Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Director of mental health platform

Apply to lead and coordinate the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) mental health platform.

The director and their team will work closely with the leads of each of the mental health platform hubs. The director will also manage a collaboration and innovation fund to promote and incentivise collaboration across the hubs and with external partners to widen the reach of the initiative and support the development of emerging areas of need.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

The appointed director must be based at an eligible UK research organisation.

Project leads or co-leads of the funded mental health platform hubs are eligible to apply. We also welcome applications from eligible individuals who aren’t part of a funded mental health platform hub.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality 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

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

What we're looking for

Aims

We are seeking to appoint a single person to direct this grant as director. The successful candidate will then submit a fully costed proposal through the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system. The director will use the grant funds to appoint a team to efficiently coordinate the UKRI mental health research platform.

Scope

The director will demonstrate the following skills and expertise:

  • track record of delivery and leadership of international quality programmes in mental health research
  • track record of delivering impact from research, demonstrating a commitment to advancing the interests of patients and the public
  • thorough understanding of the mental health landscape, within the UK and internationally, and the vision and ability to understand the big picture and the impact of research within the platform
  • ability to facilitate interdisciplinary working and draw in a range of mental health disciplines
  • understanding of the barriers and opportunities in mental health research in the UK including, but not limited to, data, skills, training and capacity building
  • experience of collaboration and building effective relationships at all levels between academia (including across disciplines), and with key stakeholders (including policy makers, industry, people with lived experience and the public)
  • experience in handling sensitivities around the use of mental health and other patient data for research
  • ability to develop and deliver a strategic plan that builds on the platform’s scientific excellence, leadership, infrastructure and skills to support integrative research approaches and achieve maximum impact
  • experience of leading and managing a team

The director will demonstrate the following behaviours:

  • dedication to upholding and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion
  • encourages and welcomes ideas, initiative and innovative approaches
    adapts an inclusive, networking approach
  • working effectively with researchers from different fields, particularly outside of their immediate expertise

Aims of the UKRI mental health platform

The mental health platform will advance the UKRI ‘securing better health, ageing and wellbeing’ strategic priority, an initiative driven forward by all UKRI research councils.

The platform aims to draw on expertise from a wide range of disciplines, including biological, social, computational and medical sciences, to address key challenges needed to advance our understanding of severe mental health and illness and inform more effective diagnosis, intervention and prevention approaches. These challenges include:

  • heterogeneity within (and overlap across) diagnoses
  • poor mechanistic understanding of mental disorders
  • variability in measures used and a lack of objective biomarkers
  • lack of diversity in consented research studies

As a whole, the platform will:

  • accelerate understanding towards the mechanisms and determinants of severe mental illness to identify early and best treatments, interventions and support. Cross cutting threads throughout the platform will include:
    • in-depth understanding of those who experience severe mental illness
    • research into new markers and targets for intervention
    • exploratory studies in humans
  • harness, and enhance, the UK’s rich data sources to tackle mental health research challenges
  • provide a basis for expanding capacity, partnerships and stakeholder engagement
  • focus research to tackle inequalities and benefit populations most in need

The mental health platform will be a virtual network of investments. It will comprise a number of mental health platform hubs, a coordination centre led by a director, and activities supported through a collaboration and innovation fund to promote and incentivise collaboration across the hubs and with external partners.

Future funding to support early career researchers through fellowships will be provided through a separate competition, which will also drive networking across the platform. The mental health platform will work closely with DATAMIND, the Health Data Research Hub for Mental Health (DATAMIND) to share information and identify and exploit synergies between research disciplines and conditions.

The first stage of this initiative has now been completed through the funding of UKRI mental health platform hubs, which aim to conduct impactful research at scale on key areas of strategic need in severe mental health research.

Hubs are interdisciplinary challenge-led investments, in partnership across multiple organisations across the UK and have strong engagement with people with lived experience of mental health problems. The funded hubs will work collaboratively, networking with each other to address shared challenges, develop common approaches and build consensus in key areas.

Hubs must fully align with the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) data principles and make data generated or curated through the awards accessible through DATAMIND.

The funded hub awards will start 1 April 2024 and run for five years. Through this funding opportunity we are now looking for a director to facilitate effective coordination across the platform and with external partners.

Coordination centre

The coordination centre will be formed of the director and leadership team and will work closely with the leads of each of the mental health platform hubs.
The overarching role of the coordination centre will be to:

  • facilitate and incentivise collaboration and coordination of the hubs, both within the platform and with the wider academic, clinical and industrial research communities
  • foster community and capacity building, interdisciplinarity and inclusivity
  • ensure effective coordination and collaboration between the mental health platform and other parts of the mental health research landscape (including DATAMIND)
  • provide scientific and financial management of the collaboration and innovation fund and use it to respond to emerging opportunities
  • facilitate knowledge mobilisation to maximise the impact of the research
  • coordinate the mental health platform level communication and engagement activities, including with industry and the public
  • establish and drive the principles of participation in the platform, for example data access and sharing
  • manage the governance processes of the initiative, including an external strategic advisory group, and lead on reporting and assurance alongside monitoring and evaluation of overall impact

Coordination centre team

Director

The director will be responsible for coordinating and shaping the delivery of the mental health platform such that it delivers a step-change in mental health research in the UK.

Responsibilities include:

  • leadership of the mental health platform
  • guiding the development and delivery of the initiative as a whole against its strategic objectives, working with the hubs to ensure synergy and collaboration of the hubs and with external, relevant research and infrastructure
  • ensuring balance and inclusion of communities from multiple disciplines and drawing on each community’s abilities to support each other
  • building relationships with all relevant stakeholders, particularly the research hub leads and DATAMIND, cultivating cohesion and collaboration to deliver the wider ambitions
  • advocating widely for mental health research both within and beyond the UK
  • reporting to the funders and an independent oversight board established by the funders for the platform
  • effective management of budgets, risks and issues
  • line management of the coordination centre team
  • presenting proposals for the distribution of the collaboration and innovation fund to the oversight board for approval, and ensuring effective delivery
  • exploring options for longer term sustainability of the platform

The role will be part-time, with an expected average of 0.3-0.4 FTE over the course of the award.

Platform management

Project management expertise will be required to drive and monitor the delivery of the platform, working with the director to ensure that the objectives are clearly defined and achieved within the agreed time, cost and quality constraints.

Responsibilities include:

  • day to day management and coordination of the platform
  • budget management, forecasting and reporting for the coordination centre and collaboration and innovation fund
  • creating timelines and milestones to drive delivery of the platform
  • scheduling and managing resources within the coordination centre
  • identifying and monitoring risks and issues, developing mitigating actions and escalating as appropriate
  • providing key reports and supporting effective governance and decision making
  • working closely with the funders and providing reports that update on progress against milestones and agreed deliverables as well as KPIs to support ongoing monitoring and evaluation
  • leading on collaboration agreements, as needed, between hubs and with external partners

Funding can be requested to cover the cost of project management of the platform including staff time, such as through appointment of a senior project manager and administrative assistant.

Communication and strategic engagement

The coordination centre will have responsibility for the full range of the platform’s communications activities, including digital (web, social media and audiovisual), publications, events and media relations, and play a key role in delivering strategic engagement on behalf of the platform.

The coordination centre will also focus on engaging and communicating with key stakeholders (including industry), working closely with the director and colleagues across the research hubs, facilitating internal communication and ensuring external outputs are coordinated.

Responsibilities include:

  • developing and maintaining specific internal and external communications and stakeholder engagement strategies for the platform that appropriately reflect its UK wide and interdisciplinary ambitions
  • mapping and management, working with the director, of the platform stakeholders, identifying key influencers and engaging productively to further strategic objectives
  • developing a public involvement and engagement strategy
  • working closely with the research hubs to support and coordinate development and delivery of their communications plans, raising awareness of opportunities such as funding and training opportunities, managing knowledge exchange events and seminars
  • organising and running events
  • working with colleagues to develop and deliver a standalone platform website and its subsequent day-to-day management, keeping it up to date, drafting and uploading news stories and blogs
  • supporting cross-hub and industry engagement

Funding can be requested to cover the cost of these functions for the platform, including staff time, such as through appointment of a communication and engagement manager.

Collaboration and innovation fund

The director and coordination centre will manage a ‘collaboration and innovation fund’ of up to £2 million which will be allocated through a defined mechanism to promote and incentivise collaboration across the hubs and with external partners to widen the reach of the initiative and support the development of emerging areas of need.
This could be used to fund activities led by the coordination centre, the research hubs, or commissioned externally, and the director’s proposed uses for the fund will be put to the oversight board for approval. This fund will be ring-fenced within the main award.

Monitoring and reporting

The coordination centre roles will report to the director. The director will report to the mental health platform oversight board.

At the start of the award, the director will be required to produce an updated timeline, deliverables list and risk register for the mental health platform oversight board, alongside details of how deliverables will be monitored and how plans to measure and demonstrate the platforms impact in the longer term will be developed. This should also include the proposed membership of a strategic advisory group for the platform.
Within six months the director should submit a strategic plan for the collaboration and innovation fund for formal review by the oversight board. Once approved this fund will then be released to the director for onward delivery.

Funding and duration

Following their successful appointment, the director will be invited to submit a fully costed proposal for funding for the coordination centre team of up to £1 million (80% full economic cost (FEC), meaning up to £1.25 million at 100% FEC). The director’s research organisation should cost the grant according to standard FEC rules, and the final decision on the funding amount will be made by MRC.

The award will cover:

  • salaries of the team
  • funding for the responsibilities described above, such as running workshops and networking
  • travel and subsistence
  • overheads
  • estates

The director will also be responsible for the management and disbursement of a collaboration and innovation fund of up to £2 million. While the funding for the collaboration and innovation fund will be provided as part of the same award, it is ringfenced and will only be provided following formal approval of plans by the oversight board. The funding will be provided to the director for onward distribution and management, and must be used for the purposes described above, and as set out in the award terms and conditions.

The award must start on or before 1 October 2024 and will end 31 March 2029 (in line with the end of funding for the platform hubs).

How to apply

Submitting your application

Email mentalhealth@mrc.ukri.org including ‘Mental health platform director application, your name (director) and the host research organisation name’ in the subject line.

Deadline

UKRI must receive your application via email by 18 March 2024 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Applications emailed to MRC after this time will be rejected.

Attachments

Attachments must conform to the following requirements:

  • in a sans-serif typeface (Arial or equivalent, not Arial Narrow) and font size of 11pt, excluding text on diagrams and the use of mathematical symbols
  • a minimum of single line spacing and standard character spacing must be used
  • margins must not be less than 2cm

Your application must include the following attachments:

  • a vision statement for the mental health platform (maximum of three pages of A4)
  • your CV (maximum of two pages of A4)
  • a list of your publications (maximum of one page of A4)

Vision statement guidance

Your vision statement should include:

  • relevant experience and background
  • vision statement for mental health platform
  • motivation for wanting to be director
  • approach for leading the initiative

Successful candidate

Following the email application stage and completion of the assessment process after interview stage, the successful candidate will be invited to create an application using the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system. This Je-S application stage is to successfully capture the costs applicable to the director award (and is not part of the assessment process).

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed against the following criteria by an assessment panel:

The director must demonstrate the following:

  • track record of delivery and leadership of international quality programmes in mental health research
  • track record of delivering impact from research, demonstrating a commitment to advancing the interests of patients and the public
  • thorough understanding of the mental health landscape, within the UK and internationally, and the vision and ability to understand the big picture and the impact of research within the platform
  • ability to facilitate interdisciplinary working and draw in a range of mental health disciplines
  • understanding of the barriers and opportunities in mental health research in the UK including, but not limited to, data, skills, training and capacity building
  • experience of collaboration and building effective relationships at all levels between academia (including across disciplines), and with key stakeholders (including policy makers, industry, people with lived experience and the public)
  • experience in handling sensitivities around the use of mental health and other patient data for research
  • ability to develop and deliver a strategic plan that builds on the platform’s scientific excellence, leadership, infrastructure and skills to support integrative research approaches and achieve maximum impact
  • experience of leading and managing a team

Your application will be assessed by a panel nominated by MRC which will include representatives from a range of fields, alongside people with lived experience of mental illness and senior UKRI staff. If your application is agreed by the panel to successfully and fully demonstrate all of the assessment criteria, you will be invited to interview. Interviews are anticipated to take place April 2024.

Following the interview stage of the application process, if you are successful, MRC will contact you with guidance on how to submit your application (this process is to fund your award and the justification of costs will be assessed by the panel).

Contact details

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact:

Mental health platform team

Email: mentalhealth@mrc.ukri.org

Include ‘mental health platform director’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

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