Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Mental health platform hubs

Apply for funding to establish a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary mental health hub. Hubs will be flagship investments, that draw together relevant expertise from across the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) spectrum and engage relevant stakeholders, to carry out impactful research on serious mental illnesses. The hubs will together constitute the core of the mental health platform (MH platform).

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

An expression of interest form must be submitted by 9 May 2023.

You can request up to £3.5 million at 80% full economic cost for five years.

Awards will have a fixed start date of 1 April 2024.

The mental health platform hubs funding opportunity has a mandatory expression of interest stage, requiring all applicants to complete an online survey, before applying to the full opportunity through the Funding Service.

The expression of interest stage has closed (9 May at 4:00pm UK time). Late expression of interest submission cannot be accepted. Applicants failing to submit an expression of interest will not be permitted to apply to the full funding opportunity through the Funding Service.

Research organisations are only permitted to lead one application. Additional involvement in other applications is permitted, such as a collaborator or co-investigator.

Who can apply

This funding opportunity is administered by MRC on behalf of all councils.

Before applying for funding, check the following:

Who is eligible to apply

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

Applicants and other members of the team

You can include international co-investigators if they provide expertise not available in the UK. The inclusion of an international co-investigator must be discussed and agreed with the relevant MRC programme manager before you submit the application. Please email your request to include international co-investigators to support@funding-service.ukri.org

Funding service colleagues will then forward your request (within two working days), onto the relevant MRC programme manager for a response (within five working days). Please indicate the ‘Subject’ as ‘Request to include international co-investigator costs within my application’.

Researcher co-investigator role

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

When adding any eligible researcher co-investigator to your Funding Service application, please ensure you follow the guidance provided within the ‘How to apply’ section, specifically the ‘Applicants’ section (selecting the role of ‘Co-investigator’) and providing the required information within the ‘researcher co-investigator’ section of the application.

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 your 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.

We encourage applications involving early and mid-career researchers.

We expect a clear commitment to involving people with lived experience of mental illness, both in the development and implementation of the proposed collaboration.

It is anticipated that applications will draw together relevant expertise from multiple organisations and regions. However, for administrative purposes it is necessary to identify a single principal investigator who must be affiliated with the lead research organisation. However, the balance of activity and leadership across the partner organisations can be equally shared if desirable. What is critical is for the approach to leadership and decision making across multiple organisations to be clearly specified.

Only one application as lead organisation is permitted. Additional involvement in other applications is permissible.

What we're looking for

Scope

Apply for funding to establish a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary mental health hub. Hubs will be flagship investments, drawing together relevant expertise from across the UKRI spectrum and engaging relevant stakeholders, to carry out multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, impactful research at scale on key areas of strategic need in mental health. These areas include:

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

We are looking for challenge-led applications through focus on severe mental illness. We particularly encourage applicants to make the most of opportunities offered by utilising the wealth of data and development in analytical techniques and capabilities to enable stratification by different population groups.

Up to five hubs will be awarded that will jointly form the MH platform. Each funded hub will focus on one or more severe mental illnesses and include themes that will form cross-cutting strategic threads between hubs.

The focus of this funding opportunity is on severe mental illness (conditions that have a significant impact on people’s lives), including but not limited to:

  • severe depression
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • panic disorder
  • post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder

Research within this overall focus may be across the life course. However, we particularly welcome applications focused on children and young people’s mental health, and on the mental and physical health interface (including when experiencing more than one illness concurrently).

Research must be grounded in basic and fundamental understanding and determinants of serious mental illness. It can be drawn from across disciplines, from biological, social, environmental, physical and medical science to humanities, with interdisciplinarity across disciplines that may not typically work together encouraged.

Understanding of mechanisms or clusters of symptoms that are common across different areas (sometimes called transdiagnostic approaches) are particularly welcome. Bringing communities together across different diagnoses and across different stages of the research, treatment and intervention pathway (for example from basic science to clinical dimensions) is strongly encouraged.

Research focusing on depression, (more common) anxiety and, general mental wellbeing is out of scope. Research should be primarily focused on the UK.

The primary emphasis of the hubs should be to provide mechanistic understanding of mental illness, identifying early and best treatments, interventions and support in a range of settings to deliver improvements in health. Research focused on animal models including the development of new animal models is out of scope. However, discrete use of animals such as in backward translation opportunities may be incorporated.

Your application may involve a wide range of methodology across disciplines, and applications involving the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and other innovative data technologies are particularly encouraged. All funded projects must fully align with the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) data principles. This maximises the life-time value of research data assets for human health and does so in a way that is timely, responsible, with as few restrictions as possible, and consistent with the law, regulations and recognised good practice.

Once established, the hubs will be expected to network with each other to address shared challenges and develop common approaches, such as those with respect to methods, measures and ethics. Future funding will be made available through a separate process to enable this aspect.

Applications for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary hubs should be in partnership across multiple organisations and bring together the best UK talent and groups to provide a holistic approach from across the breadth of arts and humanities, biological science, social science, data science, environmental science, medical science and physical science.

There is significant opportunity to harness the UK’s strengths in both patient and population longitudinal studies as well as other data assets to bring them to bear on the mental health challenges the UK is facing. Hubs must demonstrate an outward focus, openly encouraging and enabling the reuse of data created and be internally networked to address shared challenges and develop common approaches such as those, with respect to methods, measures and ethics. Applications may include project partners.

You should demonstrate strong engagement with people with lived experience (PWLE) throughout the research process, and clearly explain plans for this within your application. Your application must demonstrate a clear and compelling explanation of the potential impact on the lives of people with a severe mental illness.

Those living with severe mental illness are often from the most disadvantaged populations, and the combination of illness and disadvantage means they face additional challenges accessing support and have particularly poor outcomes overall. They are also less likely to be recruited or retained into research studies. Your application should clearly describe how the research approaches and outcomes will tackle the breadth of inequalities (such as socioeconomic, urban or rural, early life disadvantages and co-morbidities) that exist, with an ambition of benefitting the populations most in need across the UK. Additionally, your plans for engaging PWLE should include a description how under-represented communities will be incorporated.

Applications for hubs must incorporate one or more of the following strategic themes that will form cross-cutting threads throughout the MH platform:

  • in-depth understanding of those who experience severe mental illness
  • markers and targets for intervention
  • exploratory studies

In-depth understanding of those who experience severe mental illness

It is now possible to draw information from across multiple studies to enable in-depth understanding of individuals, groups and sub-populations. This will allow valuable physiological (including vascular, metabolic and immune factors), psychological and cognitive data to be coupled with genetic, life-style related, social, cultural, environmental, economic, geographic, sensing and educational data.

This in-depth understanding is sometimes termed as ‘deep phenotyping’ in some research communities when talking about individuals, although the ambition here is to also consider vulnerabilities and characteristics at a group level where appropriate (different locations, socio-economic groups, and comorbidities, for example).

There is the potential to utilise and create rich datasets that take advantage of novel technologies and methodological advances such as in the field of neurotechnology, data collection and analysis methods, and also to synthesise different types of evidence (including quantitative and qualitative). This will ultimately enable capture of a wider range of factors in the dynamic environment around an individual and point to opportunities to intervene to help people. This will generate deeper insights into mental health than each study can currently achieve alone, including better understanding of the mind-body interface, the generation of real-world insights and interoperability across data sets to enable comparison across studies.

Markers and targets for intervention

We encourage new research into the mechanisms underpinning complex and varied mental health outcomes. The ambition is that this will lead to the discovery of new indicators and markers from biological, digital, psychological and social science related to severe mental illness. These in turn will have the potential to inform:

  • early diagnosis, prognosis and treatment response at an individual level
  • new therapeutic approaches (pharmacological, social, psychological, digital, technological and creative)
  • a better understanding of how social inequalities, lifestyle, behaviours and environment might affect vulnerability

Exploratory studies

This cross-cutting theme is intended to enable exploratory activity in humans on the potential to intervene and modify the severe mental illness pathways. This might be through work to enable the future development of novel therapeutic or diagnostic approaches, interventions and support. Approaches should not focus solely on pharmacology or repurposed compounds but may include for example neuroimaging, omics, neuromodulation, digitally-enabled solutions or linked to system perturbing lifestyle and psychosocial approaches. Research might alternatively involve closer working with patients, families, and practitioners in the development of new approaches, including social interventions that can improve take up and support implementation. Approaches might both enable and involve bidirectional translation. For example, the movement from basic lab discovery research or use of technologies into exploratory work in humans and with the new knowledge and understanding gained, the movement back to new or refined discovery research.

Connectivity

The research funded and data generated through this funding opportunity will be expected to work with the Mental Health Data Hub (DATAMIND), to share information, and identify and exploit synergies between research disciplines and conditions. You do not need any link to DATAMIND prior to applying. However, you should make contact with DATAMIND prior to applying to understand expectations on data gathering, management and integration into the new hub to advance the aims of the MH platform.

It is expected that work will build on and not duplicate existing UKRI investments including, and not limited to:

Training

The hubs and platform will provide an exciting multidisciplinary environment to train the next generation of researchers and technologists. Your application should demonstrate the vision of the hub and team and set out plans for cross- and interdisciplinary training opportunities within the hub.

Future funding to support early career researchers through fellowships in year two of awards onwards will be provided through a separate competition, which will drive networking across the hubs and platform.

MH platform strategy

Individually funded multidisciplinary hubs will include themes that will form cross-cutting strategic threads and form a MH platform. Once established, connectivity will be enhanced via networking funding and fellowships across the platform.

The MH platform will be a virtual network of investments. As such, there is no requirement for investment in new buildings. Additionally, the MH platform will be established to complement and make use of existing investments and infrastructure as much as possible, such as National Institute for Health and Care Research BioResource, cohorts and longitudinal population studies.

You do not need any links to other projects or programmes funded under this initiative prior to applying. However, you are encouraged to explore opportunities for strategic alignment where they exist.

The expectation is that a director and leadership team will be formulated through a competitive process from the awarded principal investigators, with assessment by representatives from a scientific advisory and oversight board members. The director will work in conjunction with the scientific advisory board and oversight board to ensure that the MH platform hubs, including DATAMIND:

  • are networked and work together effectively to build consensus in key areas
  • effectively link to other major activities in the landscape
  • support training
  • maximise the potential of the collective investments

The director will be supported with an administrative and networking budget (up to £3 million total).

The platform will provide underpinning discovery and translational research to co-align with other ongoing mental health initiatives including:

  • MRC Centres of Research Excellence and the Office for Life Sciences Mental Health Mission
  • UKRI Adolescent Mental Health and the Developing Mind
  • ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health

These initiatives enable a coordinated bidirectional pipeline for discovery and translational research. Additionally, major UKRI investments in imaging including MRI and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG) could be drawn upon.

Sustainability

The hubs must aim to deliver a national resource over the course of the award and include plans towards financial sustainability in the long-term.

Duration and funding available

You can request up to £3.5 million (at 80% full economic cost (FEC)) for five years. Awards will have a fixed start date of 1 April 2024.

What we will fund

You can request funding for costs such as:

  • directly allocated contributions to salaries of the leadership team and other established researchers, usually between 15% to 30% of their time, in line with their research contribution
  • directly incurred salaries of research staff, technicians and direct support staff, such as project managers, where there is a clear justification for each critical role
  • other costs: research consumables, sub-contractors and other costs directly related to the project
  • external stakeholder activities including public engagement and involvement
  • travel and subsistence enabling members to meet to exchange ideas and expertise, which may include visits by or to experts overseas (industrial collaborators should meet their own travel costs)
  • administrative support, which can be requested to help in the coordination of the hub and can include reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the hub’s output (costs to cover any ‘admin support’ can be requested under either ‘other staff’ or ‘other directly allocated costs’, depending on the costs being claimed as either directly incurred or directly allocated
  • directly incurred costs for international partners (an exception funded at 100%) may be requested, up to a maximum of 30% of the FEC requested
  • NHS research costs of a study (funded at the appropriate FEC rate, usually 80%)

When developing costings, you should take careful note to differentiate the hub’s activities from existing funding for related work by the members of the application.

Project partners

Collaborations are encouraged where these add value to the hub, for example in terms of access to expertise, data, technologies or funding.

We encourage collaborations with an industrial partner or partners. You and your potential collaborators are advised to refer to the guidance on MRC Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF). ICF is the mechanism by which academic-industrial collaborations can apply to the MRC.

What we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • open access costs: these must be covered by the UKRI open access grant
  • PhD students and fellowships
  • equipment
  • generic computing platforms for data analysis or data storage, which should be part of wider research organisation data management activities
  • buildings and other types of infrastructures
  • clinical trials or longitudinal population studies, which have specific governance requirements and for which alternative funding routes are available
  • NHS support or treatment costs (although MRC will take NHS support and treatment costs into account when considering the value for money of the research)

Responsible innovation

UKRI is fully committed to developing and promoting responsible innovation and trusted research. Research has the ability to not only produce understanding, knowledge and value, but also unintended consequences, questions, ethical dilemmas and, at times, unexpected social transformations.

We recognise that we have a duty of care to promote approaches to responsible innovation that will initiate ongoing reflection about the potential ethical and societal implications of the research that we sponsor. We encourage our research community to do likewise.

In common with other funding across UKRI, your application will be required to embed principles of responsible innovation and those of trusted research throughout each activity. You will be expected to engage with the relevant regulatory bodies where concerns may arise under the National Security and Investment Act. You should consider aspects of bias, privacy, security and ethics where appropriate.

How to apply

Expression of interest

The mandatory requirement to complete an online expression of interest has now closed (4pm UK time, 9 May 2023).

Late expression of interest submissions cannot be accepted.

Full applications will not be accepted from applicants who have failed to submit an expression of interest.

UKRI Funding Service

We are running the funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply for this opportunity on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

If you do not already have an account with the UKRI Funding Service, you will be able to create one by selecting the ‘start application’ button at the start of this page. Creating an account is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.

If you are a member of an organisation with a research office that we do not have contact details for, we will contact them to enable administrator access. This provides:

  • oversight of every UKRI Funding Service application opened on behalf of your organisation
  • the ability to review and submit applications

Research offices that have not already received an invitation to open an account should email support@funding-service.ukri.org

To find out more about the role of research office professionals in the application process, watch a recording of a recent research office webinar on YouTube.

Submitting your application

Applications should be prepared and submitted by the lead research organisation but should be co-created with input from all investigators, and project partners, and should represent the proposed work of the entire consortia.

To apply:

  1. Select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page.
  2. This will open the ‘Sign in’ page of UKRI’s Funding Service. If you do not already have an account, you’ll be able to create one. This is a two-minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password.
  3. Start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later. You can also work ‘offline’, copying and pasting into the text boxes provided for your answers.
  4. Once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review. They’ll check it and return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. Once happy, your research office will submit it to UKRI for assessment. Only they can do this.

Deadline

MRC must receive your application by 13 June 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Following the close of the funding opportunity, your submitted application cannot be edited or changed. Applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow this guidance provided, it may be rejected.

Personal information

MRC as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

General text on outcomes publication

MRC and UKRI, will publish the panel outcome for this funding opportunity, within two months of the advertised meeting date.

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

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance

Summary

In plain English, provide a summary that can be sent to potential reviewers to determine if your application is within their field of expertise.

This summary may be made publicly available on external facing websites, so please ensure it can be understood by a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the general public
  • the wider research community

Succinctly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • its context within the wider landscape of mental health research
  • the challenge the project addresses and how it will be applied to this
  • its aims and objectives
  • its potential applications and benefits

Word count: 550

Applicants

List the key members of your team and assign them roles, for example:

You should only list one individual as principal investigator.

Vision and approach

Question: what are you hoping to achieve and deliver in your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Vision

Explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the fields or areas
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • is clearly set within the wider landscape of severe mental illness research
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment
  • brings together different disciplines appropriate to the aims and objectives

We also expect you to:

  • list the main objectives of the proposed research in order of priority
  • identify the potential direct or indirect benefits and who the beneficiaries might be
  • detail key performance indicators
Approach

Explain how you have designed your approach so that it:

  • is appropriately multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, involving highly original, innovative, bold or disruptive research approaches with potential to achieve the challenge objectives
  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • uses a clear and robust methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your and your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location, and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work
  • demonstrates access to the appropriate services, facilities, infrastructure, or equipment to successfully deliver the planned research
  • has credible plans for training early career researchers within the hub
  • has credible plans to address inequalities in mental health

References should be included within the page count.

Create a document which will include your responses to all bullet points. The document should not exceed 12 sides of A4 paper in Arial (or equivalent) 11point font. Saving this document as a single PDF file, no bigger than 8MB and upload as per the guidance provided within the service application.

Gantt chart

Question: please provide a Gantt chart.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a Gantt chart to support your application. This should show milestones and the overall timeframe of the grant. Please do not use the Gantt chart to include information which should be detailed in the other sections of your application.

Create a document which will include your Gantt chart. The document should not exceed one side of A4 and must be in a readable font size for panel review. Save this document as a single PDF file, no bigger than 8MB and upload as per the guidance provided within the service application.

Data management and sharing

Question: how will you manage and share data collected or acquired through the proposed research?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a data management plan which should clearly detail how you will comply with MRC’s published data management and sharing policies, which includes detailed guidance notes.

Provide your response following the MRC data management plan template, using the headings:

  • description of the data
  • data collection or generation
  • data management, documentation and curation
  • data security and confidentiality of potentially disclosive information
  • data sharing and access
  • responsibilities

The length of your plan will vary depending on the type of study being undertaken for:

  • population cohorts; longitudinal studies; genetic, omics and imaging data; biobanks, and other collections that are potentially a rich resource for the wider research community: maximum of 1,500 words
  • all other research, including less complex, the plan may be as short as 500 words

Word count: 1,500

Methodology and experimental design

Question: how will you ensure your proposed work has a reliable and robust methodology and experimental design?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide additional information about the statistical analyses, methodology and experimental design of the proposed work.

We are looking for information on reproducibility, and an explanation of the steps taken to ensure the reliability and robustness of the chosen methodology and experimental design. We expect you to seek professional statistical or other relevant advice in preparing your response.

We are not looking for a simple continuation of the methods set out in the ‘Vision and approach’ section. In this section, methodology means the rationale for choosing which method to use. We are not looking for detailed descriptions of the methods.

Within the uploaded document (maximum one side of A4, minimum of 11 point font size), explain and justify:

  • experimental approach to address objectives
  • sample and effect sizes
  • planned statistical analyses
  • models chosen (for example animal model, cell line)
  • include information about the sex of the animals to be used in experiments, as well as the sex of studied tissues and cells. Justify any single sex studies

This list is exemplar and not exhaustive.

If you do not provide sufficient detail to convince assessors that the proposed experiments will be carried out appropriately to produce robust and reproducible research, your application will be rejected.

Please refer to the MRC guidance for applicants, section 2.2.3.5 ‘Reproducibility and statistical design’, for further information.

If your proposed work involves animals, and you provide information on animal sample sizes and statistical analyses, you should not duplicate it in the ‘Research involving the use of animals’ section, specifically within the experimental design and statistical framework section of the template.

Use the ‘Research involving the use of animals’ section to provide information on the rationale for using animals, choice of species, welfare and procedure severity.

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research have developed a free online tool to guide researchers through the design of their experiments. It helps to ensure that researchers use the minimum number of animals consistent with their scientific objectives, methods to reduce subjective bias, and appropriate statistical analysis.

Create a document and include your responses to the questions related to the methodology and experimental design of your project. The document should not exceed one side of A4 and must be in a readable font size for panel review. Save this document as a single PDF file, no bigger than 8MB and upload as per the guidance provided within the service application.

People with lived experience (PWLE): involvement and engagement strategy

Question: how have PWLE been involved and engaged in the development of your application? How will they be involved and engaged in the project?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

All research funded by this opportunity is expected to be informed by the needs of PWLE, which can include carers, family members and members of the public. You are expected to include plans for their meaningful involvement during the project. Assessment by PWLE forms an integral part of each stage of the assessment process.

Please answer the following questions using clear, accessible language:

  • how did you decide that the application addresses an important unmet need for PWLE of severe mental health problems
  • how have PWLE of severe mental health problems helped define the aims and its objectives including data gathered or resources collected
  • what are your plans for meaningful involvement of a diverse range of stakeholders, including PWLE (which can include carers and family members), and members of the public during the proposed work including dissemination and evaluation

Word count: 1,000

Applicants and team capability to deliver

Question: why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you and your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and your team (investigators, researchers, partners and other (technical) staff for example, research software engineers, data scientists and so on) have and how this will help to deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete these questions using the R4RI module headings. Each questions should include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You can enter ‘N/A’ for any you think irrelevant, and you will not be penalised for doing so, but it is recommended that you carefully consider the breadth of your experience. You should complete this as a narrative and you should avoid CV type format.

The R4RI module headings include:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit
  • additions: you can use this heading to provide information which provides context to the wider application, such as detail of career breaks or disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic

Word count: 3,000

Team member eligibility

Question: are you including any team member whose contract of employment does not cover the duration of the project?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If any investigator has a contract of employment that does not cover the duration of the project, they can be included within the application if the assurances required can be provided to MRC (required at point of application).

If assurances are not required (because the principal investigator and all co-investigators have the required contracts of employment at time of application), please state ‘Assurances are not required’ within the section text box, save and mark the section as complete.

Assurances

If your application includes one or more investigators whose contract of employment does not cover the duration of the project, please provide the responses and assurances required.

When assurances are required, these must be provided by a senior member of staff (from the investigators research organisation), such as an ‘Head of department’.

When the person has provided you with their responses to the five assurance questions, you should proceed to add their responses to your Funding Service application, ensuring you follow the guidance provided to present the information as requested.

Assurance questions:

1. Name of the investigator you are providing the assurance for.

2. Confirm the person providing the contract assurance for question three to five:

  • name of the person (title, first name, last name) providing the assurance
  • their position within the research organisation, such as ‘Head of Department’

3. Does the investigator (named in step one) have a pre-existing contract of employment that will be extended beyond the end date of the grant if the application is successful (this must include, where required, to cover any grant extensions)? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

4. Will the employment contract cover 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? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

5. Will the investigator be provided with appropriate laboratory space and access to facilities to carry out the research? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

If there are multiple investigators that require assurances, separate responses are required for any additional principal or co-investigators.

Assurances and information relating to the inclusion of international co-investigators are not required within this specific section of your application.

Information relating to the inclusion of any researcher co-investigators included within the project, should be included within the ‘Researcher co-investigator’ section of your application.

Read the MRC applicant eligibility criteria.

Word count: 5,000

Researcher co-investigator

Question: are you including any team member with the role of researcher co-investigator?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

This section is to assure the assessors that any researcher co-investigators named as part of the project research team are eligible to be included in the application.

To be considered eligible for the role of researcher co-investigator, applicants are not expected to be eligible as a principal or co-investigator in their own right. They usually do not have a contract of employment.

If your application does not include any researcher co-investigators, please add the following statement to the section text box provided: ‘I confirm that the application does not include any team member with the role of researcher co-investigator’. Make sure you save the text and mark the section as complete.

Assurances

If your application includes one or more researcher co-investigators, please provide the responses and assurances required:

  1. Confirm the name of the researcher co-investigator (including title, first name, last name).
  2. Confirm the name of the person (title, first name, last name) that is representing the research organisation in providing the assurance information required for this step and step three, and their position or post in the organisation.
  3. Confirm how the named researcher co-investigator (detailed within step one), has contributed to the design and writing of the application.
  4. Confirm the percentage of time the researcher co-investigator will spend working on the proposed research project.
  5. Individuals can be named as researcher co-investigator on several grant applications. However, our expectation is that under normal circumstances they would only be named on one active award. Confirm if they are currently named as researcher co-investigator on any current active awards.

Please also provide a statement of support from the principal investigator or a senior authority, such as department head (within the host research organisation).

The statement of support should:

  • confirm the identified next stage in the researcher co-investigators career progression and their long-term career aspirations
  • provide details of the support to be provided to the named researcher co-investigator, including training, mentorship and career development

Ensure you include all the required responses within the text box provided. Repeat the process for any additional researcher co-investigators.

Please note that any submitted applications involving a researcher co-investigator that do not include the required confirmation of the person’s eligibility and research organisation support will be rejected.

Word count: 5,000

Project partners

Question: provide information related to collaborating project partners and the contributions and support they are providing your project.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

MRC supports collaborative research projects and team approaches. Collaborators based in different organisations to the investigators named within your application or from industry can be formally recognised within your application as a named project partner.

If you do not have any project partners, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

If you do have one or more project partners that have agreed to support your project, please provide them with the guidance included within this section and request they provide responses to the detailed eight questions.

MRC expect the project partner to provide you with information confirming the nature of the collaboration, including the value of their contribution. We also require each partner to provide other relevant information that will clearly identify the relevance and possible benefits of the proposed work to the project and to the project partner. The information provided will be used during the assessment of your application.

When the partner has provided you with the required information, check that the responses adequately provide the information MRC requires and then copy and paste their responses into the text box provided.

When you have pasted the responses for each separate partner within the text box provided, please mark the section as complete and move onto the next application question.

Statement of support from project partners

Please note that while a statement of support is required to be provided by each project partner, a formal letter of support from the project partner is not required.

Where a partner has provided a formal letter of support, the relevant text confirming the responses to each question (one to eight) should be extracted from the letter and pasted into the text box (using the template format as detailed within the Funding Service application). Under no circumstances should any letter of support (including signature and letter head), be uploaded to the text section or any other section of your application.

The eight questions are:

1. Provide the name of the project partner organisation.

2. Detail the partner website address (or postal address).

3. Confirm the following, related to the partner contact information:

  • partner contact name (title, first name, family name format)
  • job role or title
  • the person’s department (if applicable)
  • any person included within the application as a partner contact is made aware that their personal information has been shared with UKRI and that their personal information will be processed as set out in UKRI’s privacy notice

4. Confirm the total cash or detail a £ value for any in-kind contributions being provided by the partner organisation. You are encouraged to provide a detailed description to ensure assessors can evaluate the contribution fully (the following list is an example; please add you own descriptors if a different type of contribution better describes the contribution being provided):

  • cash contribution
  • staff time
  • access to equipment
  • provision of date
  • consumables and materials
  • expertise
  • use of facilities
  • recruitment of people as research participants
  • providing human tissue

5. Confirm any costs being requested by the project partner, such as minor travel and subsistence costs or if the partner is claiming costs as a subcontractor (please provide a costs breakdown to provide the assessors with detail of any costs requested by the project partner). If the project partner is not claiming any costs, add ‘Question 5: zero costs requested by this project partner’.

6. Confirm if your project partner has a dual role as a subcontractor.

7. Please confirm if the project partner you have named in your response to question one is from industry (or a company). Answer ‘yes or no’. If you have responded ‘yes’, please ensure you have completed the previous industry collaboration framework section.

8. Confirm the partner’s commitment to the project, by requesting they provide a statement of support, including information that explains:

  • the full nature and relevance of the collaboration and support being provided by the partner
  • how this will benefit both the project and partner
  • any additional value the collaboration will bring to the project
  • where relevant, projected market size, customer sales and how the organisation will commercialise the technology beyond the project
  • the period of support the collaboration will cover

Please note that it is expected that the partner statement should be as concise as possible. Therefore, it should not duplicate any information provided within any of the responses to the preceding seven questions.

When completed, the statement of support should be included within row eight of the Funding Service application table, including the following text (with appropriate edits):

  • I confirm the statement of support provided in response to question 8, has been provided by [name of partner organisation] on [date the partner statement was provided by the partner]
  • their support statement is as follows: [paste the copied statement of support provided by the project partner]

Word count: 10,000

Industry Collaboration Framework (ICF)

Question: does your application include industrial project partners?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you do not have any project partners from industry, simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

If you have named project partners from industry in the previous ‘contributions’ question, answer the questions below. The assessors are looking for information relating to any restrictions or rights to the project results that could be claimed by the project partner.

ICF has been developed to support you when your research project involves collaboration between an academic organisation and an eligible industry or company. ICF also provides MRC with information and assurances that initial discussions and considerations have taken place with all involved in the project, related to the nature, goals and conditions of the collaboration. This includes intellectual property rights and dissemination of results generated if the project is funded by MRC.

By ‘industry or company’, we mean an enterprise that puts goods or services on a market and whose commercial activities are greater than 20% of their overall annual capacity.

Please see ICF for further guidance related to the purpose of the ICF process, including:

  • collaboration agreements
  • definitions of basic and applied research
  • internationally based companies
  • subsidy control
  • intellectual property arrangements
  • fully flexible and gated contributions
  • the ICF assessment criteria

Please note that this funding opportunity does not require the inclusion of the ICF form or company partner letter of support (as detailed within the ICF guidance) and instead, details should be provided in the text box provided. All applicants must also include any industry or company partners within the project partners section, providing the information requested within that section (whether the industry or company project requires ICF or not).

If you have read the ICF guidance and it does not apply to any of the project partners included within your application (or you do not have any project partners), simply add ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move to the next section.

Where ICF does apply to your project, please confirm your answers to the following questions, numbering each response to match the question.

Please repeat this process for each Industry project partner if you have more than one partner that has potential to be included under ICF.

Confirm your answers to the following questions:

1. Name the industry or company project partner considered to be eligible under ICF.

2. Indicate whether your application is either basic research or applied research.

3. Detail why, in the absence of the requested UKRI funding, the collaboration and the planned research could not be undertaken.

4. State whether your application is under the category of either fully flexible contribution or gated contribution (based on the intellectual property (IP) sharing arrangements with the company partner).

5. Outline the pre-existing IP (‘background IP’) that each project partner (including the academic partner) will bring to the collaborative research project and the terms under which project partners may access these assets.

6. Outline the IP that is expected to be developed during the collaborative research project (‘foreground IP’) and briefly outline how it will be managed, including:

  • which project partners will own this IP
  • what rights project partners will have to use
  • academically generated foreground IP during and after the research project for internal research and development or for commercial purposes
  • any rights of the academic partner to commercialise the foreground IP (including foreground IP generated by project partners)

7. Outline details on any restrictions to dissemination of the project results, including the rights of the project partner to:

  • review, approve and delay publications (including the time period associated with such rights)
  • request or require the removal of any information

8. Declare any conflicts of interest held by the participating academic in relation to the project partners and describe how they will be managed.

9. If applicable, provide a justification for collaborating with an overseas company or industrial project partner when their inclusion is under ICF.

10. Ensure you also include any eligible ICF industry or company partners within the project partners section (including a statement of support from the partner), of this application, by indicating a ‘yes’ response to question 10.

If your application is funded, successful applicants will need to provide an electronic copy of a signed collaboration agreement within three months of the issue of an award letter and before the project begins.

Please note that failure to provide the information requested for industry partners eligible under ICF could result in your application being rejected.

Word count: 10,000

Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Question: what are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Using the text box, demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how you will manage them.

Word count: max 500

Research involving human participation

Question: will the project involve the use of human subjects or their personal information?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box and move onto the next question.

If you are proposing research that requires the involvement of human subjects, provide the name of any required approving body and whether approval is already in place.

Then, justify the number and the diversity of the participants involved, as well as any procedures.

Provide details of any areas of substantial or moderate severity of impact.

Word count: 700

Research involving human tissues or biological samples

Question: does your proposed research involve the use of human tissues, or biological samples?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box and move onto the next question.

If you’re answering ‘yes’, provide the name of any required approving body and whether approval is already in place.

You should justify the use of human tissue or biological samples specifying the nature and quantity of the material to be used and its source.

Word count 300

Research involving the use of animals

Question: does your proposed research involve the use of vertebrate animals or other organisms covered by the Animals Scientific Procedures Act?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and do the same for the next question.

Please do not duplicate information provided in the ‘Methodology and experimental design’ section, specifically within the ‘Experimental design and statistical framework’ section of the template.

If you are proposing research that requires using animals, write ‘Yes’ in the text box. Then, Then, download and complete the animal research question template (DOCX, 52KB), which contains all the questions relating to research using vertebrate animals or other Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 regulated organisms. Then, save it as a PDF.

Conducting research with animal overseas

Question: will any of the proposed animal research be conducted overseas?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ in the text box, mark as complete and move to the next question.

If you are proposing to conduct overseas research, it must be conducted in accordance with welfare standards consistent with those in the UK, as per Responsibility in the Use of Animals in Bioscience Research guidance, on page 14.

You should also ensure all named applicants in the UK and overseas are aware of this requirement and provide a statement to confirm that:

  • all named applicants are aware of the requirements and have agreed to abide by them
  • this overseas research will be conducted in accordance with welfare standards consistent with the principles of UK legislation
  • the expectation set out in Responsibility in the Use of Animals in Bioscience Research guidance will be applied and maintained
  • appropriate national and institutional approvals are in place

Overseas studies proposing to use non-human primates, cats, dogs, equines or pigs, will be assessed during National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research review of research applications. The required information should be provided by completing the template from the question ‘Research Involving the use of animals’.

For studies involving other species, you should select the relevant checklist or checklists from the list below, complete it and save it as a PDF and use the file upload feature to attach. If you need to complete more than one checklist, you should merge them into a single document and then save it as a PDF before uploading it.

Additional questions on the use of rodents overseas (DOCX, 50KB).

Additional questions on the use of rabbits overseas (DOCX, 50KB).

Additional questions on the use of sheep overseas (DOCX, 51KB).

Additional questions on the use of goats overseas (DOCX, 48KB).

Additional questions on the use of pigs overseas (DOCX, 52KB).

Additional questions on the use of cattle overseas (DOCX, 58KB).

Additional questions on the use of Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis overseas (DOCX, 58KB).

Word count: 1

Genetic or biological risk

Question: does your proposed research involve any genetic or biological risk?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

In respect of animals, plants or microbes, are you proposing to:

  • use genetic modification as an experimental tool, like studying gene function in a genetically modified organism
  • release genetically modified organisms
  • ultimately develop commercial and industrial genetically modified outcomes

If yes, provide the name of any required approving body and state if approval is already in place. If it is not, provide an indicative timeframe for obtaining the required approval.
Identify the organism or organisms as a plant, animal or microbe and specify the species and which of the three categories the research relates to.

Identify the genetic and biological risks resulting from the proposed research, their implications and any mitigation you plan on taking.

Assessors will want to know you have considered the risks and their implications to justify that any identified risks do not outweigh any benefits of the proposed research.

Word count: 700

Clinical research using NHS resources

Question: will your research involve participants from the NHS or Health and Social Care duty of care?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Important information: excess treatment costs (ETCs) must be accurately identified as part of your research funding application to ensure that healthcare providers can be reimbursed by the appropriate funder. Researchers must complete a Schedule of Events Cost Attribution Tool (SoECAT) to be eligible for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio and the support this provides.

From 1 April 2023 Excel versions of the form will be discontinued. After that you will need to complete your SoECAT online.

If your response is ‘No’, you are not required to complete a SoECAT.

If your response is ‘Yes’, you will need to create an account for NIHR’s Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS) in order to complete a SoECAT and submit for authorisation. Please see the user guide for instructions. You must complete a SoECAT even if you do not think your clinical research will involve ETCs.

Once authorised, please covert the ‘summary’ page from the ‘Funder Export’ as a PDF and upload to the funding service.

You are advised to engage with your lead Clinical Research Network (CRN) and Attributing the costs of health and social care Research and Development (AcoRD) specialist at the earliest opportunity

Applications that have responded ‘Yes’ but have not attached the ‘Funder Export’ summary will be rejected.

Further guidance can be found on the NIHR online SoECAT guidance web page and the online SoECAT guidance module.

If you have any queries about the process or have concerns that your SoECAT may not be authorised in time for the submission deadline, please email support@funding-service.ukri.org

Funding service colleagues will forward your request (within two working days), onto the relevant MRC programme manager for a response (within five working days). Enter the ‘Subject’ as ‘SoECAT’ and include the ‘APP + Reference number’ generated when you have created this application. Please also include your last name.

NHS costs

You may include NHS research costs (full economic costs (FEC) rate of 80%), within the ‘Resources and costs’ section of your application, when they are associated with NHS studies.

Word count: 20

Resource and cost justification

Question: what will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Download the full economic costing template (DOCX, 97KB), complete it and then upload it as explained.

Using the text box, demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

This section should not simply be a list of the resources requested, as this will already be given in the detailed ‘costs’ table. Costings should be justified on the basis of FEC of the project, not just on the costs expected from UKRI. For some items we do not expect you to justify the monetary value, rather the type of resource, such as amount of time or type of staff requested.

Where you do not provide adequate justification for a resource, we may deduct it from any funding awarded.

You should identify:

  • support for activities to either increase impact for public engagement, knowledge exchange or to support responsible innovation
  • support for access to facilities, infrastructure or procurement of equipment
  • support for preserving, long-term storage or sharing of data
  • support from your organisation or partner organisations and how that enhances value for money

Upload details are provided within the service on the actual application.

Word count: 1,000

Sensitive information

Question: is there sensitive information you need to share with UKRI that you do not want shared with assessors?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If not, enter ‘N/A’ into the text box, mark this section as complete and move on to the next section.

If you or a key team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, please enter the words ‘email sent’ in the text box below.

Then email the Funding Service helpdesk at support@funding-service.ukri.org. Include your application name and number in the subject line, after the pre-populated words ‘sensitive information’.

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • applicant is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data please see UKRI’s privacy notice.

Word count: 2

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Peer review

All eligible applications that are in scope of the funding opportunity will be externally reviewed and assessed by a specially convened independent, multidisciplinary expert panel against the criteria.

Shortlisting

Shortlisting of applications by the panel will take place in early October with outcomes decisions provided the following week and an opportunity to respond to review comments within 10 working days for applications taken through to the panel meeting.

Panel

The panel will include representatives from a range of fields, alongside people with lived experience of mental illness. The panel meeting will take place November 2023

Feedback

You will receive outcomes and feedback from the decision meeting in December 2023.

Note: the initiative is intended to offer a coordinated UK-wide investment, and the panel will be empowered to recommend the strongest overall portfolio of proposals for the initiative or the portfolio that provides the greatest added value.

Assessment criteria

What we are looking for

Vision and approach

Have the applicants demonstrated how the work they are proposing:

  • clearly addresses key areas of strategic need in mental health challenges through focus on severe mental illness
  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the fields or areas
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, generates new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area.
  • is timely given current trends, context and needs
  • has clear positioning in the wider landscape of severe mental illness research, and evidence of methodologies or innovations that will add to the current knowledge base and synergise with ongoing research beyond that of the applicants
  • where relevant, has potential for the research to stimulate future industry collaborations or provide other value to industry
  • will impact world-leading research, society, the economy or the environment
  • includes clearly specified goals and expected outputs that align with the scope of the funding opportunity
  • has clear evidence of hub sustainability planning

Have the applicants demonstrated that they have designed their approach so that it:

  • is appropriately multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, involving highly original, innovative, bold or disruptive research approaches with potential to achieve the challenge objectives
  • is effective and appropriate to achieve their objectives within the time of award
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • uses a clear and transparent methodology
  • if applicable, summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts on the lives of people with a severe mental illness
  • describes how their, and their team’s, research environment (in terms of the place, its location and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the proposed work has credible plans for training early career researchers within the hub
  • has credible plans to address inequalities in mental health
People with lived experience (PWLE): involvement and engagement strategy

Have the applicants demonstrated that they have:

  • plans for meaningful engagement with people with lived experience (PWLE). This includes:
    • whether the proposal, its objective, the data it plans to gather or the resources it will provide is informed by the needs of stakeholders, including PWLE
    • whether there will be meaningful involvement of PWLE during the award, taking into account the diversity of PWLE across the population
    • the quality and feasibility of the plans to involve key stakeholders, PWLE and members of the public in dissemination and evaluation of the research to ensure that the outcomes matter to PWLE and the public
Data management and sharing

Is the data management and sharing appropriate? Consider:

  • the types, scale and complexity of data being (or to be) managed
  • the likely long-term value for further research including by sharing data
  • the anticipated information security and ethics requirements
  • clear confirmation that the hub will adhere to FAIR data sharing principles
Applicant and team capability to deliver

Have the applicants provided evidence of how they, and if relevant their team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and their approach to develop others, including identification and evaluation of risks with appropriate mitigations in place
  • highly effective and inclusive leadership approach and governance
  • experienced any disruptive or unequal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic
Resources and cost justification

Have the applicants demonstrated how the resources they anticipate needing for their proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts
Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Have the applicants identified and evaluated the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations, and how they will be managed:

  • is the proposed work ethically acceptable
  • are there any ethical issues that need further consideration, such as dual use or misuse of research
  • are the proposed ethical review and research governance approaches appropriate
  • will there be any potential adverse consequences for humans, animals or the environment and have these risks been appropriately considered
  • if applicable, have the applicants properly considered the replacement, refinement or reduction of the animals in their experiments

Principles of assessment

UKRI supports the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) 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 your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity and help applying through the Funding Service

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm UK time and Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm UK time

Additional info

Background

At any given time, one in six adults are affected by mental ill-health and this has been rising in recent years. Mental ill-health is now the single largest driver of disability in the UK with the mortality gap between those with a serious mental illness and the general population widening.

Despite the burden caused by mental health problems, research to address them is currently constrained by:

  • 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 through the hubs will:

  • provide UK-wide coordination and scale of deeply phenotyped data and samples needed to tackle major research challenges
  • make progress towards personalised mental health support
  • enable the sharing and harmonisation of key capabilities, tools and data
  • provide a basis for expanding capacity, partnerships and industry engagement

This funding opportunity is aligned to the ‘Ageing and wellbeing’ strategic theme, as set out in the UKRI strategy 2022 to 2027.

Supporting documents

UKRI policies and standards

Good research resource hub

Webinar for potential applicants

A webinar was held for potential applicants on 20 April 2023.

Watch the webinar recording.

Passcode: Gzr%#%9Z

Webinar question and answer document (PDF, 132KB)

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