You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.
You can find advice on completing your application in the:
We recommend you start your application early.
Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.
Creating your Je-S account
Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S. This process is different depending on where your research organisation is based. UK co-investigators and applicants based at an African MRC unit should already be able to select their research organisation from the Je-S database.
All applicants will be based at, or moving to, an African research organisation and should firstly visit Je-S to download a list of Je-S registered organisations. You must also check if your research organisation has previously been awarded UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.
If a candidate is returning to work in SSA, they must apply via the African research organisation where they will be based and we expect them to have a contract with the organisation in place if awarded.
If you find your research organisation within the list of Je-S registered organisations, it is important to contact the submitter pool members of your organisation as soon as possible. This is to discuss arrangements to ensure the timely Je-S submission of your application.
Self registration process for overseas research organisations
If your African research organisation has not previously received UKRI funding, you are required to submit directly to MRC through Je-S.
You must navigate to the Je-S login page and select the option ‘self-registration for organisations’ to add your organisation to the Je-S database.
Je-S account process for overseas researchers
Following the completion of the self-registration process, any overseas researchers without Je-S accounts should follow the ‘create Je-S account application’ process as soon as possible. You should do this by navigating to the Je-S home page or by selecting ‘create an account’.
Each researcher should ensure they create the correct Je-S account type, by selecting the option (check box) adjacent to the description ‘an Applicant on a Standard or Outline Proposal (Principal/Co/Researcher Co–Investigator)’.
Once completed, create the Je-S application.
Creating your application on Je-S
- Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
- Select ‘call search’.
- To find the opportunity, search for: African Research Leaders 2023.
This will populate:
- council: MRC
- document type: standard proposal
- scheme: research grant
- call/type/mode: African Research Leaders 2023.
Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.
You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.
Submitting your application on Je-S
The submission route for an application is not always clear to organisations who do not routinely use the Je-S system. Some organisations have set up a ‘Submitter Pool’ who will need to approve and submit the application before the deadline.
Once you have completed the ‘Project Details’ section of the Je-S form, you are able to find out the submission arrangements for your organisation. Select the ‘Document Actions’ button and then select ‘Show Submission Path’.
If the screen shows ‘With Owner’ and ‘With Council’, then the proposal will be submitted directly by you.
If the screen shows ‘With Owner’ and ‘Submitter Pool’ (there should be names listed against this section) and ‘With Council’, then the proposal must be approved and submitted by one of your research organisation’s named submitters. You should allow at least 48 hours for them to do this. Your research organisation may require longer, and we would strongly advise you to check this.
Please check that at least 1 of your organisation’s named submitters will be available on the day you plan to submit it. Please note that they will need to do this no later than the deadline date.
MRC must receive your application by 1 December at 4:00pm UK time.
You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.
You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.
In addition to the Je-S application, you will also need to include the following mandatory attachments.
You can find full details of what to include in mandatory and optional attachments in section 2.2 of the attachments guidance.
Covering letter (optional)
This must be a maximum of 2 sides of A4.
CVs for principal investigators, co-investigators and each named researcher
This must be a maximum of 2 sides of A4 per person.
Publications for principal investigators, co-investigators and each named researcher
This must be a maximum of 1 side of A4 per person.
Case for support
This must be a maximum of 19 sides of A4 including references, using size Arial 11 typeface with margins of 2cm on all sides.
The case for support should describe the 4 key elements:
- the talented ‘rising star’ African research leader candidate (the principal investigator, 1 page)
- the high-quality science programme proposal (10 pages including references)
- the research-conducive academic African environment or institution (4 pages)
- a firm existing partnership with the UK partner institution (where the co-investigator is based, 4 pages).
You should use the following guidance to structure your case for support in these 4 areas.
The candidate for research leader (1 page)
CV and publication details are input elsewhere in the electronic submission. Applicants should use this section to demonstrate that they are a talented ‘rising star’ candidate appropriately qualified to undertake the research proposed.
Candidates should describe their:
- key research interests
- career development to date
- research experience and scientific independence
- track record and productivity
- ability to cultivate and lead a research team
- medium and long-term career goals.
The candidate’s programme of research (10 pages, including references)
The scheme covers all biomedical and health research areas within MRC or FCDO global health remit, for example:
- infections research
- nutrition research
- maternal and reproductive health research
- research on non-communicable diseases including metabolic, cardiovascular, cancer and mental health research
- epidemiological and social science approaches to health issues
- public health research
- health systems
- implementation research.
Applications must address key health challenges relevant to national and regional health needs where the African research leader is based.
Candidates should focus on the key points as set out in the guidance below. These are based on the generic guidance on the content of the case for support for research grants, as detailed in the MRC guidance for applicants.
Title: maximum of 150 characters including spaces and punctuation.
Importance: explain the need for research in this area and the rationale for the particular lines of research planned:
- justify the research either through it addressing a key national or regional health problem, its importance for human health, or its contribution to relevant areas of basic biomedical science
- give sufficient details of other past and current research to show that the aims are scientifically justified, and to show that the work will add distinct value to what is already known, or in progress
- where relevant, explain how the research will benefit the health systems within the country or countries of focus, or contribute to plans for future delivery
- where the research plans involve creating resources (for example, a cohort) or facilities, or forming consortia, networks or centres of excellence, the case will need to address the potential added value, as well as issues of ownership, management, direction and sustainability.
Scientific potential, people and track record: there must be at least 2 named investigators, the African research leader (principal investigator) and the UK-based mentor (co-investigator), although other named investigators are permitted where they bring expertise from another discipline required to fully address the health challenge identified:
- each of the investigator CVs will be uploaded separately as attachments in Je-S. If it is not obvious, the candidate may elaborate on why the group is well qualified to do this research in the case for support
- explain how each of the investigators named in the proposal would work together and outline other major collaborations important for the research
- acknowledge any previous or current MRC funding and describe progress to date on delivery of this research. If progress has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, please explain this. The quality and productivity of the recent work will be a factor in assessing the likely quality of future work
- if the candidate has not been active in research recently, simply state this
- describe any other factors that the candidate considers may promote delivery of the proposal
- this scheme is not primarily intended to support PhD students in obtaining their degree. However, if the African research leader candidate wishes to involve PhD students in their research programme, they will need to demonstrate that the research and timeframe of the programme is appropriate and how the supervision of the student will be managed.
Scientific potential, research plans: this involves the following:
- give details of the general experimental approaches, study designs, and techniques that will be used. The 1-page annex reproducibility and statistical design should be used to supplement information in this section, where necessary and as appropriate. It is not necessary to describe each experiment, but enough detail must be given to show why the research is likely to be competitive in its field. For example:
- highlight plans that are particularly original or unique
- describe plans to reduce bias such as blinding or randomisation, or a justification of why such measures are not possible or appropriate. A justification of the proposed sample size must be given (where appropriate), along with details of the planned statistical analyses
- 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 access to
- give sufficient detail to justify the resources requested
- if this is pilot work or a proof of principle proposal, give a brief description of likely subsequent proposals if the work is successful
- where appropriate, describe how local stakeholders (for example, policymakers, end-users and practitioners) will be engaged in the research from the outset in order to maximise potential impact and future scale-up
- explain opportunities or plans for pursuing commercial exploitation.
If MRC requires additional information on any points that seem contentious or unclear, there is an opportunity to do this when responding to referees’ comments.
Scientific potential, ethics and research governance: this involves the following:
- describe briefly the ethical issues arising from any involvement of people, human samples or personal data in the research proposal. Give details of how any specific risks to human participants will be controlled, and of any new animal research 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.
Scientific potential, exploitation and dissemination: this involves the following:
- 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.
Please note that this scheme will not support clinical or health related trials including phase 1 safety, proof of principle, efficacy or effectiveness trials of any new medicinal product, device, vaccine or other interventions.
It will support observational programmes of epidemiological, laboratory, field and clinical research and early stage developmental or formative research that may be associated with or lead to future health intervention evaluation or clinical trials. If this is the case, the outcomes of the research and how these will be anticipated to inform future work should be made clear.
Scientific potential, gender equality: this involves the following:
We expect all applications to consider the impact of the proposed research on gender equality. Applicants should outline how they have taken meaningful yet proportionate consideration as to how the project will contribute to reducing gender inequalities. This can either be done in the headings outlined above or in a separate sub-heading.
Applicants should consider the following criteria:
- have measures been put in place to ensure equal and meaningful opportunities for people of different genders to be involved throughout the project? This includes the development of the project, the participants of the research and innovation, and the beneficiaries of the research and innovation
- the expected impact of the project (benefits and losses) on people of different genders, both throughout the project and beyond
- the impact on the relations between people of different genders and people of the same gender. For example, changing roles and responsibilities in households, society, economy, politics and power
- how will any risks and unintended negative consequences on gender equality be avoided or mitigated against, and monitored?
- are there any relevant outcomes and outputs being measured, with data disaggregated by age and gender (where disclosed)?
The African environment or institution: demonstration of a research-conducive environment (4 pages)
The scheme will accept applications from the following lead organisations. All organisations must have sufficient capacity to deliver research projects, including robust financial management processes:
- universities or higher education institutions based in SSA countries with degree-awarding powers recognised by the government in which the organisation is based. This includes MRC units at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Uganda and the Gambia
- research focused institutes based in SSA countries either funded by the government of the country in which the organisation is based or by a not-for-profit organisation
- research focused not-for-profit organisations based in SSA countries with dedicated research capacity.
This section should be used to describe the proposed African institution’s research environment including:
- the African institution’s mission, scientific objectives, strategy, management and governance policies
- the level of the African institution’s commitment to the mid to long-term career of the proposed research leader. Describe how the institution intends to increase its level of financial support of the proposed research leader
- the commitment of the African institution for supporting the proposed programme of research and career goals of the candidate
- what relationships have been established with the research relevant health services and Ministry of Health?
- what is the African institution’s commitment to developing systems for translating research outputs towards health policies, practices and products?
- is the institution a valued partner in south-south or north-south links (or both), demonstrated through contribution to research networks, joint training and development of initiatives nationally and internationally?
- how the proposed research leader’s activities will generate added value or synergies for the African institution
- describe and make a persuasive case (appropriateness, quality, feasibility, value for money and likely benefit) for any request relating to the African institution’s institutional development needs relating to the proposed African research leader candidate.
The African-UK institutional partnership (4 pages)
The individual scientific partnership between the African research leader candidate and the UK co-investigator must be underpinned either by an established track record of partnership at the institutional level or a clear plan for developing and sustaining long-term cross-institutional collaboration.
Any previous partnering need not be in exactly the same area of research proposed in the application, however the relevant strengths that each institution brings to the research proposed should be indicated.
This section should be used to describe and justify:
- the existing strength and equity of the research partnership between the UK and African institutions, demonstrating a commitment to research excellence, capacity development and research to improve the health of disadvantaged populations
- how the existing partnership provides a platform for the proposed research leader activities, both in scientific and developmental terms
- any existing links between the African research leader candidate and UK co-investigator
- the proposed broader benefits of the partnership to the African research leader candidate over and beyond collaboration on the specific research proposed
- how the partnership will provide a unique opportunity to catalyse both leadership and research activities for the candidate.
If appropriate, also indicate and justify any visit or placement to the UK, to provide a period (up to 3 months in total) of training or career development that cannot be effectively achieved within the African institution. Also state where this will be and how the learning will be used for the wider benefit of the African partner.
Research disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic (optional)
You have the option to include an additional annex to the case for support.
You can use it to provide additional information explaining any disruptions you have encountered to previous or current research, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (where relevant to your pending application). This annex should be a maximum of 1 side of A4, additional to the page limits set out for the case support above.
Reproducibility and statistical design annex (optional)
This must be a maximum of 1 side of A4, included as part of the case for support.
An additional annex can be included to provide information on reproducibility, and to explain the steps taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of the chosen methodology and experimental design.
Full information regarding this annex can be found in the MRC guidance for applicants (section 220.127.116.11).
Justification of resources
This must be a maximum of 2 sides of A4.
Data management plan
Page length can vary. See section 2.2.7 of our attachments guidance.
Applicants must use the available data management plan template form.
Letters of support
These need to be PDF copies of signed letters. Please use the Je-S attachment type ‘letter of support’.
They must be a maximum of 2 sides of A4 (or equivalent), on headed paper per letter.
Host organisation letter of support (mandatory, maximum of 2 sides of A4)
This is a letter of support from the Vice Chancellor or equivalent at your research organisation. It should include:
- declaration that it is a government-owned or not-for profit institution
- a statement about the research supportive environment available at the institution
- confirmation that you have a contract in place. If you are moving back to SSA, we require confirmation that you will have a contract in place if awarded
- a description of why the organisation considers you to be a suitable candidate for an African research leader grant
- commitment to the continuity of support for the African research leader. Describe how the research organisation will support you following the end of the award
- formal confirmation that the institution agrees to the roles and responsibilities as detailed in the application.
This statement of support should also describe how the host organisation will support you, for instance by providing:
- guidance and training on setting up a research group, building partnerships and collaborations, or with public engagement
- rapid access to resources at the research organisation through knowledge of appropriate processes and systems
- access to career development support and advice to enable future career transitions
- support for any proposed leadership activities
- access to laboratory space or investment in equipment to establish the applicant’s laboratory, and access to communal departmental resources.
When uploading the attachment to your Je-S form, please select the attachment type ‘letter of support’ and describe the uploaded document as ‘host organisation letter of support’.
UK mentor letter of support (mandatory, maximum of 2 sides of A4)
This is a letter of support from your UK mentor describing why they consider you to be a suitable candidate for an African research leader grant.
When uploading the attachment to your Je-S form, please select the attachment type ‘letter of support’ and describe the uploaded document as ‘UK mentor letter of support’.
Placement organisation letter of support and placement template (optional, maximum 2 sides of A4)
This is a letter of support from the placement organisation confirming their willingness to host the African research leader’s proposed training visit plus details of the proposed placement using the placement template (DOC, 194KB) (as 1 PDF).
If uploading this ‘optional’ attachment to your Je-S form, please select the attachment type ‘letter of support’ and describe the document as ‘placement confirmation’
Key stakeholder letters of support (optional, maximum 2 sides of A4)
This is a letter of support from key stakeholders, for example the Ministry of Health.
If uploading this ‘optional’ attachment to your Je-S form, please select the attachment type ‘letter of support’ and describe the document as ‘Key Stakeholder’ (Detail name of Stakeholder).
Project partner letter of support (optional)
This must be a maximum of 2 sides of A4.
MRC industry collaboration framework (ICF) form and ICF company partner letter of support (optional)
If your application involves the collaboration of 1 or more industrial partners, you should review the information published within the MRC industry collaboration framework (ICF) to decide if you should submit your application under the ICF.
The ICF company letter of support should be uploaded to the ‘project partner’ section of Je-S, if the application is considered ICF.
How to cost your proposal
Please refer to the MRC’s guidance for applicants for costing of applications. Full financial details will be required.
All grants should be costed on the basis of the full economic costs (FEC) necessary to deliver the research and justified appropriately within your justification of resources attachment.
The majority of the funding will be for work taking place in the African research organisation. MRC will fund 100% of the FEC. Any costs specifically for the UK research organisation will be funded at 80% of the FEC and the research organisation must agree to find the remaining FEC from other resources.
Enter all costs requested, identifying the African and UK costs separately.
African and UK costs
As all applications to this scheme will include overseas costs, it is not necessary to discuss these costs with a programme manager before submission:
- costs requested by the African organisation should be entered under the ‘Exceptions’ heading and requested at 100% FEC. Capital items cannot be registered as exceptions so to claim 100% of this cost, you should indicate that you are seeking the full amount from MRC
- please take account of the increasing commitment of the African research organisation in taking on the ARL’s salary when costing your proposal
- a contribution towards the ‘Estates and Indirect Costs’ is supported by MRC. The African research organisation can request indirect costs up to the value of 20% of their direct costs. These costs should be entered under ‘Exceptions – Other Cost’ and indicated as ‘Contribution towards African RO’s Estates and Indirect Costs’.
To enable MRC to meet transparency and external reporting requirements, the line descriptions for all overseas costs must be entered using the format ‘Organisation: Country: Cost Category: Cost Description’. For example:
- University of Nairobi: Kenya: Staff: 1 x PDRA
- University of Nairobi: Kenya: Travel and Subsistence: 4 x flights
- University of Nairobi: Kenya: Other Directly Incurred Costs: 5 x Workshops including catering and accommodation.
For the UK and MRC Africa units at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the following applies:
- normal FEC rules (80%) will apply for costs at UK-based research organisations and MRC Africa units at LSHTM
- if the application involves an MRC institute, then it will only be eligible for directly incurred costs (at 100% FEC) as usual.
Please refer to the appropriate section in the MRC guidance for applicants for costing of applications involving MRC units or institutes. Further advice can be sought from the research support office at the unit or institute.
Projects led by an organisation based in an LMIC can request open access costs as part of their application.
Proposals involving animal use
MRC has published specific guidance relating to the use of animals in research overseas.
Ethics and approvals
Full guidance on ethics and approvals can be found in the MRC guidance for applicants. We ask all applicants to take into consideration the guidance set out in section research involving human participants in lower- and middle-income countries.
Monitoring and evaluation
Applicants are asked to note that there will be specific reporting requirements to monitor the progress of the African research leader awards. One of the key facets of the scheme is the continued engagement with the funders. Further details will be provided following award.