1-1.6 Check if you’re eligible for funding - MRC


1.3 Applicants

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is introducing new role types for opportunities being run on the new Funding Service from 22 May 2023.

For full details and to find out how the new Funding Service roles map to the roles in the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system, see eligibility as an individual.

Research teams include a range of individuals and grant applicants will have one of the following roles for applications submitted via Je-S.

Individuals can be involved in more than one MRC grant at a time. The award of a grant does not guarantee any further commitment to funding by MRC. For guidance on detailing the research staff that will be involved see section 3.2.1.

A principal investigator (PI) or co-investigator must have a contract of employment with an eligible research organisation (RO) for the duration of the grant prior to application (except new investigator research grants (NIRGs) and fellowships), or assurance from the eligible organisation that, if the application is successful, a pre-existing contract of employment will be extended beyond the end date of the grant. This assurance should be provided from departmental heads as a letter of support (maximum of 2 pages), confirming that:

  • a pre-existing contract of employment will be extended beyond the end date of the grant, including where required to cover any grant extensions
  • the employment contract covers the investigator for their full employment or contracted time, and not just for the time spent on the grant over the course of the project
  • the applicant will be provided with appropriate laboratory space and access to facilities to carry out the research

If a PI or co-investigator is retired, emeritus or honorary, the expectation is that their involvement in the project would be covered by a contract within the RO.

Applicants must ensure that they have obtained the permission of any other person named on the proposal form (for example any co-investigators or project partners) for the provision of their personal information to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the processing of their data by UKRI for the purpose of assessing the application and management of any funding awarded.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

MRC is committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants and aims to create an inclusive environment that encourages excellence in research through good equalities practice.

Diversity is one of the core MRC values, and we are working to ensure that the ways in which we fund embrace a diversity of thought, people, geographical locations and ideas. Read about our current initiatives for equality, diversity and inclusion.

We strongly encourage applications from under-represented groups including female and ethnic minority researchers, and researchers with disabilities or long-term conditions.

We support researchers and their research teams to work flexibly and in a way that meets their personal circumstances. Read MRC guidance on career breaks and flexible working.

Any issues that may arise throughout the funding process regarding equality and diversity should be directed to equalitymrc@ukri.org.

1.3.1 The principal investigator

Each proposal must have one principal investigator (PI). The PI is usually responsible for the intellectual leadership of the research project and for the overall management of the research. If intellectual leadership of the research is shared, the PI should be the individual who will act as MRC’s main contact and coordinator.

PIs are normally expected to be based in the UK, unless their research means they spend long periods overseas, or they are from eligible international research organisations, for example, CERN, MRC international units. The PI must have a verified Je-S system account to apply.

We will consider proposals for research grants from any researcher who can demonstrate they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through. Proposals from less experienced PIs should normally include a senior colleague as a co-investigator (unless applying for a NIRG or fellowship).

If the PI leaves the RO for any reason, the RO must notify us and seek permission for a named replacement. If possible, one of the co-investigators usually takes on the role of PI.

If the PI is moving to another RO it may be possible to transfer the grant subject to the agreement of both organisations. If the PI wishes to do this, they need to contact us, see guidance for MRC award holders for more information.

An emeritus professor can be a PI. Please refer to section 3.2.1 for how they should be included on applications.

1.3.2 Co-investigators

Research is often undertaken by teams and the PI may be supported by one or more individuals who can be named on the application as co-investigators. A co-investigator assists the PI in the management and leadership of the research. Co-investigators should normally be able to meet the eligibility criteria for PIs and be based at an eligible RO. All co-investigators must have a verified Je-S account.

Researchers from international ROs may be a co-investigator if they provide expertise not available in the UK. An international co-investigator is an individual employed by an international RO who otherwise fits the normal definition of a co-investigator.

The co-investigator is expected to make a major intellectual contribution to the design and conduct of the project. The international RO must be equivalent to a UKRI-recognised UK RO, such as a university, government funded research institute or not-for-profit RO.

Inclusion of an international co-investigator must be discussed and agreed with the relevant programme manager in advance of application. Please provide details of the agreement in a cover letter. For more information on how to include costs for work undertaken at an international organisation please see section 3.3.

1.3.3 Researcher co-investigator

A researcher co-investigator is someone who has made a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the application but is not eligible to be either PI or co-investigator in their own right. They do not have a pre-existing contract of employment with the RO of the PI or any of co-investigators. The researcher co-investigator’s host RO are required to outline their commitment and support to the individual ensuring success for the research project, and their professional and career development.

Being a researcher co-investigator can be used as evidence of acquiring funding and leadership of a research project  when pursuing future funding and career opportunities.

Find out more about who can be a researcher co-investigator and the required host RO support.

Researcher co-investigators may be included on any research grant application to MRC unless stated otherwise in the funding opportunity guidance. Research staff this could apply to include post-doctoral research assistants, clinical fellows and technology specialists or equivalent roles.

Please note that researcher co-investigators are not permitted on new investigator research grants.

A researcher co-investigator will be:

  • working on the proposed research project as a postdoctoral research assistant or equivalent
  • making a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the project
  • employed on the project up to 100% full time equivalent by and based at the RO of either the PI or any co-investigators
  • given intellectual ownership (for example, through corresponding authorship) and grant management duties in relation to the ensuing research

1.3.4 Project partners

MRC encourages and supports collaborative research projects and team approaches, especially between academic and industry researchers. Collaborators based in different organisations to the investigators or in industry can be formally recognised in applications as named project partners.

A project partner is a third-party organisation, or third-party person not employed on a grant, who provides specific contributions either in cash or in kind to a project. Project partners provide contributions to the delivery of a project and therefore should not normally seek to claim funds from that project.

However, if there are specific circumstances where project partners do require funding for minor costs such as travel and subsistence, this will be paid at 80% of full economic cost (unless exceptionally agreed otherwise in advance).

Any project partner costs should be outlined and fully justified in the proposal and will be subject to peer review. Any applicable subsidy control regulation and HM Revenue and Customs guidance will also be taken into account, which may affect the percentage of these costs that we will fund.

Organisations or individuals that are applicants on a project or UKRI head office staff acting in their capacity as a UKRI employee are not eligible to be project partners.

The contribution of project partners should be acknowledged in the project partner section of the application form and described in detail in the case for support (section 2.2.3), where the whole team and their expertise and responsibilities should be set out for the benefit of assessors.

Please note project partners do not need to be based at an eligible RO or have a verified Je-S account.

Each project partner must provide a letter of support (section 2.2.6).

If the project partner is from industry, applicants must follow the guidance relating to the Industry Collaboration Framework.

Last updated: 23 May 2023

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