Programme grant

1. Introduction
2. Who can apply
3. Financial support
4. How to apply
5. New applications and renewals
   5.1 Case for support
   5.2 Areas to be covered
   5.3 Other attachments
   5.4 Programme Grant renewals: additional requirements
6. Assessment
   6.1 Summary of assessment
   6.2 Assessment criteria
7. Creating the application form on Je-S
8. Contacts and guidance

1. What is a programme grant?

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 developed to address 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. Parts of the programme may well be a continuation of current activity; however, other elements should be innovative and ambitious.

Programmes are a substantial investment for the MRC so due consideration to MRC strategy should also be evident.

FAQ: Can I apply for a five year research grant or indeed a programme grant that is less than five years in duration?

A: It is expected that programme grants will be five years in duration. In exceptional cases, programme grants may be awarded for less than five years and, indeed, research grants for longer than four years.

2. Who can apply?

We will consider proposals for programme grants from any researcher who can demonstrate they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through. By the time the grant starts, the Principal Investigator (PI) must be based in the UK at the eligible research organisation at which the grant will be administered (the lead organisation). The PI must have a verified joint electronic-submission system (Je-S) account to apply.

The minimum formal qualification required is a graduate degree, though most applicants are also expected to have a PhD. For programme grants the PI should have a substantial record of successfully securing research funding and delivering high quality 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.

MRC Units are not eligible to apply. Core supported programme/group leaders from University Units and the Francis Crick Institute may only apply in exceptional circumstances with prior agreement from MRC Head Office. 

FAQ: Can a Principal Investigator hold more than one programme grant at a time?

A: Only in exceptional circumstances. We would not normally expect anyone to be the PI on more than one MRC programme grant, this includes programme leaders at MRC units, university units and institutes.

FAQ: Can my application include an industry partner(s)?

A: Yes, the MRC recognises the value that such partnerships can bring. For more information please refer to our guidance on MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICAs).

FAQ: As principal investigator I am planning to submit an application for a programme grant but I am due to retire during the tenure of the grant. What do I need to do?

A: Where a PI is due to retire before the grant has ended the grant must also include details of a replacement for the remaining period and costs included for them for the required period. For more information please refer to section of the MRC guidance for applicants

3. Financial support

Under the programme grant scheme you may request support for a period of five years, which can include:

  • A portion of the salaries of the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators
  • Additional posts (research and technical)
  • Consumables
  • Equipment
  • Travel costs
  • Data preservation, data sharing and dissemination costs

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 cost throughout. Please note guidance on funding for capital equipment in section of the MRC guidance for applicants.

Costs for PhD studentships cannot be requested within MRC programme grants. The MRC only funds postgraduate research training through doctoral training grants and strategic competitions to Higher Education Institutes. Please refer to our pages on studentships for further information.

4. How to apply

The standard for programme grants is extremely competitive and it is important that applicants discuss their proposals with appropriate staff at MRC Head Office.

Outline applications are no longer necessary but you must contact the Programme Manager of the relevant MRC research board to confirm whether your application fits the scheme. This mandatory step applies to all new programme grant applications and must be completed at least 6 weeks before the submission deadline. 

Please select the appropriate Board to navigate to the correct remit and scope page:

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

1. Case

(maximum 2 pages, plus 1 page of references)

Applicants are required to submit a case containing a brief description of their proposal. Please include:

  • The title of potential MRC programme
  • A list of the PI and Co-Is 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 (see 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.

2. Resources

Please provide a high level indication of the likely cost to the MRC.

3. CV for lead and co-investigators

(maximum 2 pages, plus 1 page for key publications)

Applicants should attach a CV containing key publications. In addition they should also attach a succinct summary of funding history. Attention will be paid to the PI’s track record of research and potential to successfully manage and deliver a major research programme.

Applicants wishing to renew their programme grant should contact the Programme Manager of the relevant MRC research board during year 4 of the programme to discuss this further (see below for more information on renewing programme grants).

New applications should include a cover letter that confirms the name of the Programme Manager who agreed that an application could be submitted; for renewals the cover letter should confirm the details of the original award.

5. New applications and renewals

5.1 Case for support

The case for support should be a self-contained description of the proposed work with relevant background, and should not depend on additional information. The guidelines below list general points that should be addressed when writing the case for support. However, each proposal is unique, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all the reasonable questions that the referees and MRC research boards need to address are answered in the proposal, especially if the plan or resources are unusual or complex. This guidance should be read in conjunction with the information on the assessment criteria (see below), which provides detailed information on what referees and research boards are looking for.

The case for support for full applications should consist of no more than 12 pages, including references, and should be completed in Arial 11 pt typescript with a 2cm margin on all sides.

5.2 Areas to be covered in the case for support:

The title of potential MRC programme


  • State the aims of the programme
  • Justification as to why the elements of support requested cannot be met through other means
  • Explain why establishing a programme is appropriate in this scientific area
  • Explain how establishing a programme will facilitate the work of the applicants, in order to
  • Increase productivity and create added value
  • Indicate the significance of the programme for this area(s) of research
  • Explain how a programme will improve the UK’s international standing in this area

Scientific potential

  • Participants in the programme and existing funding
    • Brief report on the progress of participants’ recent research, including any preliminary data relevant to the programme
    • Scale of support provided (not in detail eg number of post-docs and/or technicians supported together with the total amount of consumables and equipment provided over the course of the grant will suffice)
  • Environment
    • Describe the environment(s) in which the programme will take place
    • If the proposal is for shared equipment or expertise, describe where this will be sited and how it will be supported by the host research organisation(s). Also describe the management arrangements for ensuring equity of access.
    • Describe the host research organisation(s) support for the programme
  • Research plans
    • Give details of the general experimental approaches, study designs, and techniques that will be used. It is not necessary to describe each experiment, but give enough detail to show why the research is likely to be competitive in its field. For example:
    • Highlight plans which are particularly original or unique
    • Describe all foreseeable human studies and animal experiments (in as much detail as possible at this stage)
    • Explain in greater detail how new techniques, or particularly difficult or risky studies, will be tackled, and alternative approaches should these fail
    • Identify facilities or resources you will need to access
    • Give sufficient detail to justify the resources requested
    • Explain opportunities or plans for pursuing commercial exploitation

Ethics and research governance

  • Describe briefly the ethical issues arising from any involvement of people, human samples or personal data in the research proposal. Please give details of how any specific risks to human participants will be controlled, and of any new animal research the MRC would be supporting. Please refer to section 5 of the MRC guidance for applicants for further guidance.
  • Describe the ethical review and research governance arrangements that would apply to the work done

Exploitation and dissemination

  • Is the proposed research likely to generate commercially exploitable results?
  • What arrangements and experience does the research group or the host research organisation have to take forward the commercial exploitation of research in this area?
  • Other than publication in peer reviewed journals, indicate how any results arising from the research will be disseminated so as to promote or facilitate take up by users in the health services


  • Provide a simple explanation of how the programme will be managed

5.3 Other attachments

CVs and Publications
These should be included for the PI and all named research staff on the application.

Papers recently submitted for publication are not allowed as these represent non-peer reviewed and essentially preliminary data. The office can alert referees/board & panel members to papers in press/accepted that cannot be accessed. These can be lodged with the office and provided on request.

Data Management Plan
This is mandatory for all applications and applicants will need to comply with MRC guidance on data management stated in section 2.9 of the MRC guidance for applicants.

Programmes reliant on sharing and re-use of research data need to include a brief summary of how access to existing data will be managed and how newly generated data will be accessed and preserved.

Justification of Resources
Please follow the guidance in section 2.5 of the MRC guidance for applicants.

Pathways to Impact
Describe the specific actions the programme will undertake to ensure that the potential beneficiaries identified in the ‘Impact Summary’ on the proposal form have the opportunity to benefit from the research.

5.4 Programme Grant renewals: additional requirements

Renewal applications must be accompanied with a progress report. This report should be structured using a defined set of headings and completed in Arial 11 pt typescript with a 2cm margin on all sides.

  • Title
  • Summary (not exceeding 250 words)
  • Progress (no more than five pages)
    • Describe progress made against original aims and objectives since the grant was awarded/since the last report
    • Please note any unpublished data must be included in the case for support
  • Publications
    • Include a list of publications resulting from the work carried out during the tenure of the grant with web links to those papers if available
    • The office can alert referees/board & panel members to papers in press/accepted that cannot be accessed. These can be lodged with the office and provided on request.
    • Papers recently submitted for publication are not allowed as these represent non-peer reviewed and essentially preliminary data
  • Staff
    • List of staff employed on the grant during its present tenure

Please attach a PDF file of the progress report to your Je-S application as a ‘Final/Interim Report’ type of attachment.

6. Assessment

The programme grant application will be judged on 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.

For more information on MRC’s assessment procedure see our peer review pages.

6.1 Summary of assessment

  • Overall, what is the quality of the proposal?
  • How significant is the proposed programme in terms of its potential impact?
  • To what extent will it extend the base of knowledge relevant to improving human health?

6.2 Assessment criteria

Before applying for a programme grant, consider each of the specific criteria below to ensure that your application fully addresses each of these areas. Consider whether you, your co-applicants and your research environment fulfil 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. Suitability for a programme grant, strategic fit and case for a major investment
  • Is the proposed work a “programme” ie a coordinated and coherent group of related projects which may be to answer an inter­related set of questions on a broad format?
  • Does the work require long term and extensive support?
  • Is the proposed work in an MRC area of high strategic priority?
  • Is there a case for a major investment in the context of the Board portfolio and budget?
  • From the applicant’s track record of research, do they have the potential to successfully manage and deliver a major research programme?
2. Detail of the proposed programme
  • Is it important to pursue this topic now?
  • Is the proposal realistic in its timeframes and proposed resources?
  • How convincing and coherent is the overall proposed approach?
  • How original or innovative are the proposals?
  • Has the work already been done or is it being done elsewhere?
  • How good is the prospect for significant scientific advance?
3. People
  • What is the track record and standing in the field of the named applicants?
  • How appropriate is the expertise of the applicants to the proposed work?
  • Is the applicants’ stated time commitment to the work appropriate and sufficient?
  • Where MRC is being asked to fund personal salaries, are the requests in each case reasonable?
4. Environment
  • Is the proposed environment(s) suitable and does it have the variety of expertise and disciplines to support a programme?
  • Has the host institution(s) demonstrated a clear commitment to the proposed programme for the duration of the grant?
  • Are any collaborators well chosen?
  • Does the environment provide appropriate opportunities for training and career development of personnel supported on the grant?
  • Are there any dependencies on other organisations or funding of which MRC should be made aware?
5. Value for money
  • Does the proposal represent good value for money in respect of the resources being requested from the MRC?
  • Are the proposed resources fully justified in terms of the science proposed?
  • Will the expected benefits of the research justify its cost to the MRC?
6. Ethical and other implications
  • Is the work ethically acceptable?
  • Where applicable, is the use of animals appropriate and in line with MRC guidelines?
  • Where applicable, is the use of human participants or human tissue appropriate and in line with MRC guidelines?
  • Are there any other implications which could put the MRC Council, participants in the research, or the applicants at risk?
  • Are there any risks which MRC should take into account when deciding whether to fund this research?
7. External communications and commercial exploitation
  • Are the proposed arrangements for the public understanding of this work appropriate and sufficient?
  • Are the proposed plans for disseminating the results of the research appropriate and adequate?
  • Are the proposed arrangements for the commercial development of any intellectual property arising from the research appropriate and adequate?

7. Creating the application form on Je-S

Login to your Je-S account via the Je-S login page using the username and password you have previously chosen. If you do not have a Je-S account, or have forgotten your password, please contact the Je-S Helpdesk (or see below for contact details).

  • In the Je-S account home page, select the ‘Documents’ option near the top of the menu options on the left hand side of your home page.  Then select the ‘New Document’ option with the ‘Functions/Create’ section near the top of your Je-S documents page and follow the steps outlined below.
  • Select MRC from the available drop down list of Research Councils
  • Select Standard Proposal from the list of document types
  • Select the current call: Research Boards (month/month) Year Submissions
  • Select Research Grant from the available list of MRC Je-S Schemes
  • Select ‘Create Document’ option (below the optional Call option), which will create your new application and immediately open the new form you have created
  • Use the navigation bar adjacent to the Blue Icons (blue question mark icons link to the help and guidance provided to applicants by MRC) and navigate to the ‘Grant Type’ section within the ‘Classifications’ section of the application ‘Document Menu’ list
  • Select ‘Programme Grant’ as the ‘Grant Type’ and then select the ‘Save’ option near the top of the electronic application form

Please note that the vast majority of the electronic fields cannot be completed without the completion of the Project Details section of the application, however, this section cannot be completed until the call is available. We recommend that if you wish to start the application off line, that you download an electronic print of the Word or Open Document. You can then copy and paste the text sections form the document to the Je-S form when the call becomes available. Please also note that the Je-S text sections will only accept ‘Plain Text’.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure they apply to the correct call and that their application is submitted with adequate time to allow their research organisation to complete necessary checks and complete the final submission (through Je-S) to the MRC by 16:00 (GMT/BST) on the relevant Research Board's advertised deadline date.

If you require assistance either accessing Je-S or completing the Je-S application, please contact the Je-S Helpdesk, which is the first point of contact for the Research Councils UK.

Phone: +44 (0) 1793 44 4164

The Je-S Helpdesk is staffed Monday to Friday 8.30am - 5pm (excluding bank holidays and other holidays).

8. Contacts and guidance

If you have a query about scientific aspects of your proposal please contact the relevant MRC Programme Manager. Contact details can be found on the appropriate Research Board’s remit and scope pages (please see the ‘related content’ section on the top right of this page).

To discuss your eligibility or any other non-scientific queries please contact Research Funding Policy and Delivery: 

Tel: 01793 416440