Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: China UK One Health research for epidemic preparedness and AMR

Apply for funding through a China UK Flagship Challenge funding opportunity to support China-UK research teams in the field of One Health research for epidemic preparedness and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

We are looking for internationally competitive, full-scale collaborative and innovative partnerships.

Collaborative research teams from China and the UK must submit parallel applications to MRC on behalf of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and MoST detailing a joint research programme across the two countries.

You will be responsible for developing your own collaborations.

You must be eligible to apply to your respective funder.

MRC and MoST will provide matched funding for up to three years.

Expression of interest stage: researchers planning to submit to this scheme should submit a short expression of interest via SurveyMonkey by 11 May 2023 at 11:00pm UK time.

Who can apply

For support under this funding opportunity, applicants and organisations must be eligible to apply for funding from their respective country’s funding agency.

We expect the UK principal investigator and associated costs for UK research will be funded by MRC. The China principal investigator and associated costs for China research will be funded by MoST. The UK and China applicants will need to meet the requirements of their respective funding agencies.

China applicants must be eligible for MoST funding. Find out if you are eligible for MoST funding.

For more information on MRC requirements, please check the following:

Who is eligible to apply to MRC

To be eligible to apply for this funding opportunity you must:

  • be a researcher employed by an eligible research organisation
  • have at least a postgraduate degree, although we expect most applicants to have a PhD or medical degree
  • show that you will direct the project and be actively engaged in the work

We encourage both new partnerships and proposals building on existing collaborations.

The funders are not seeking to support additional partners outside of the UK and China through this initiative. Please email your relevant contact (see the ‘contact details’ section) if you are considering involving applicants or partners from a third country in your proposal.

The principal investigators

The proposal should be jointly developed by a UK principal investigator and a China principal investigator. They should develop a common research plan and vision and equally share leadership and project management for the project. Principal investigators may only submit one application to this scheme as principal investigator but may be involved in more applications if listed as a co-investigator.

Both the UK and China principal investigators are responsible for the intellectual leadership of the research project and for the overall management of the research. The principal investigator will be the funding agencies’ main contact for the proposal.

MRC will consider proposals from any UK-eligible researcher who is based at an eligible research organisation and can demonstrate that they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through. See standard MRC guidance for applicants for further details about UK principal investigator eligibility.

In addition to MRC eligibility criteria the UK principal investigator must meet the following MoST criteria:

“If a UK principal investigator is hired as a China principal investigator in an existing bilateral collaborative project between the two nations, the UK principal investigator won’t be eligible as a UK principal investigator for this opportunity.”

For further information please consult the MoST guidance.

Co-investigators

The UK principal investigator and China principal investigator may be supported by a number of co-investigators named on the application.

A co-investigator assists the principal investigator in the management and leadership of the research project. They would provide intellectual or practical input into the research, or both, and their participation may warrant inclusion of their name on any outputs, such as publications.

Researcher co-investigator role

A researcher co-investigator is expected to make a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the application but is not eligible to be either principal investigator or co-investigator in their own right. They do not have a pre-existing contract of employment with the research organisation of the principal investigator or any of co-investigators.

The researcher co-investigator’s host research organisation are required to outline their commitment and support to the individual ensuring success for the research project, and their professional and career development.

Find out more information about the role of researcher co-investigator.

Other support

For information on other parties involved in research, including project partners, please see section one in the standard MRC guidance for applicants.

If a UK project partner is from industry or if any China investigators or project partners are from industry, then applicants must follow the guidance relating to the MRC Industrial Collaboration Framework.

Equality diversity and inclusion (EDI)

We are committed to achieving equity of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Read MRC’s guidance on flexible working and career breaks. You can also find out more about MRC’s current EDI initiatives and EDI at UKRI.

What we're looking for

This initiative builds on previous engagement between the UK and China and represents the third flagship challenge between the two countries to work together to enrich the science and innovation collaboration between their research communities.

This initiative will provide bilateral funding for high quality collaborative research partnerships between China and the UK focused on addressing the growing global burden of AMR, and infectious disease with epidemic potential.

Aim

Our shared aims are to:

  • provide funding for bilateral collaborative projects focused on addressing the challenge of AMR and infectious pathogens with epidemic potential
  • enhance existing and develop new partnerships between the UK and China
  • support the mobility and exchange of UK and China researchers between the two countries, to enhance long-term links and relationships between researchers in both countries
  • strengthening the strategic relationship between the UK and China

Objectives

The objective is to deliver significant research funding for internationally competitive and innovative collaborative partnerships between researchers from China and the UK to enable the pursuit of shared research interests.

Scope

Following a programme of stakeholder engagement jointly led by UKRI and MoST, the following topics have been agreed as in scope for this funding opportunity:

1. Study of infectious disease pathogens with epidemic potential

Project aims may include:

  • susceptibility and pathogenicity studies to identify novel pathogens with risk of species jumping into new host species
  • evaluation of the mechanisms and pathways underpinning existing cross-species transmission
  • study of host-pathogen interactions and how these may drive pathogen and immune adaptation, including co-infection and the impact of therapeutic or prophylactic interventions
  • investigating the immune basis of host protection or susceptibility in humans and animals, either separately or in comparison

Beyond novel insight into these areas, project outputs may include:

  • novel models of cell infection (for example, organoids), using novel tools and techniques to enable future research
  • models and tools to enhance surveillance and detection by using open source, with potential to identify new and emerging infections
  • early-stage research of new targets for drug and vaccine development

Areas we will not support:

  • population surveillance and monitoring
  • studies focusing on plant or crop health or disease
  • applied or ‘gain of function’ research to enhance the virulence of a pathogen or render a non-pathogen virulent, increase transmissibility of a pathogen or alter the host range of a pathogen

2. Mechanisms of pathogen resistance from generation to evolution

Projects should focus on multidrug resistant (MDR) or MDR and hypervirulent pathogens and aims may include investigation of:

  • molecular mechanisms of pathogen resistance (spanning bacteria, fungi and parasites), for example clone formation and transmission and the role of bacterial defence systems in the formation of antimicrobial resistance clones in gram-negative bacilli
  • anti-host defence mechanisms, such as the mechanisms of clinical MDR bacteria manipulation of host responses, the structural basis and cellular targets of anti-host effectors, and the dynamics of host and pathogen metabolic adaptation and flexibility during infection

Areas we will not support:

  • applied research seeking to confer resistance to therapeutically useful antibiotics or antiviral agents

3. Identifying the drivers of multi-resistant pathogens

Projects addressing this area should take a multidisciplinary, systems approach, analysing the interactions between human and animal systems, and the importance of social, behavioural and economic factors.

Project aims may include investigation of:

  • regional patterns of AMR, transmission and evolution, building on open source surveillance data resources and novel technologies such as multi-‘omics’ and micro-ecology
  • in a One Health context, investigating molecular mechanisms of generation, transmission and distribution of important resistant bacteria or genes among humans, food-producing animals and other animals in the environment
  • identifying novel mechanisms of resistance in different settings including healthcare, food, environment and agriculture

We particularly encourage comparative studies between the UK and China settings, for example exploring the role of external influences and demographic variables in influencing epidemic and pandemic potential.

Applications should demonstrate the added value provided through the international collaboration proposed, which may include access to:

  • knowledge
  • expertise (scientific or socio-cultural)
  • resources
  • cohorts
  • populations

We welcome interdisciplinary proposals, where appropriate. Review will include experts from a broad range of relevant disciplines.

UKRI, MoST and other funders in both countries have made significant investments in AMR and infectious disease research more broadly and we encourage you to carefully consider the value of linking to and building on existing investments.

What we will not fund

The scope of this funding opportunity does not include:

  • proposals solely or primarily focused on either the UK or China. Applications to this scheme must demonstrate potential impact in both the UK and China. Please contact international@mrc.ukri.org for details of other funding opportunities in this space
  • resistance in pathogens of relevance to crop health
  • translational programmes focused on developing or evaluating new therapeutics, diagnostics or interventions to control or treat resistance or infections with epidemic potential
  • applications focused on delivery of surveillance and detection programmes, as opposed to developing the tools to improve them
  • proposals focused on healthcare provision or public health delivery
  • proposals more appropriate to other existing funding opportunities or other research funders
  • proposals that duplicate research and innovation activities previously supported

Duration

MRC will provide matched funding and bi-lateral support with MoST for three years.

The UK component of the grant must start by 7 February 2024. The start of the project may not be delayed beyond this date.

Funding available

In total, UKRI will make up to £6 million available in support of the UK component of the collaborative projects, with matched equivalent resource provided by MoST in support of the China components.

We aim to fund a range of projects across the three thematic areas detailed in the scope.

The size of grants will vary according to the needs of each research project but you will need to provide a robust case regarding value for money. We encourage a range of proposals, from smaller proposals focusing on a specific element of the scope to larger, multidisciplinary projects (particularly in thematic area three with fitting budget).

Please see the following breakdown of the UK expected contribution:

  • theme one (budget approximately £1.5 million): study of infectious disease pathogens with epidemic potential (maximum amount per project is £0.5 million, matched by MoST for China component)
  • theme two (budget approximately £1.5 million): mechanisms of pathogen resistance, from generation to evolution (maximum amount per project is £0.5 million, matched by MoST for China component)
  • theme three (budget approximately £3 million): identifying the drivers of multi-resistant pathogens £3 million (maximum amount per project is £1.5 million, matched by MoST for China component)

MoST will provide matched funding to support a comparable research effort on the China side.

Please make it clear within your jointly prepared case for support and partnership letter which theme you are applying to. This must match the theme requested in your MoST application.

What we will fund

Each grant will require a UK principal investigator and a China principal investigator who will equally share leadership and project management for each project. Each principal investigator will apply for funding to support the specific component of the grant from their respective funding agency.

For the UK elements of the project you can request funding for costs such as:

  • research costs:
    • staff: directly incurred post (for example, researchers, technicians)
    • staff: directly allocated posts (principal investigator and co-investigator time)
  • equipment below £10,000: costs should be claimed as ‘Other Directly Incurred Costs’
  • other directly incurred costs including (for example, consumables, outsourcing or sub-contracting costs)
  • travel and subsistence for exchange or mobility activities
  • cost of workshops, meetings etc. Should be costed as ‘Other Directly Incurred’

Please consult MoST guidance for more information on MoST funding eligibility.

What we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • equipment items costing £10,000 (including VAT), or more
  • costs for PhD studentships
  • publication costs

Please see section three in the standard MRC guidance for applicants for information on full economic cost.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

Team project partners

You may include project partners that will support your research project through cash or in-kind contributions, such as:

  • staff time
  • access to equipment
  • sites or facilities
  • the provision of data
  • software or materials

Each project partner must provide a letter of support.

If your application involves industry partners in either country, they must provide a company letter of support if the team project partner falls within the Industry Collaboration Framework.

Find out more about subcontractors and dual roles.

Please consult MoST guidance for more information on MoST funding eligibility.

Trusted research and innovation

UKRI is committed to ensuring that effective international collaboration in research and innovation takes place with integrity and within strong ethical frameworks.

Trusted research and innovation is a UKRI work programme designed to help protect all those working in our thriving and collaborative international sector by enabling partnerships to be as open as possible, and as secure as necessary. Our trusted research and innovation principles (PDF, 49KB) set out UKRI’s expectations of organisations funded by UKRI in relation to due diligence for international collaboration.

As your application involves international collaboration and will be funded through the International Science Partnership Fund, you will need complete a trusted research and innovation attachment to accompany your application. This should detail your plan for effective international collaboration while protecting intellectual property, sensitive research and personal information

How to apply

Expression of interest stage

Researchers planning to submit to this scheme should submit a short expression of interest via SurveyMonkey by 11 May 2023 at 11:00pm UK time.

It is the responsibility of the UK principal investigator to submit the expression of interest on behalf of the UK-China research collaboration.

This step does not form part of the review process. The funders will not undertake eligibility checks at this point. You should not await a response from the funders following the expression of interest submission, but simply continue with the development of the full proposal to be submitted by the deadline. The funders will use the expression of interest to help prepare for the review process.

You should note that the information you submit to MRC as part of your expression of interest may be shared with overseas partners at MoST to facilitate the processing of applications.

Full application stage

UK and China applicants are required to submit a co-developed application to both MRC and MoST, based around a common research plan and vision. Please note, failure to submit a valid application to both MRC and MoST by the respective deadlines will invalidate both submissions.

A joint letter of partnership should be submitted to confirm the UK and China lead principal investigators are submitting the same information to both funders. The letter should also confirm the thematic area they are applying to.

UK applicants must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system by 7 June 2023 at 4pm UK time.

China applicants must submit through MoST by 5 June 2023, please see the MoST guidance.

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting on Je-S

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S, including those based in China.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least seven working days before the funding opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: China MoST One Health 23.

This will populate:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: research grant
  • call/type/mode: China MoST One Health 23

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.

Deadline

You must submit applications to both MRC and MoST by their respective deadlines, please note they are different.

MOST must receive your application by 5 June 2023.

MRC must receive your application by 7 June 2023 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.

Attachments

Please see the funding opportunity specific guidance (PDF, 541KB).

Personal information

How UKRI will use your personal data

The information (including personal data) you provide to us will be used to assess the quality of your proposed work according to the assessment criteria set out. As part of the review process all application information submitted will be shared with independent scientific experts who will assist in the assessment of your application.

Find out more about MRC’s review processes.

You should note that the information you submit to MRC as part of your application may be shared with overseas partners at MoST to facilitate the processing of applications.

Both successful and unsuccessful applicant data may be used to support UKRI business functions, including the monitoring and evaluation of this programme and the wider International Science Partnership Fund (ISPF) portfolio. This may include sharing data, including contact information, with external contractors where required.

Details of successful awards, including outcomes data collected through monitoring processes (for example, Researchfish) will be shared with the UK Department for Science Innovation and Technology to support the monitoring and evaluation of ISPF as a whole. Sensitive personal data, for example diversity characteristics, will only be shared in an anonymised or aggregated format.

Your personal data will be handled in line with UK data protection legislation and managed securely. If you would like to know more, including how to exercise your rights, please see our privacy notice.

If you have any questions about how your data will be used please contact international@mrc.ukri.org

In addition, you can ask us to remove your information from our records at any time. If you want your information removed, please email international@mrc.ukri.org to tell us.

Publication

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

How we will assess your application

MoST and MRC will run a parallel evaluation process based on the jointly prepared proposals submitted to the respective systems.

Assessment criteria

Your application will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • compatibility with the objectives and scope of the funding opportunity
  • significance and impact of the research
  • scientific rationale: novelty, innovativeness, importance and timeliness of the research
  • design and feasibility of the project plan
  • partnership: including strength and clarity of collaborations and opportunities provided, and quality of the project management structure proposed; the added value of the UK-China collaboration; engagement of early career researchers
  • quality and suitability of the research environment and of the facilities
  • value for money for China and UK science
  • ethical considerations and governance arrangements

Evaluation process

  1. Eligible applications will be evaluated in parallel by the funders. MRC will follow the following steps:
    • MRC will conduct an external peer review; this includes written reviews by international reviewers
    • the UK principal investigator will be offered the opportunity to provide a written response to the reviews on behalf of both the UK and China applicants
    • the number of applications may require MRC to convene a triage panel to shortlist the applications
  2. The funders will combine the results of the first stage of the evaluation (MRC written peer review) and proposals recommended by both funders will move to the next stage.
  3. Following this process, applications will be assessed by separate MRC and MoST panels of academics, selected by the funders.
  4. Applications will be scored by both panels and the funder outcomes combined. The proposals with the highest scores will be funded in rank order subject to meeting the minimum quality threshold.

It is envisaged that all eligible applications will go through the full peer review process described. However, the funders reserve the right to adjust the process and introduce a shortlisting or streamlining step if a high number of proposals are submitted to the funding opportunity.

Principles of assessment

UKRI supports the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognises the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

International Team

Email: international@mrc.ukri.org

Include ‘China UK One Health Research for Epidemic Preparedness and AMR’ in the subject line.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

MRC will support this activity under the umbrella of the International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF).

ISPF is designed to enable potential and foster prosperity. It will support UK researchers and innovators to work with international partners on the major themes of our time, and to help them create new knowledge and technology for the world.

It is managed by the Department for Science, Innovation Technology. Delivered by a consortium of the UK’s leading research and innovation bodies including UKRI.

Related funding opportunities

This funding opportunity is aimed at supporting bilateral partnerships between the UK and China.

Within UKRI, opportunities to work with international partners and on more broadly interdisciplinary programmes in AMR and epidemic preparedness will be available later this year. See our tackling infections page.

Please visit the UKRI funding finder for more information.

Supporting documents

China-UK One Health funding opportunity specific guidance (PDF, 541KB)

China-UK One Health justification of resources template (DOCX, 58KB)

MRC trusted research and innovation additional information (PDF, 111KB)

MRC applicant guidance

Updates

  • 2 June 2023
    China-UK One Health funding opportunity specific guidance has been updated.

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