Programme grants provide larger, longer term (five years) and renewable programme funding.
Last updated: 07 April 2011
- What is a programme grant?
- Who can apply?
- Financial support
- How to apply
- The assessment procedure
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Contacts and guidance
Programme grants provide larger, longer term (five years) and renewable programme funding. They aim to help the medical science community to ‘think bigger’. A programme is defined as a coordinated and coherent group of related projects, which may be to answer an inter-related set of questions across a broad scientific area. The expectation is that not all the questions will necessarily be answered within the tenure of the award. The programme may well be a continuation of current activity.
Any UK-based researcher who can demonstrate that they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through.
The minimum academic qualification required is a graduate degree, although usually a PhD is required. For programme grants the principal investigator should have a substantial record of research.
Programme grants will usually (though not always) be based within an academic institution which has the variety of expertise and disciplines to undertake the programme.
Under the programme grant scheme you may request support for a period of five years, which can include:
- The salary of the principal investigator and co-investigators;
- Support for additional posts – research, technical or other consumables;
- Travel costs;
- Data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs.
The MRC will usually 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 cost throughout.
Please note that costs for PhD studentships can not be requested within MRC research or programme grants.
- The standard for programme grants is extremely competitive and it is important that applicants discuss their proposals with appropriate staff at MRC Head Office. You should contact the programme manager of the relevant MRC scientific board (research boards contact page) to discuss the programme. This is mandatory.
- Read the MRC applicants handbook and especially the programme grants annex, this will guide you through the application process. Please also ensure you read the terms and conditions concerning MRC grants.
- If the board programme manager invites you to do so you should send in an outline of the programme to him/her. Outline applications are mandatory. All new invited Full applications must be preceded by an Outline application (which the Board must have approved). Unsolicited Full applications will not be considered, and therefore will be rejected. Exceptions to this rule will be renewals of existing programme grants.
- Your outline will follow the assessment procedure as outlined below and you may be invited to submit a full application.
- Applicants should also include a succinct summary of funding history and publications in their CV. Attention will be paid to the PI’s track record of research and potential to successfully manage and deliver a major research programme.
If you are considering establishing a collaboration with an industrial partner(s), you and your potential collaborator(s) are advised to refer to the guidance on MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICAs).
In summary, applicants with industrial collaborator/s will also be required to include MICA: as a prefix to their project title, complete the Project Partner section in Je-S and submit PDF versions of:
• A completed MRC Industrial Collaboration Agreement (MICA) form
• A signed Heads of Terms for the proposed collaboration
Please note that if you plan to collaborate with industry and submit a MICA application but fail to submit the documents detailed above, the MRC reserves the right to decline the application on eligibility grounds.
Your Outline proposal must be submitted through the MRC Je-S system by 4pm on the relevant Programme Outline deadline date.
Your Full proposal must be submitted through the MRC Je-S system by 4pm on the relevant Research Board's deadline date.
At outline stage, the MRC will assess your proposal based only on its suitability as a programme grant, and will not consider the detail of its scientific content at this stage. The case for whether a full application should be invited will therefore be judged according to the need to pursue the proposed research using a programmatic approach, the strategic fit it provides to MRC strategy, and the financial aspects of the grant. The scientific case for support at this stage should be limited to a brief overview of the hypotheses to be tested and the experimental plan to be pursued, highlighting the experimental systems and/or technological approaches as necessary.
Outlines are assessed by independent scientific experts, usually the relevant Board chair, designated Board members and the Board programme manager. The MRC office will inform you if, following receipt of your outline, the MRC wishes to invite you to submit a full proposal.
If you are invited to submit a full proposal your proposal will be peer-reviewed by independent scientific experts and specialist referees in the UK and overseas. This peer review of full proposals is the first part of a two-stage process, which helps the MRC Research Boards to decide which proposals to consider at their funding meetings.
You will receive anonymous copies of the reviewers’ assessments of your full proposal. If your proposal is shortlisted, you will have the opportunity to comment on them 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 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 withdrawn by the MRC.
For questions and answers on this call regarding application process, submission and grant renewals please see the web page Programme grants – frequently asked questions.
To discuss your eligibility for a programme grant, or if you have other non-scientific queries please email:
If you have a query about scientific aspects of your proposal, please contact the relevant MRC programme manager on the research board’s contacts page.