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Extending working lives: Research Partnership Awards

This funding opportunity has now closed and this information is for reference only. Deadline 5th September 2012.


The extending working lives of the UK workforce poses new challenges for employees, employers and policy makers. The cross-Research Council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) programme is offering the following coordinated package of funding opportunities aimed at informing strategies and investigating critical issues that will better prepare the UK for an ageing workforce:

  • Research Partnership Awards comprising partnerships of academics and public/private employers or stakeholders addressing research challenges and employer needs associated with an ageing workforce, within a workplace or policy setting (this call).
  • Interdisciplinary Research Consortia bringing together existing UK academic expertise to understand the determinants of working later in life and the relationship between work, health and wellbeing of older workers. (This activity is subject to a separate cross-disciplinary call l which can be found on the ESRC’s website).


Call for research partnership outline proposals and workshop participants

Researchers are invited to submit outline proposals for Research Partnership Awards and/or Expressions of Interest to attend a Partnership Building Workshop to facilitate the development of cross-sector collaborations.



Abolition of the default retirement age and the recent linking of state pension age to rising life expectancy mean that in the future a growing proportion of the UK workforce will be over 50 years of age. The impact of these extending working lives policies on health, productivity, financial and social wellbeing of increasingly older workers and employers in the UK is unclear.

  • In recent years Government and businesses have implemented a range of interventions designed to support the health, wellbeing and productivity of older employees. The impact, cost effectiveness and generalisability of these interventions are not known. Government departments and employers hold a range of workforce data that could provide valuable insights into older adults’ health, wellbeing and engagement in the workplace. Preliminary discussions with the public and commercial sectors have indicated that many challenges relating to the ageing workforce could be addressed by harnessing their resources in research partnerships with the academic sector.


The Lifelong Health and Wellbeing (LLHW) cross-Research Council ageing programme, led by the Medical Research Council, aims to support multidisciplinary research targeting factors over the life course that are major determinants of health and wellbeing in older age. Extending Working Lives was highlighted as a priority in the Strategy for Collaborative Ageing Research in the UK published in 2010 by the Research Councils in partnership with the UK Health Departments.


Scientific scope

Funding is available from the ESRC and MRC for LLHW Research Partnership Awards comprising cross-sector collaborations between academics and public/private employer or stakeholder organisations. Funds will support high quality research addressing employer/stakeholder needs associated with promoting health and wellbeing in the older workforce.


Discussions with large employers from a range of sectors have identified a number of challenges that could be addressed through collaborative research. Outline research proposals are sought in the following areas where opportunities exist for researchers and employers to work together to investigate these challenges:

  • Understanding the determinants of working later in life, e.g. factors influencing workforce participation and retirement including ill heath, caring responsibilities and cultural/social expectations; training and skills development in older workers.
  • The relationship between health, work and wellbeing of older workers, e.g. managing chronic conditions in an ageing workforce; understanding the impact of working later in life on older employees and employers; evaluating workplace interventions that promote health, wellbeing and productivity of older workers


Types of research funded through this route might include, but are not restricted to:

  • Observational and descriptive studies to inform future strategies to promote health and wellbeing
  • Evaluation of natural experiments and design and evaluation of new interventions, exploring the possibility of randomisation if appropriate.
  • Analysis and use of existing resources, including workforce data, to address employer/stakeholder needs
  • Opportunities to strengthen evidence in this area through the use of mixed methods such as trials, interventions, models and observational studies using more robust markers and measures.


The definition of an older worker in this call is over 50 years of age. Work refers to paid and unpaid employment up to and beyond the state pension age. Early retirement is defined in this call as leaving the workforce before state pension age.


In order to assist researchers to build collaborative partnerships with employer and stakeholder organisations, the Research Councils are hosting a Partnership Building Workshop. This call invites expressions of interest to attend the workshop from eligible individuals.


Attendance at the workshop is not mandatory for applicants wishing to apply for funds under this call.


Research partnership building workshop


The purpose of the workshop is to build partnerships between academia and public/private employers or key stakeholder organisations that would not normally interact. The workshop will explore the potential for innovative research to address business and policy needs related to an ageing workforce.


It is anticipated that collaborations developed at the workshop will lead to subsequent outline applications for Research Partnership Awards under this call


Attendance at the workshop does not guarantee that subsequent funding for research proposals will be awarded. A report from the workshop is now available.



The workshop is a residential, interactive event, where 30-35 participants, approximately half from academia and half from employer and stakeholder organisations, will be brought together to build links and immerse themselves in collaborative thinking processes. The workshop will run over three full days starting at 10.00am on day one and finishing by 16.30 on day three.


As the workshop progresses, participants will identify key issues for employers/stakeholders that relate to the ageing workforce and begin to explore innovative, multidisciplinary research approaches in partnership that could address these challenges.


The workshop will be directed by Professor David Armstrong, chair of the LLHW Advisory Group of Experts. The Director will be joined by a small number of Mentors from academia, policy and business organisations. Employers and stakeholders who have engaged in this activity to date include the Department for Work and Pensions, British Telecom, Morrisons and NHS Employers.


The Director and Mentors will not be eligible to receive research funding.


Dates and location

The workshop will take place from 8th – 10th October 2012 at a venue near London. Attendance for the full three days is essential. An application to attend will be taken as confirmation that you are available for the whole duration of the workshop, and will attend the workshop in full if selected.


Full details of the venue, how to get there and the accommodation arrangements will be sent to selected participants. It should be noted that all accommodation, refreshments, breakfast, lunch and dinner costs will be met by the Research Councils. All other costs (travel expenses and incidental costs such as sundries and bar bill) must be met by the participant.


Who should attend?

Applications to attend the workshop are encouraged from a broad range of academic disciplines and representatives of public or private sector employers and stakeholder organisations who can actively contribute to the workshop and resulting research projects.


Those attending will need to be committed to cross-disciplinary and cross-sector working. All applicants should show an active interest and appreciation of research in the area and the practical challenges relating to extending working lives.


Academic applications are encouraged from across population science, health, economic, and social sciences. Applicants should be independent researchers of national standing.


Applicants must meet MRC or ESRC eligibility requirements to receive grant funding.


Applying to participate in the workshop

Applicants should complete the Expression of Interest (EoI) form and submit this along with a short CV/Research track record (maximum two sides of A4).


Your answers to questions contained within the EoI form will be used along with evidence provided in your research track record to assess your application and suitability to participate in this event.


The deadline for applications is 4pm, Wednesday 5th September. Please note that late submissions will not be considered.


Assessment of applications to attend the workshop

Applications to attend the workshop will be considered against the following criteria by an expert Selection Panel chaired by the workshop Director:

  • Relevance of expertise to the scientific scope of the workshop
  • Potential to contribute to cross-disciplinary and cross-sector research in Extending Working Lives
  • Potential to build effective collaborations with employers and stakeholders


Please note that individual feedback will not be made available to unsuccessful applicants.


Outline applications for extending working lives Research Partnership Awards


Following the recent partnership building workshop,a pplications are invited for LLHW Research Partnership Awards in Extending Working Lives. Applications are expected to range in scale and duration, from small scale analysis of workforce data to large scale evaluation of workplace interventions. Applicants may apply for up to £2.5 million (100% fEC) over a maximum five year period, with this financial limit applying to the full economic cost of the grant, regardless of any contribution from the research organisation. The Research Councils will, with agreed exceptions, only fund 80 percent of the full economic cost, and the balance must be guaranteed by the research organisation. Funding for the call is provided by ESRC and MRC, however additional funding may be available from other Research Councils should the proposed research fall within their remit.


Applications will be considered by an expert assessment panel alongside applications for Extending Working Lives Research Consortia. Consideration of proposals will be primarily on scientific excellence. Final decisions on how many awards will be funded will depend on the scientific quality of the proposal, strategic fit within the context of other successful proposals and the availability of funds.


Applicants may seek funding to cover staffing and other costs associated with the research collaboration including research costs, travel and subsistence, and equipment. Partnering costs such as use of employer/stakeholder facilities, providing access to data, and the time of non-academic staff actively involved in the collaboration are expected to be met by the partner organisation(s). Except under exceptional circumstances, the partnering organisation(s) will also be expected to meet the costs associated with interventions.


Research collaborations may include short-tem placements to enable researchers to undertake a period of work in an employer/stakeholder setting in order to identify opportunities for analysis and utilisation of existing data. The structure of placements is flexible and may comprise a researcher(s) working full or part-time in a partner organisation setting for up to 6 months.



Applications for funding should be truly collaborative. Applications must be led by an eligible academic researcher and involve a partnership with a public or private sector employer(s), or stakeholder organisation(s) (such as UK government departments). The nature of the partnership and in-kind support to be provided by the partnering organisation(s) should be explicit in the outline application. Outline applications for funding should be co-developed with input from all partners and accompanied by a letter of support to provide evidence of the commitment of the non-academic organisation(s) to the proposed research.


This call is being led by the MRC on behalf of LLHW and therefore MRC funding and eligibility rules apply. For information on the eligibility of organisations and individuals to receive funding through this call, see the MRC Applicants Handbook. If you are normally eligible for ESRC or MRC funding you will be eligible to apply to this call. RCUK provide a list of eligible organisations able to apply to ESRC and MRC.


How to make an outline application?

The call for Extending Working Lives Research Partnership Awards will be operated via a two stage process.


Outline applications should be made via the Research Council Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) System and submitted to MRC by no later than 4pm on Tuesday 4th December 2012. Outlines must be costed and approved by the relevant institutional authority before submission.


Please note that you will not be able to access this call in the Je-S system until after 15th October 2012.


The outline application guidance notes provide details of the information that applicants are required to submit as part of their proposal. Applicants are strongly encouraged to refer to this guidance before preparing an outline application.


All applicants should also consult the MRC Applicants Handbook which sets out the rules and regulations governing funding.


Assessment of applications

Outline proposals will be assessed against the call assessment criteria (see outline application guidance notes for details) by an expert panel then short-listed. Short-listed applicants will subsequently be invited to submit applications to the full proposal stage through the Je-S System. Details of how to submit full proposals and what to include will be provided to successful applicants.


Key Dates


Deadline for applications to attend the Partnership Building Workshop

4pm, Wednesday 5th September 2012

Extending Working Lives Partnership Building Workshop

8th – 10th October 2012

Deadline for submitting outline proposals for Research Partnership Awards

4pm, Tuesday 4th December 2012

Decisions to applicants on outline stage

February 2013

Deadline for submitting full proposals (successful outlines only)

April 2013

Commissioning Panel meeting

June/July 2013

Decisions to applicants

By end July 2013



Dr Stephen Oakeshott

MRC Programme Manager for Lifelong Health and Wellbeing


Tel: 01793 416350


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