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Partnership grant

The partnership grant aims to provide support for collaborative activities that add value to existing research or helps galvanise researchers in a particular field, or complementary fields, to address important issues that cannot be addressed through other funding arrangements.



What is a Partnership grant?

The Partnership Grant scheme provides core funds for one to five years for managed consortia and partnerships and for supporting more diverse groupings of researchers, who may lack the scale, longevity, or organisation expected of an MRC Centre. For more information please see the associated guidance annex.

Funding can be provided for the following activities:

    • Strengthening of research activity across the field
    • Boosting capability
    • Encouraging collaboration, training and career development
    • Establishing critical mass
    • Knowledge sharing between Institutions, by establishing multi-disciplinary collaborative partnerships
    • Developing consortia
    • Developing strategy


These activities may be applicable to environments such as:

    • Multi-institutional/multi-disciplinary groupings
    • Strategic partnerships between organisations
    • Large scale partnerships


Typically they require a management structure with an identified leader or co-ordinator who will manage the funding on behalf of the MRC to ensure that progress is made against well-defined aims.


Who can apply?

Any UK based researcher who can demonstrate that they will direct the proposed partnership activities and manage the funding on behalf of the MRC to ensure that the objectives are fully delivered. This scheme is not open to MRC Institutes and Units, but is open to those based at a University Unit. However, MRC Institutes and Units can apply as co-applicants on any grant. The lead PI must be eligible to apply for the scheme & their institution/HEI must be able to apply in response mode.


Financial support

Support can be requested for between one and five years. The Partnership Grant should add value to high-quality scientific programmes that are already supported by grants from the MRC and other funders. The funding for new research projects which may arise from the Partnership should be pursued through MRC Programme and Research Grants and training awards, coupled with other schemes and non-MRC funding. Therefore, the Partnership Grant scheme is not designed to fund research that can be funded by our standard schemes

Funding is available for:

• Exceptionally, small scale, pilot, proof of principle, multidisciplinary, high risk projects which will strengthen the Partnerships’ strategy may be considered but should not be the focus of the application

• Establishing shared infrastructure for example staff, systems, equipment, seminars, workshops which should include a co-ordinated set of activities to promote, outreach work and travel

• Training and capacity building (excluding fellowships but including PhD studentships).

MRC does not expect studentships to form a major component of Partnership Grant applications. Studentships may be included where distinctive added value to the students’ training experience can be demonstrated, such as through a unique environment created by the proposed Partnership. Applicants must demonstrate why any proposed studentships could not be leveraged from existing studentship support, for example MRC Doctoral Training Grant funding. Applicants should also consider how the proposed studentships will add value to, and contribute towards the success of the Partnership.


Following standard practice, the MRC will fund on the basis of 80 per cent of the full economic cost of your research to your institution. Your proposal must show 100 per cent of the full economic costing throughout.


Any applications containing MRC Institutes and Units as co-applicants must be costed on the basis of 100% FEC. Applicants must discuss and agree the costs of the proposed research with their Institute/Unit Senior Finance Manager.


How to apply

• Check which of the MRC’s four Research Boards awards grants in your scientific area and check its application deadline dates. Applicants must contact the Programme Manager of the relevant MRC research Board to discuss the grant at least 6 weeks before submitting - this is a mandatory step. Please note that outline applications are no longer necessary. New applications should include a cover letter that confirms the name of the Programme Manager that agreed that an application could be submitted.

• When contacting the Programme Manager we ask that you send a brief case for the partnership grant to help them consider fit to the scheme and provide you with the best advice on shaping your partnership. Applicants are strongly advised to carefully consider this advice before submitting the full application.

• When contacting the Programme Manager we ask that you send the following by email:

o Case: max. 2 pages

o Resources: please provide a high level indication of the likely cost to the MRC

o CV for lead and co-investigators: max. 2 pages, plus 1 page for key publications



Applicants are required to submit a case containing a brief description of their proposal. This must consist of no more than two pages, plus 1 page of references.

Please include:

    • The title of potential MRC Partnership
    • A list of the PI and co-PIs and their affiliations
    • A list of collaborators – if known at this stage


The case at this stage should address each question in section 1 of the assessment criteria (below).

The MRC does not expect the initial case to contain detailed research proposals, however this scheme does require that the applicant states clearly the aims of the proposal.


Applicants should attach a CV containing key publications. In addition they should also attach a succinct summary of funding history.

Read the MRC applicants handbook, this will guide you through the application process. Please also ensure you read the terms and conditions concerning MRC grants.


Assessment criteria

Before applying for Partnership Grant funds, consider each of the specific criteria below to ensure that your application fully addresses each of these areas. Particularly note whether you, your co-applicants and your research environment fulfill the required criteria before deciding to apply. Please note that failure to address any of the criteria sufficiently in your application could result in an early stage rejection.

1. Importance

  • Is a partnership approach appropriate?
  • How original is the proposal? Is there a similar partnership in the UK or elsewhere?
  • Does funding via Partnership Grant support provide added value to the research?

2. Scientific Plans

  • What is the scientific problem to be addressed and why is it important?
  • What are the innovative and possibly high-risk approaches that are being proposed?
  • If successful, what is the potential of the associated research to offer ground-breaking advances in the scientific area (and perhaps others?) being addressed?
  • What skills and expertise do the Investigators have to promise success in the proposed approaches?
  • What impact will this Partnership Grant funding have on scientific delivery?
  • What impact will this Partnership Grant funding have on the development of future science and strategy?

3. Environment and People

  • Has the environment(s) in which the partnership will take place been well described?
  • If the proposal is for shared equipment or expertise, has it described where this will be sited and how it will be supported by the host research organisation(s)? Have the management arrangements for ensuring equity of access been explained?
  • Is the partnership between the applicants likely to benefit the research area?
  • Has the host research organisation(s) demonstrated a clear commitment to supporting the proposed partnership?
  • Does the partnership provide opportunities for the training and career development of personnel working in the partnership?
  • Will any studentships requested provide a unique training experience which could not be supported by existing MRC studentship support e.g. Doctoral Training Grant funding, Capacity Building studentship funding etc.?
  • Do all studentships requested meet MRC’s research training objectives and expectations (see Appendix 1)?

4. Management

  • How convincing and coherent is the management strategy proposed?
  • Will the management strategy ensure equitable access to any equipment or staff that are to be shared between collaborators?
  • Will the management strategy ensure high standards of supervision, mentoring and support for students, with a clear strategy for sustaining onward career development?
  • Are the aims and objectives realistic within the timeframe and with the resources proposed?

5. Justification of resources requested

  • Do contributions from the host research organisation(s) or from other sources enhance the value for money of the proposal?
  • Will the expected benefits, if supported, justify the cost?


Applicants will also need to comply with MRC guidance on data management stated in the applicants handbook




Your full proposal must be submitted through the MRC Je-S system by 4pm on the relevant Research Board's deadline date.


The assessment procedure

The grant application will be judged according to the need to pursue the proposed activities using a partnership approach, the strategic fit it provides to MRC strategy, and the financial aspects of the grant. Your proposal will be peer-reviewed by independent scientific experts and specialist referees in the UK and overseas. This peer review of full proposals helps inform the MRC Research Boards decisions.


You will receive anonymous copies of the reviewers’ assessments of your full proposal. If your proposal is shortlisted for discussion at the Board meeting, you will have the opportunity to respond to the reviewers’ comments before your proposal is considered by the relevant Research Board. You will also receive feedback on the Board’s final decision.


The Research Boards use similar criteria to those of the referees and will also identify any ethical issues or risks to human participants that need further attention.


Please note that applicants must not lobby MRC staff, referees, or members of peer review panels and Boards, nor submit additional information in support of an application after the original submission date. To do so may result in the application being rejected by the MRC.


Contacts and guidance

To discuss your eligibility for a Partnership Grant, or if you have other non-scientific queries please contact Research Funding Policy and Delivery team:



If you have a query about scientific aspects of your proposal, contact the relevant MRC Programme Manager on the research Board’s contacts page.