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UK Research and Innovation

14 March 2019, 2:13 UTC Share

UKRI GCRF Health and Context call 2019 – outline

The UKRI GCRF Health and Context call is seeking proposals for interdisciplinary research addressing wider contextual factors contributing to the burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These factors may include social, cultural, historical, and religious beliefs and practices, or wider biological, ecological and environmental factors. We want to fund consortia conducting ambitious research that:
goes beyond description to determine causal relationships between contextual influences and health
develops or tests feasible interventions that are sensitive to or mitigate contextual influences on health.

Via the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), UKRI will support impactful, three-year research projects of value between Ł1-2 million (at 80% FEC for UK costs, 100% FEC for overseas costs). This call is being led jointly by the Medical Research Council, Economic & Social Research Council, Arts & Humanities Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and applications may fall within the remit of any of, or across, these councils.


This call is led by the MRC, ESRC, AHRC, NERC and BBSRC with the GCRF Challenge Leader for Global Health. This is one of a series of UKRI GCRF collective calls of relevance to health. Information on the related calls, including themes on education, food systems, and conflict, can be found on the UKRI: GCRF Collective programme webpage.

This call seeks interdisciplinary approaches that determine the impact of contextual factors on the health of the community and/or develop interventions that take account of or mitigate these influences. Successful projects will involve the input of a variety of stakeholders, which could include members of the community where the research is conducted. Proposals are encouraged to cut across disciplinary boundaries to fully understand contextual influences that can promote or obstruct improvements in health (such as water and sanitation, agricultural practices, habitation and urban planning, religion, education, and gender).

Remit and scope

This call will support interdisciplinary research projects addressing contextual influences on infections and/or NCDs. Projects may seek to determine the extent to which contextual factors influence rates of NCD/infection, and/or how this influence can be accounted for or mitigated through culturally-sensitive intervention. To maximise impact, we encourage applications where the contextual factors identified are common to multiple locations within or across LMIC settings. Applications from across the spectrum of basic to applied research are eligible for this call. Where appropriate, applicants should engage with communities in the research planning process, and for applied research, engage with local, regional, and national stakeholders to maximise impact. Subject areas may comprise, but are not limited to:
contextual drivers of non-communicable or infectious disease risk (such as contaminated drinking water, agriculture and food production, hygiene, sexual behaviours, air pollution, work practices, wider land-use and environmental changes)
contextually driven barriers to management and treatment of infection/NCD, which may include altered diagnostic, vaccine or drug efficacy
feasible interventions that take account of or mitigate contextual drivers of increased rates of infection/NCD
identification and management of clusters of coexisting health conditions (multimorbidities) that are particularly prevalent in a particular community.

Successfully addressing the above challenges will require an understanding of:
the influence that society, history, culture, religion, and the environment might have on risk behaviours and care seeking behaviour, and culturally sensitive approaches to addressing these
community centred approaches to data collection and sharing to enable better management and prediction of infectious diseases and NCDs.

The research team can be drawn from any relevant academic discipline. This call is open to UK-based PIs and applications directly from PIs at LMIC research organisations. For more information on eligible research organisations in the UK and LMICs please see the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants.

We encourage the engagement of community stakeholders in the development and implementation of proposals to allow a deep understanding of context. To help maximise impact, applicants should ensure that research questions, methods and outcomes are relevant to the communities in which they are working.

Given the scale of the awards and the need to demonstrate tangible impact, applicants are required to provide evidence of substantial, relevant preliminary work, existing relationships with stakeholders in the location where the project will take place, and existing partnerships with other named researchers. These existing partnerships may be added to by the proposed work to create a consortium of varied expertise.

Applications involving industrial collaborators are eligible and should follow the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) process.

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and health systems research projects are eligible for this call but must put forward a strong case for how they are grounded in local context and address the other ambitions of the call. Depending on demand for this call, RCTs and health systems proposals may be directed to the MRC-Wellcome-DFID-NIHR Joint Global Health Trials scheme or MRC-Wellcome-DFID-ESRC Health Systems Research Initiative at the outline assessment stage. Researchers considering submission of a trial application should contact the MRC beforehand to discuss ( Mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) designs are welcomed.

Research projects investigating contextual influences on nutritional status and links to NCDs are not eligible for this call. Researchers wishing to submit a nutrition application should see the related UKRI GCRF Collective calls in Food Systems and the MRC Nutrition and NCDs in LMICs call.

Capacity building

Awards funded through this call will build and strengthen UK-LMIC partnerships and should incorporate research training and capacity building activities.

Examples of building capacity include:
building of capability to work across disciplines and in partnerships
support and mentoring for more junior team members
building leadership skills amongst key team members
co-design of research
opportunities for those with relevant skills to orient their research towards global issues.

Where the PI is based at a UK research organisation, a clear plan for sustaining UK-LMIC partnerships beyond the duration of the award should be presented. Such applications should also demonstrate scientific leadership and intellectual contribution to the development of research from LMIC co-investigators.


UKRI has made up to Ł20 million available for the UKRI GCRF Health and Context call. PIs may apply for research grant funding for a duration of up to three years. In accordance with the funders’ objective to support ambitious, impactful research, individual projects should cost no less that Ł1 million and no more than Ł2 million. Awards are required to start before 31 March 2020.

The funding is intended to support:
UK and LMIC research consumable costs
salary costs for UK and LMIC-based researchers
research training and capacity building activities
travel and subsistence.

The funding is not intended to support:
continuation of existing research grants
capital or infrastructure expenditure
establishment or continuation of cohorts
equipment above Ł10,000
studentships (such as masters or PhD costs).

Requested costs for UK activities should be at 80% full economic cost (fEC) in-line with standard UKRI rules. Please note that all funds will be administered through the lead research organisation. Costs for work undertaken at overseas research organisations are allowed and should be 100% of eligible costs. Please see the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants for more information. Where applicable, the lead UK research organisation must consider the financial controls and risk mitigations that will be put in place for the transfer of funding to overseas organisations.


For this call, proposals must be led by an organisation eligible to receive funding from UKRI (See UKRI: Eligibility) or an equivalent eligible research organisation in a country on the OECD DAC recipient list (see organisational eligibility criteria in the scheme specific Guidance for Applicants). The lead organisation will be responsible for the overall management of the grant including control, disbursement and assurance of funds.

Researchers can be the PI on only one application in this call but may act as a Co-I on any number of applications. Applications are encouraged from, but not restricted to, research teams that were successful in the 2016 GCRF Foundation awards and the 2017 AHRC-MRC Global Public Health partnerships awards.

Official Development Assistance and Global Challenges Research Fund

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a Ł1.5 billion fund announced by the UK government in 2015 to support research addressing the challenges faced by developing countries. UKRI and MRC are GCRF delivery partners. GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment; the research supported through this call will contribute to the UK’s ODA commitment to low and middle income countries (LMICs). Applications must demonstrate the research to be primarily relevant and directly linked to near-term or long-term benefits to the health or prosperity of LMICs. Applications should articulate a clear and specific case for the relevance of the proposed research to the LMIC partners and provide evidence that the proposed plan of research is informed by the needs of LMIC partners. Further guidance on ODA and demonstrating ODA compliance in applications for funding available via the UKRI: Global Challenges Research Fund webpage.

As part of the government’s commitment to ODA transparency and in line with DfID ODA reporting requirements, UKRI is responsible for publishing information about UKRI ODA grants including project titles and summaries via the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) registry and via DfID’s national statistics. The purpose of publishing information via the IATI registry is to make information about ODA easily accessible to governments, stakeholders and other relevant groups in beneficiary countries. All UKRI funded projects from this programme will be published in this way. Please therefore write your project title and summary in such a way that they are meaningful and accessible to non-specialist audiences, following publication. We would be grateful if you would ensure that the project title and summary are written in plain English and avoid the use of jargon, acronyms, puns and plays on words. Please also make clear in your project title and summary how your project is ODA compliant, for example by identifying the development challenge(s) being addressed, the aims of the project and the beneficiary countries.

Key dates



Call launch

24 January 2019

Deadline for outline applications

2 April 2019

Outline sift panel

June 2019

Deadline for full applications (invited only)

12 September 2019

Applicant response to peer review

December 2019

Panel meeting and funding decisions

January 2020

The councils aim to adhere to the key dates as published but retain the right to alter the timeline as required.

How to apply

Applicants must submit an outline proposal via Je-S featuring a maximum five-page case for support and a summary of costs prior to the deadline on 2 April 2019. Applicants are welcome to contact any of the council representatives listed below in advance of submitting an application to discuss remit or eligibility. The council may discuss queries with other research councils involved in the call as appropriate.

A UKRI GCRF Health and Context call Guidance for Applicants document for outline applications is available on this page (further guidance will be released for invited full submissions in due course). A separate FAQ document is also available. In addition, applicants should read the general MRC Guidance for Applicants and Je-S handbook for general information on how to complete the application.

Outline applications will be assessed by a sift panel convened by the collaborating councils. Successful applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal via Je-S including a more detailed case for support (maximum eight pages) and full breakdown of costs. Full applications will be sent out for international peer review and assessed by an expert panel convened by the funders. This panel will recommend the final funding decisions. Outline and full proposals will be assessed according to the following criteria:
research excellence
capability and interdisciplinary research team
capacity building and international partnerships
community engagement in the development of the proposal and its delivery
likelihood and pathways to impact
leadership and management
organisation governance and evaluation
value for money.


To discuss your application, please contact Dr David Pan, MRC Challenge Manager – Global Health, Raquel Pullicino, ESRC Senior Portfolio Manager, Dr Margaret Charleroy, AHRC Strategy & Development Manager, or Sarah Blackburn, NERC Senior GCRF Challenge Manager.

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