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Sustaining Health

Pilot funding for cross-disciplinary research connecting environment, nutrition and health.
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Humanity faces profound questions about how our planet can sustain nine billion people by 2050. With the trend of urbanisation, the majority of the world’s population now live in cities. There is a global nutrition crisis, with dual problems of undernutrition and obesity. Meanwhile, environmental and population changes have major implications for issues including food and nutrition security, access to clean water and sanitation, and natural disasters. In meeting these challenges and delivering culturally, socially and economically appropriate solutions, research has a critical role to play.

We are pleased to launch our Sustaining Health awards scheme, with a call for proposals for pilot research projects in this broad area. This call supports small awards in the order of £250 000 (exceptionally up to £500 000) for up to two years.

Aims of the awards

  • These small awards are designed to open up research avenues that will ultimately lead to work with a significant impact on human health. Pilot projects may address any aspect of the interplay between health, environment and nutrition, but a focus on health is key. Projects are not required to cover issues related to both environment and nutrition.
  • Our scoping work highlighted the explosion of data in the public and private domains, and the importance of harnessing its value for society. In recognition of this, we would particularly like to see proposals with the potential to unlock the power of data by making it more relevant, available, accessible and useful (e.g. by formatting to permit inter-linkage). The size of these awards makes them well suited to projects that exploit existing datasets or pilot novel approaches to data collection and exploration.
  • Projects outside of this theme, but relevant to the Sustaining Health area in other ways, are also welcomed.

We expect these awards to stimulate collaborations and build capacity for interdisciplinary research. We believe that high-quality research in this area requires the development of new interdisciplinary and cross-sector partnerships, particularly between biomedical (including public health) researchers and those working in social, economic, environmental, climate, agricultural, development and computer sciences.


The Wellcome Trust Strategic Plan includes a specific challenge in the broad area of 'connecting environment, nutrition and health'. This embraces the research themes of behaviour change, global nutrition, health impacts of climate change, and ecological public health.

Public health is seriously threatened by a lack of access to nutritious food, clean water and sanitation, by poor air quality, and by environmental (including climate) change. These interlinked dangers are developing in parallel with dietary choices and lifestyles that are contributing to an unprecedented burden of obesity and chronic diseases.

In light of this, and building on the Wellcome Trust Strategic Plan’s challenge in the broad area of 'connecting environment, nutrition and health', we have launched this Sustaining Health awards scheme. We want to support work, embracing the research themes of behaviour change, global nutrition, health impacts of climate change, and ecological public health, that will yield deeper insights into the issues at stake and develop strategies to mitigate the risks to human health.

This call aims to stimulate the formation of creative partnerships that bring together the diversity of competences required to tackle these complex problems and inform the global response through multidisciplinary research.


We welcome proposals from a broad range of disciplines and we particularly encourage applications from cross-sector collaborations, involving academic organisations, industry/business, non-governmental organisations and/or government agencies based in the UK and overseas.

Participating organisations may be located in any country, and the principal investigator may be employed in any sector.


Not-for-profit research institutions in the UK that are able to sign up to Wellcome Trust Grant Conditions are eligible to apply; this includes those funded by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK or the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


Commercial companies are eligible to apply, either as principal applicants or as collaborators. We fund commercial companies to meet our charitable objectives through programme-related investment (PRI). For further details, please see our policy on PRI [Word 23KB]. Companies will normally be expected to sign up to specific terms relating to the scheme.

All applications will require clear arrangements for leadership and management of the project, whether this involves a single institution or consortium.

Application process

You should complete a concept note [Word 79KB] and send it to sustaininghealth@wellcome.ac.uk. We encourage you to discuss the suitability of your proposal with us before you send your concept note.

We will review concept notes as we receive them. If we decide to invite a preliminary application, we will email you a preliminary application form by the end of August 2013. From this stage onwards, the process is by invitation only. Uninvited applications will not be considered.

If your preliminary application is shortlisted, we will invite you to submit a full application, which will be subject to international peer review.

Preliminary applications will be reviewed and shortlisted by the Sustaining Health Committee.

Following triage shortlisted applicants will be invited to submit a full application and will be subject to international peer review and due diligence. Applicants will be expected to make a presentation on their proposal to the Sustaining Health Committee.

Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed using the following criteria:

  • importance and relevance of proposed research questions
  • track record of the applicants and co-applicants and their ability to deliver high-quality research
  • collaborative nature of proposed project and demonstrable ability to bring together multiple disciplines
  • potential to build multidisciplinary research capacity
  • regional and national and international context of the application (as appropriate)
  • plans for data management and sharing
  • potential for attracting additional, longer-term support.

Application advice

Wellcome Trust staff are happy to advise you during the preparation of a proposal.

If it is adequately justified, modest equipment purchase and maintenance costs may be included in an application. Building or refurbishment expenditure will not normally be considered.

Applications may not include requests for academic institutional overheads.

Find out more about allowed costs and disallowed costs.

The most common application queries are addressed by our FAQs.

What’s included?

Support may be requested for all research costs that are attributable to the project, including, for example:

  • salary costs for research staff
  • consumables and small equipment
  • collaborative travel
  • conferences and meetings
  • office support and communication costs.

Support will not normally be offered for work exceeding two years in duration or a budget in excess of £250 000 - although, in exceptional cases, up to £500 000 may be awarded.


The current call for concept notes for the Sustaining Health scheme has now closed.

Deadline for concept notes: 27 August 2013
Deadline for preliminary applications: 9 October 2013 at 17.00 GMT
Deadline for full applications: 10 January 2014 at 17.00 GMT
Funding Committee: 27-28 March 2014


Enquiries should be sent to: sustaininghealth@wellcome.ac.uk.

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