The Medical Research Council is one of the UK’s seven Research Councils funded by the UK Government. They support research across the entire spectrum of medical sciences, in universities and hospitals, as well as in their own MRC units, centres and institutes in the UK and Africa.
In 2014/15 the MRC’s gross research expenditure was £771.8m; there were approximately 1500 postgraduate students and 391 fellows (including Clinical Research Training fellows) in March 2015.
The MRC funds research through a range of research grants, fellowships and focused calls. The most relevant areas to public health are covered here. It is also worth checking the Strategic Plan and current Highlight Notices, which indicate areas of research that are current MRC priorities.
There are four research boards, each responsible for one of the four major areas of medical science that together make up the MRC portfolio:
The Boards accept applications to four major research schemes with regular deadline dates throughout the year:
- Infections & Immunity Board
- Population & Systems Medicine Board
- Molecular & Cellular Medicine Board
- Neurosciences & Mental Health Board
New Investigator Research Grant
Aimed at researchers who are capable of becoming independent Principal Investigators and who are now ready to take the next step towards that goal, across all areas of the MRC’s remit.
Duration is normally of three years duration and is not renewable. Applicants are normally expected to request up to, but no more than, 50% of their contracted working time.
The main MRC scheme for supporting biomedical research in Universities. Grants can be any length up to five years and generally under £1m in value, to fund focused research projects.
Provide larger, longer term (five years) and renewable programme funding. They aim to help the medical science community to ‘think bigger’. A programme is defined as a coordinated and coherent group of related projects, which may be developed to address an inter-related set of questions across a broad scientific area. Programmes are a substantial investment for the MRC so due consideration to MRC strategy should also be evident.
Provide core funds for one to five years to support partnerships between diverse groupings of researchers and can be used for infrastructure support, platform activities and for bringing together managed consortia or multidisciplinary collaborations. The scheme is NOT designed to fund research that can be funded by our standard schemes, but can support collaborative activities. Typically, successful Partnership Grants include a varying combination of the following components: networking and partnership activities, underpinning infrastructure activities (either for establishing a unique resource or exploiting it), capacity building and primary research.
For clinically trained researchers:
Clinical Training Research Fellowships
Support clinically active professionals within the UK to undertake a higher research degree. The scheme can also provide post-doctoral funding for applicants who achieved their PhD more than five years ago but who have not been research active since due to clinical training commitments. provides between two and three years’ support. A further year’s funding is available for patient-orientated CRTFs where the project will require significant amounts of patient contact.
Clinician Scientist Fellowships
develops talented medically and other clinically qualified professionals who have gained a higher research degree to lead their own research plans and establish their own research team to make the transition to independent investigator. Applications are invited for the standard CSFs, the Tenure Track CSFs, or the jointly funded CSFs, all of which are considered in open competition.The CSF provides four years’ support. Patient-orientated proposals where the project will require significant amounts of patient contact may request up to five years’ support. The Tenure Track CSF also provides up to five years’ support.
Senior Clinical Fellowships
Five year fellowship award for talented medically and other clinically qualified professionals, with an effective track record of internationally competitive independent research, to make the transition to research leadership. A SCF provides funding for a challenging research programme, and an ambitious programme of research training which offers accelerated personal and career development.
Career Development Award
Five years’ support for talented post-doctoral researchers to lead their own research plans and establish their own research team to make the transition from post-doctoral researcher to independent investigator. The award provides funding for a challenging research programme and an ambitious programme of research training which offers accelerated personal and career development.
Senior Non-Clinical Research Fellowships
Highly prestigious seven year award supports proven independent researchers with an effective track record of internationally competitive independent research to make the transition to research leadership.
Skills Development Fellowships
The fellowships provide three years’ support for very early career researchers. They are training fellowships that aim to support capacity building in MRC priority areas of quantitative skills and skills at the social science interface.
Deadline dates for grant and fellowship competitions can be found on the MRC website.