mentoring, training, advice and expertise to the researcher and the African organisation. Due to MRC processes and constraints, the Principal Investigator of the grant has to be an investigator based at the UK partner organisation. It is anticipated that this investigator would be responsible for delivering the UK partner contributions to the award.
Any UK research organisation is eligible, including MRC units. For the purposes of this scheme, the MRC units based in Africa are also eligible as the UK partner organisation. Please refer to the applicants’ handbook for further guidance on eligible institutions.
UK research organisations are restricted to the submission of two applications per organisation.
The scheme is open to all research areas within MRC’s remit that specifically address the priority health problems of people in developing countries and which cannot easily be achieved in the UK. The scope of the scheme includes biomedical and health research, including social sciences and public health research, and translational research relevant to African national and regional health needs and priorities. Please refer to MRC’s current scientific priority areas.
However, the scheme will not support phase III (or IV) clinical trials, for which there are other streams of funding available, but will support programmes of laboratory, field and clinical research which may be associated with, or lead to phase III (or IV) clinical trials.
Funding for the scheme is provided by the MRC and the Department for International Development (DfID). The scheme will be launched as a pilot in the first instance aiming to support two or three research leaders overall. Up to a maximum of £500k pa will be made available per award. Funding is available for five years in the first instance, and it is anticipated that there will be the opportunity to apply for renewal of funding for a further 5-10 years, subject to scientific review, and pending the success of the pilot scheme.
The majority of the funding will be for work taking place in the African research organisation and so would be eligible for full economic costing (FEC) exceptions paid at 100 per cent. Any costs specifically for the UK research organisation will be provided on the basis of 80% FEC as usual. If the UK research organisation is an African MRC unit then, as with other MRC units, it will only be eligible for direct costs. Please refer to the applicants’ handbook for further guidance.
The total award package is anticipated to include the following elements:
1. Contribution to the personal salary for the research leader. In the event that 100% of the research leader’s salary was requested, the expectation would be that over time, say 5-7 years, the African research institution would take on more responsibility for providing the salary.
2. Funds are also available for a five year research programme, and could include research support staff, research consumables expenses and capital equipment appropriate for the research programme, travel costs, and other appropriate items.
3. The award also has provision for a personal development element, to support leadership, strategic research and finance management and continuing professional development.
4. Additionally, an institutional development element is available for the African research organisation to support a set of institutional objectives, the outputs of which should be verifiable and be able to be monitored. This could include research and finance management, and professional training.
As part of the personal development element, the scheme provides the opportunity to spend time in an organisation other than the African research organisation, over and above brief visits. This may be the UK partner organisation, or any other UK or overseas research organisation, or a UK industrial centre. The aim is to provide a concentrated period of training/career development that cannot be achieved effectively within the African research organisation. We would normally expect the research leader to make one or two such visits, of no more than three months each. However, the assessment panel may agree to requests for visits to more than one centre, if this can be justified on the grounds of training/career development needs. These should not be simply collaborative visits. Candidates should be prepared at interview to discuss in detail any visits proposed.
This may be a one-off pilot competition for Africa Research Leaders although the aim is for this to become a longer term scheme. It is anticipated that the tenure of the award will be for five years in the first instance. If the pilot scheme is successful, it is anticipated that there will be an opportunity to apply for renewal of funding every five years (up to a maximum of 15 years) subject to scientific review, and subject to the African research organisation taking on the research leader’s future employment costs.
Pending the outcome of the pilot competition, a second competition may be run in approximately 12 months time.
Outline applications are not required for this scheme. However, to provide guidance about high level eligibility criteria and whether the intended research is within the remit of this scheme, potential applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a brief expression of interest to the MRC prior to submitting a full application. Please complete the expression of interest template and email to ARLadmin@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk.
All full applications must be submitted via the MRC’s electronic application form (EAA). Due to MRC processes and constraints, the UK-based partner should be entered as the Principal Investigator (PI) and the African Research Leader as Co-Investigator (Co-I). The deadline for submission of applications will be 4pm on 10 June 2010 UK time. Please note that this deadline is for receipt of the application by the MRC. Applicants should bear in mind that all proposals have to be submitted through the UK research organisation’s administrative department. Please ensure they have sufficient time to complete their parts of the proposal before the MRC deadline date. Any late applications will be rejected.
To submit an application, the applicants must complete the standard EAA application form, but use the guidance below in writing their ‘case for support’.
All eligible lead UK research organisations must also be registered with the MRC to apply for funding via the MRC EAA. Eligible institutions include UK higher education institutions (HEI), Research Council institutes, and eligible Independent Research Organisations (IROs).
All IROs listed on the RCUK web page are eligible to apply and if they wish to submit an application must have pre-registered with the MRC EAA. Please note that the registration can take up to ten working days. If you wish to register with MRC EAA please see the research organisations section on the using the EAA guidance.
Co-investigators may create their own account on the MRC’s EAA system to view and amend the application in consultation with the UK investigator. Please read the instructions prior to creating an account (using the EAA guidance). Co-investigators may be assigned read/write privileges on the application, please contact the EAA helpdesk for further guidance (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The ‘Title of Investigation’ should include the name of the proposed research leader together with the name of the African organisation they will be employed at followed by the title of the research for example, [first initial] [surname], [African Institution] - [research title]. Please be aware that EAA has room for a maximum of 120 characters including spaces and punctuation.
When completing your proposal, applicants should select ‘Strategic Grant’ for the ‘Grant Scheme you are applying for’. Also select ‘Managed Mode’ for ‘Are you applying in’. Also select ‘New Application’ for ‘Type of Grant’.
Please note: All mandatory sections on the application, highlighted in yellow, need to be completed.
Within the scientific classification page, for ‘MRC Office Scientific Contact for your Application’ select ‘Dr Claire Newland’ from the drop down list.
Please complete all sections of the application form. Under ‘Resources requested’ enter all costs requested identifying the UK and African costs separately. Normal FEC rules (80%) will apply for UK costs; work taking place at the African organisation will be eligible for 100% FEC. If the UK research organisation is an African MRC unit then as with other MRC units, it will only be eligible for direct costs. Please refer to the applicants’ handbook for further guidance.
Completing the case for support
The case for support should be a maximum of nineteen pages in length, including references, using Verdana 10pt typeface with margins of 2cms on the left hand side and 1.5cms on the other edges. Applicants should follow the African Research Leader (ARL) case for support guidance when completing this section. Applicants are advised to also refer to the assessment criteria for the scheme.
Please read the MRC applicants handbook and using the EAA guidance, which will guide you through the standard processes for preparing a proposal, costing your proposals and any ethical and regulatory requirements that may apply to the research.
Applications will be peer reviewed by external reviewers and considered by an independent expert panel. The panel will shortlist candidates for interview. The PI (partner) from the UK partner research organisation will also be invited for interview with the candidate for research leader.
Short listed candidates will normally be notified four weeks before the interview date. Interviews will take place in late October 2010 and will be conducted at MRC Head Office in London. Candidate research leaders and UK partners should therefore provisionally set aside this time. It is the responsibility of candidates to ensure that they have the necessary visa to attend for the interview. Reasonable travel costs (economy class, unless exceptionally agreed in advance) and accommodation costs will be met by the MRC.
We reserve the right not to process an application if the scheme’s eligibility criteria and remit are not met or if the application has not been completed in full, or received after the submission deadline.
For further details see assessment process for African Research Leader scheme.
Applicants are asked to note that there will be reporting requirements in order to monitor and evaluate the funding scheme. Further details will be provided in time.
Launch of scheme
9 March 2010
Expression of Interest
No set deadline
10 June 2010
Peer review (external)
July & August 2010
Shortlisting panel meeting
Mid-September 2010 (tbc)
Interviews (two days)
Late October 2010 (tbc)
Applicants notified of awards
Early November 2010 (tbc)
MRC/DfID African Research Leaders and research support staff funded through full-time grants may spend up to six hours a week teaching or demonstrating. Payment for this work may be retained in full if this is the host institution’s normal policy.
It is anticipated that African Research Leaders will seek additional grant support from other funding organisations. Research leaders should notify the MRC of other grant support as soon as it is awarded. In applying for such funding, research leaders should be mindful of their commitments (see above).
All administrative enquiries should be directed to:
Enquiries relating to the completion of the electronic application should be directed to the EAA helpdesk:
Scientific enquiries should be directed to Mrs Samia Majid in the first instance: