Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Public Health Intervention Development (PHIND): Sep 2022

Apply for funding for the early-stage development of an intervention that seeks to address a UK or global public health challenge.

Any researcher employed by an eligible research organisation, including MRC institutes and units (including those in Gambia and Uganda), can apply for this funding opportunity.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £187,500. MRC will typically fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project can last up to 18 months.

Who can apply

Applicants

You must have at least a postgraduate degree and an employment contract for the duration of the award at an eligible research organisation, including MRC institutes and units (including those in Gambia and Uganda), to apply for this funding opportunity.

Read more details on institutional and individual eligibility in the general MRC guidance for applicants.

We encourage applications from collaborative teams, which may include international co-investigators where they provide expertise that is not available in the UK. Please contact us to confirm eligibility prior to submission.

You can also include one or more project partners within your application.

This opportunity (PHIND September 2022) is being run on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service. You cannot apply on our Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

Research office professionals

PHIND September 2022 cannot be applied for on our Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. It is one of the opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

Following the success of a number of opportunities recently run through the funding service, many organisations’ research offices will now have members with access to a UKRI Funding Service account with administrator status. This gives them oversight of any application to UKRI from the moment it is created.

Finished applications must be sent to a research officer with a UKRI Funding Service account as only they can submit it to UKRI.

If an application for PHIND September 2022 is started by someone from an organisation that doesn’t have a research officer with a UKRI Funding Service account, we will contact their research office to set one up.

If you anticipate researchers from your organisation applying for PHIND September 2022 and do not have an account, email support@funding-service.ukri.org

You should also ensure that internal deadlines to check applications are made clear to applicants from your organisation, well in advance of the submission deadline, which is 16:00 on 15 September 2022.

What we're looking for

MRC is looking to support the early-stage development of interventions that seek to address either UK or global public health challenges. This might include qualitative and quantitative primary research and the development of theory and logic models. However, emphasis should be placed on developing the intervention.

This opportunity supports the incorporation of systems thinking in addressing public health challenges. It is justifiable to focus on just one aspect of a system as long as the wider systems context is recognised, for example, in the framework for evaluation.

It also encourages the use of multidisciplinary teams and co-production with users and other relevant stakeholders, such as policy makers.

The scope

Population level interventions, with a focus on non-health care settings. Examples of the focus of health-related population level interventions include transport, education, employment, leisure and the built environment.

For the purposes of this funding opportunity, ‘population’ is defined as groups of individuals for which an intervention may subsequently be delivered and evaluated. For example, this includes organisations such as schools, prisons and workplaces, or settings such as:

  • neighbourhoods
  • communities
  • regions
  • countries.

Health care settings can be included, but projects should demonstrate potential for improved health of general, high-risk or vulnerable populations.

The creation of new interventions, where active components of existing interventions are combined to create a new intervention, is allowable within the scope.

The following activities are not within the scope of this opportunity:

  • NHS interventions
  • interventions treating clinical conditions or improving health services delivery
  • systematic reviews and meta-analyses
  • standalone feasibility studies and pilot studies
  • the wholesale transfer of a proven intervention to a new context, setting or target population.

The application

You should address the following points about the proposed intervention:

  • its definition
  • a clear theory behind its mechanism of action
  • an indication of its forms and functions
  • its likely components and their inter-relationships
  • its continued refinement and sustainability
  • its scalability.

The application should demonstrate a pathway to further development and evaluation of the intervention, and criteria for its progression to the next stage of development (detailed within the case for support).

Engagement of potential commissioners and users of an intervention is often crucial to its potential success. You should be able to identify potential beneficiaries of your intervention, who would be delivering the intervention and who would commission it.

Your application will be strengthened by demonstrating that users and the target population will be willing to participate in the development study (and potentially further testing and evaluation).

It may be helpful to refer to the MRC and National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) guidance for developing and evaluating complex interventions. This supports the development or identification, feasibility testing, evaluation and implementation of complex interventions.

Project costs

MRC will fund up to £150,000, for a maximum of 18 months.

Funds requested by UK research organisations will be funded at 80% of the full economic cost, in which case the full economic cost of your project can be up to £187,500. Overseas costs will be funded at 100% of the full economic cost.

Funds may be requested to support costs attributable to the study, including investigator and research staff time, consumables, equipment and travel.

A limited amount (approximately 15%) of the overall cost may be allocated to some acceptability and feasibility research, to:

  • further develop the intervention
  • help cement a collaboration
  • underpin further work to help the case for a future grant application.

How to apply

What follows is a copy of the sections and questions you’ll need to complete and answer on UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Funding Service. You cannot apply for this opportunity on the Je-S system.

You must follow the guidance here and in the Funding Service. This may be different from the general MRC guidance for applicants.

Applicants will need to take the following steps to apply:

  1. Select the ‘start application’ button at the start of this page.
  2. Sign in (if you do not already have a Funding Service account, you will be given the opportunity to register. You cannot use your Je-S).
  3. Start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘how to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later.
  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, return it to your research office who must submit it to UKRI for assessment.

Make sure you get any necessary approval from your organisation in advance and give yourself plenty of editing time before the closing date.

Details and summary

Application name

You will be asked to provide a name for your application using 20 words or fewer.

You will also be asked to write a summary that will be used on public facing websites if funded. So we suggest you write it with publication in mind.

Applicants

This is a standard UKRI Funding Service section that requires you to name yourself and the other key members of the project team, together with their roles:

  • principal investigator
  • co-investigator
  • researcher.

Start date and duration

This is a standard Funding Service section that asks applicants to tell us the start date and duration of their proposed project. Your project can last up to 18 months.

Question: briefly describe your research idea

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Ensure you describe your proposed intervention stating the public health challenge it’s seeking to address and its potential impact. Make sure you include the study objectives to give assessors an overview of your research plans.

Word count: 400

Case for support: public health outcomes

Question: explain the public health outcomes being addressed with this intervention, including the target population, and how it addresses strategic public health priorities

What the assessors are looking for in your response

The assessors are looking for the importance of the public health question and the need for an intervention to address the issue or issues, taking account of the current landscape.

In your response, refer to relevant literature and what is already known, including what has previously been tested. Please reflect on:

  • utility
  • applicability
  • affordability
  • feasibility.

You should give details of how this project addresses strategic public health priorities. For example, lack of physical activity in sedentary older adults leading to poor physical and mental health.

You should fully justify the target population identified in your proposal, with clear consideration of the potential for differences according to socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, age group or other characteristics.

Word count: 600

Case for support: evidence gap

Question: what is the evidence gap this study addresses?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

The assessors are looking to understand the need for an intervention in this research area and what gap your intervention will fill.

It’s rare that a proposed intervention will be the first of its kind to tackle a particular public health problem. Explain what the literature shows and why a new intervention is needed. For example, is it likely to be more effective, cheaper or more practicable?

Word count: 500

Case for support: future development phases

Question: describe the next steps for the development and evaluation of the intervention after the proposed PHIND project has been completed

What the assessors are looking for in your response

This question refers to future development and evaluation phases that would be informed by, or could lead on from, the proposed intervention development study. Include criteria for progression, the pathway to the next stage of evaluation and give an indication of what the intervention would likely involve.

It’s important to demonstrate:

  • the pathway to the next stage of intervention development and evaluation
  • what the intervention would likely involve, such as the type and format of the intervention, clearly describing the system context, where applicable.

Be as clear as possible about the future plans, including an outline of the design of a full-scale evaluation.

While you’re not expected to know the outcome of your research, a strong application will provide:

  • an indication of the anticipated intervention’s form and function (for example, specifying that you intend to develop an online alcohol reduction programme would give the panel a clearer picture of what you envisage than simply referring to an educational resource)
  • how the proposed research will feed into the development and refinement of the intervention and inform whether it is likely to be affordable and feasible to deliver
  • an updated logic model and relevant programme theory to underpin and explain the intervention and its likely effects.

Not all PHIND projects will necessarily be developed into feasible interventions and high-risk high-impact projects are encouraged. Either way, results will be valuable for informing future research and should be appropriately disseminated.

You should also detail the criteria you’ll use to determine whether the project should progress to the next stage of evaluation. This may be related to uptake of the intervention, its feasibility or scalability, or practicality of delivery. It’s not essential to provide figures but you should give the panel an indication of what you’ll be looking for.

Word count: 400

Case for support: methodology

Question: describe the proposed methodology for the early phase study (the PHIND-supported project proposed) detailing the methods to be used and mechanisms to ensure co-production of research with end-users and other relevant stakeholders

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Detail the methodological approach you intend to use. In your response:

  • provide the expected number of focus groups, participants, people completing a survey and so on, where applicable
  • highlight any novel aspects of this project or proposed approach
  • outline how co-production will be embedded into development of the intervention
  • discuss how systems thinking has been applied to the design of the research study.

Successful PHIND applications clearly describe robust methods. For example, if you are using focus groups, specify the number of sessions that will be involved and justify group or sample sizes. You should also define the selection criteria and recruitment strategy for your study participants.

Additionally, outline how co-production with relevant stakeholders, such as end-users and local public health specialists, is embedded throughout the design and delivery of the study.

Ensure you evaluate the potential for unintended consequences. For example, some interventions may risk widening inequalities. App-based interventions may generate negative health effects associated with increased screen-time. Some community-based interventions improve the health and well-being of those directly involved, but not the target population.

Please explain what you could put in place to mitigate these risks using a systems approach. Equally, be open to the possibility of unexpected positive outcomes and consider how these might best be captured.

Word count: 1000

Case for support: research team and capability to deliver

Question: submit a ‘Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI)’ for you and your team to demonstrate your ability to successfully deliver the proposal

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Following the principles established under R4RI, we are particularly seeking to understand:

  • the specific relevant skills, experience and expertise that you and the individuals you named in the ‘applicants’ section have for the proposed project
  • how this team’s collective skills and experience are complementary
  • how each member will uniquely contribute to the proposal.

Complete this section in the R4RI format using the following headings (you will not be penalised for leaving modules blank but it is recommended that you carefully consider the breadth of your experience):

  • module 1: contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies or knowledge
  • module 2: the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • module 3: contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • module 4: 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 (it is not a requirement).

This is an opportunity to showcase the range of relevant skills you and your team have in a narrative format and how this will help to deliver the proposal. Individual’s specific achievements can be included but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver the proposed project.

Ensure you demonstrate that collectively the team has all the skills, experience and expertise to ensure the greatest likelihood that your idea or proposed research or innovation will succeed.

Word count: 1000

Case for support: related applications

Question: has a related application been previously submitted to the MRC or another funding organisation?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If the application is a resubmission, provide information on how this new application differs from that submitted previously. It must not be used to cover anything which should be included in the case for support.

If the application was previously submitted to another funder, you should provide:

  • the name of the funding body
  • a brief description of the project.

Word count: 500 words

Case for support: references

Question: detail the references used in your application

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Please list the references, such as published journal papers, used within the case for support.

Word count: 800 words

COVID impact

Question: if applicable, outline the impact of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Applicants are invited to provide an impact statement on their personal experience during the pandemic.

The purpose is to allow the applicant to provide additional information, of relevance to the application and the research case, to explain specific disruptions to previous or current research caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example:

  • illness due to COVID-19, either themselves or their families
  • caring responsibilities
  • restricted access to facilities and normal research environment
  • clinical responsibilities: details on their specialty, whether they were on the front-line, required to back-fill posts, and so on
  • impact on research and the production of preliminary data, development of collaborations, loss of research resources, and restrictions to research approaches
  • impact on publications or other outputs.

Word count: 500 words

Timeframe and logic model

Question: provide a Gantt chart to support your proposal (mandatory). You may also provide a logic model if you wish (optional)

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a single A4 page Gantt chart to show milestones and the overall timeframe of your proposal. Please do not use the Gantt chart to include information which should be detailed in the case for support.

You may also provide a single A4 page logic model to describe the anticipated mechanism of action, delivery, key components and their inter-relationships, outputs and outcomes of the intervention.

Word count: 10 words

Justification of resources

Question: provide full economic costs and calculate the amount you are applying for using the template contained within ‘what the assessors are looking for in your response’ and add justifications

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Download and complete the full economic costs (FEC) template (DOCX, 75KB) before saving it as a PDF and uploading to the service.

Enter 80% of the full economic cost for equipment; 100% in the case of equipment for overseas research organisations.

You must make sure each named or identifiable (from post name) individual included on this form is aware that:

  • you have shared their personal information with UKRI
  • UKRI will process their personal information as set out in UKRI’s privacy notice.

Once you’ve done that, add justifications for the resources you’re requesting in the area below using the same headings as those in the template.

Word count: 500 words and attachment upload for fEC resource template (both mandatory).

Project partners: contributions

Question: provide details about any project partners’ contributions using the template provided

What the assessors are looking for in your response

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 project partners, download and complete this template (DOCX, 52KB) then copy and paste the table within it into the text box.

Project partners: letters (or emails) of support

Question: upload a single PDF containing a letter or email of support from each partner you named in the table in the previous ‘contributions’ section

What the assessors are looking for in your response

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 have named project partners in the previous ‘contributions’ section, enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box below.

Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project
  • state whether they wish to claim minor costs, such as small consumables specific to the project.

Please do not provide letters of support from host and co-investigator’s research organisations.

Unless specifically requested, please do not include any personal data within the attachment.

Human participation

Question: would the project involve the use of human subjects?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

If ‘yes’, 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: 500 words

Personal information

Question: will personal information be used?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

If ‘yes’, provide details of whether the information will be anonymised and how it will be stored securely.

Word count: 500 words

Ethical implications

Question: are there ethical implications arising from the proposed research?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

If ‘yes’, provide details of ethical implications and how they would be addressed.

Where approvals are required, confirm the authority who will provide the approval, and whether this has been sought and approved.

Word count: 500

How we will assess your application

The Expert Review Panel will use the following criteria to assess your application:

  • the importance of the public health question and the need for an intervention to address the issues, taking account of the current landscape
  • the proposed approach including methodology, innovation and likelihood of the outcomes of the proposed study to fill a current gap in knowledge
  • the research team, research environment, stakeholder partners and user participation and engagement
  • how novel the intervention is and whether it brings together disciplines and actors that may not normally be involved in health research
  • its potential impact, including appropriate engagement plans with users, key stakeholders and target populations, and the appropriateness of communication and knowledge exchange plans.

The Expert Review Panel comprises independent academics and public health practitioners. It has close links with NIHR and the MRC Applied Global Health Research Board, to ensure the public health relevance of projects and to increase the potential success of future applications for piloting and evaluative studies.

The Expert Review Panel meeting will take place approximately eight weeks after the closing date.

Panel feedback will be provided to all applicants, approximately four to six weeks after the meeting.

Applications which are outside the scope of the opportunity will not be assessed by the panel.

Contact details

To discuss your eligibility or any queries, contact the Funding Service by email: support@funding-service.ukri.org or phone: 01793 265810.

Additional info

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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