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Health Systems Research Initiative

Support for research to improve health systems in low- and middle-income countries.
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This is the third annual call for the Health Systems Research Initiative calls, jointly supported by the Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust.

The aim of this initiative is to fund rigorous, high-quality research that will:

  • generate evidence on how to strengthen and improve health systems for people living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
  • use a health systems approach to inform the delivery of evidence-based interventions or structural changes
  • provide evidence that is of direct relevance to decision makers and users in the field.

Health systems in LMICs face the challenges of substantial socioeconomic and health inequalities, rapid globalisation and evolving disease burdens. A robust evidence base is required to underpin health systems strengthening and delivery of health interventions in the context of these challenges.

Innovative proposals are sought from across the public health, social and biomedical sciences. These must clarify what health system challenge is being addressed and how the research question, and proposed work, addresses that challenge.

Proposals should clearly describe how and why the findings of the project have the potential to improve the health of people living in LMICs.

Please refer to the Medical Research Council website for more information about the initiative.

What's included

A total of £15 million is available. There will be one call each year with a total budget of £5m.

Funding may be requested for:

  • all research costs that are attributable to the project
  • costs of hosting project steering and data monitoring committees
  • training and support for a project manager.

Costs will be shared equally between the four funders.

Please refer to the Medical Research Council website for further costs information.


Studies funded through this scheme should be based in LMICs.

Principal investigators must be employed by an eligible institution either in an LMIC or in the UK. If the principal investigator is based in the UK, there must be clear partnership with, and scientific leadership from, co-investigators based in the countries where the project will take place.

Please refer to the Medical Research Council website for more information on the eligibility criteria.

Application process

Applications should be submitted to and will be processed by the Medical Research Council on behalf of the four partner agencies.

Please refer to the Medical Research Council website for more information on the application process.

Applications may be for:

Research grants

Focused projects usually up to three years’ duration with a maximum of five years’ duration. There are no set budget limits; small and larger-scale projects are invited. As a guide, applicants should note that approximately £4m is available for research grants under this call, and the funders would like to fund five to ten projects. Value for money is an important part of the assessment criteria.

Development grants

With a duration of 12-18 months and a maximum budget of £100k each. The purpose of a development grant is to conduct preliminary studies needed before a research grant proposal can be designed.

Recipients of development grants will not automatically progress to full-scale research projects after their development grant has ended. They will be expected to apply for a full-scale research project in open competition.

Funding is available for research only. We will not fund the routine delivery of health services. The funders expect that applicants will have identified at the application stage the health service partner which will provide any routine health service delivery relevant to the project.


This is the third call for this scheme.

The deadline for applications is 4pm on 28 January 2016. Please refer to the Medical Research Council for more information.


Please contact Mandy Brown at the Medical Research Council ( mandy.brown@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk) if you have any questions about applying to this funding scheme.

Wellcome Trust, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK T:+44 (0)20 7611 8888