Build community research consortia to address health disparities

Apply for funding to build community research consortia to address health disparities.

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

Your project should:

  • facilitate cross-partner collaboration with a view to establishing one (or more) community asset hubs, articulating hub structure and membership
  • scope whole or part of an integrated care system (or devolved equivalent) to understand the range of services, scale of provision, key stakeholders and existing partnerships
  • explore different collaborative models for integrating co-production into the improvement of health systems.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £250,000. AHRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

We will fund projects for up to nine months.

You must submit an ‘intention to submit’ by 16:00 on 1 June 2022.

Proposals should be submitted by the principal investigator but must be co-created with input from all of the partners. This should be evidenced in the application.

Principal investigator

Standard AHRC eligibility criteria will apply to this opportunity for UK principal investigators and research organisations.

You must be a resident in the UK and be hosted by an eligible research organisation (higher education institutions or recognised independent research organisations) as stated in the AHRC research funding guide.

Non-academic partners (non-industry)

It is possible to include UK-based non-academic partners as co-investigators, such as:

  • policymakers
  • local and national government
  • third sector and voluntary organisations
  • practitioners
  • lived experience or community researchers.

Users from industry cannot be co-investigators.

Non-academic co-investigators

It is possible to include non-academic partners as co-investigators.

Where justified, the time of these partners will be funded at 100% full economic cost.

Salary costs for new staff to be recruited for the proposed work can be submitted as part of the application.

Travel and subsistence costs and overheads will be allowable if appropriately justified.

We recognise that some partners may be employed by a government-funded organisation. You must therefore avoid the double counting of public funds in the costings. The combined costs for non-academic co-investigators must not exceed 30% of the total 100% full economic cost of the grant application.

Proposals that only involve collaboration between researchers within the remit of a single research council or those with a single investigator are out of scope.

Researchers funded through the phase one opportunity, scale up health inequality prevention and intervention strategies are eligible to apply, although this is an open opportunity. Therefore, previous funding from this programme is not a requirement.

Types of projects we want to fund

This opportunity is led by AHRC in partnership with the National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH), and is supported by MRC, ESRC and NERC. It is part of the Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities programme.

Projects funded through this opportunity will:

  • improve our understanding of the drivers of deprivation across communities
  • develop and test new scalable models for integrated care systems (ICS) (or devolved equivalents) to interface with community assets, thereby contributing to level up health outcomes and create healthier communities across the whole of the UK.

Your application should show how the planned activities could lead to a functioning consortium ready to undertake research to meet the above aims.

This programme uses the term health disparities to include varying definitions and interpretations of inequality and inequity, including the unfair and avoidable differences in health across different population groups. Understanding the drivers of such disparity and the role of community assets in reducing these differences is a core tenet of this programme.

Collaborations between community assets and ICSs are innovative, and forging new partnerships requires time. Therefore, phase two of the programme comprises a consortium-building phase.

We are looking to fund projects that will undertake preparation work, building a consortium that is in a position to deliver research linking local community asset research and activity with place-based health deprivation research.

This will be to develop testable models for how community asset partnerships can integrate with existing and emerging ICSs (or devolved equivalents).

This research will require collaboration not only across multiple disciplines and academics, but also with:

  • ICS partners
  • community assets
  • their funders.

Up to £250,000 full economic cost  is available for diverse but complementary groups of academics (for example in public health research, health economics and community asset research) to work together with non-academic partners, community organisations and health system partners, to build a research consortium at ICS (or devolved nation equivalent) level.

Building on phase one of this programme, you should consider how transdisciplinary and cross-sector working can level up health and wellbeing across the UK.

Funding should support the formation of community asset partnerships to enable cross-asset working and also include opportunities for community representation within the consortium through patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE), to consider how the lived experience of individuals can be better integrated into health systems research and design through co-production.

Key objectives of each phase two award:

  • map and scope whole or part of an ICS (or devolved equivalent), to understand the range of services, scale of provision, key stakeholders and existing partnerships
  • support and facilitate cross-partner collaboration (academia, health and community partners and relevant funders, and PPIE) with a view to establishing one (or more) community asset hubs, clearly articulating hub structure and membership
  • explore different collaborative models for integrating co-production into health systems improvement.

Your application should clearly articulate how the above objectives will be achieved.

Your application should show how the planned activities could lead to a functioning consortium ready to undertake research to meet the above aims.

What the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) wants to see in applications, including any strategic areas or key themes that will be considered

Leadership team

The principal investigator and their research office will be ultimately responsible for the administration of the grant and collaboration arrangements.

However, they should also work on this with a team of co-investigators (at least two) which should reflect the transdisciplinary and sector relevance of the community assets and public health area.

A combination of expertise should be present in your leadership team. This includes expertise from across:

  • the arts
  • humanities
  • social sciences
  • environmental sciences
  • biomedicine
  • law
  • policy
  • economics.

At least one should be from a discipline covered by a research council other than AHRC.

At least one investigator should be from within an arts and humanities discipline, including but not limited to:

  • arts
  • culture
  • health and medical humanities
  • advanced studies
  • museum studies
  • nature and community engagement
  • law.

At least one investigator should be from other disciplines, including but not limited to:

  • health inequalities
  • population health sciences (epidemiology, biostatistics, health psychology, medical sociology or health economics)
  • nursing and other allied science
  • law and criminal justice
  • health systems and improvement
  • ecosystems services
  • environmental science
  • implementation sciences
  • social sciences (including law and criminal or social justice, demography and geography or education)
  • built environment.

The proposal should clearly explain the division of roles between the principal investigator and the rest of the leadership team. You are encouraged to include non-academic partners as co-investigators.

The leadership team must contribute a significant proportion of their time to the overall leadership and coordination of their consortium-building grant.

The proposal should outline a clear management structure for the grant, detailing how the project will be managed day to day. We require each project to include an academic network coordinator or project coordinator as part of the leadership team.

The successful grants will be led by a strong, transdisciplinary team who can articulate a clear shared vision for the consortium and the community of relevant stakeholders. They will engage beyond usual stakeholders, ensuring equitable partnerships and supporting transdisciplinary approaches in novel ways.

The leadership team should have a breadth of expertise that is commensurate with the complexity of this research area. This may require a new grouping of researchers and stakeholders, drawing on strong, existing leadership across related areas.

The leadership team will have demonstrable experience of working with a range of partners, and of supporting novel approaches to current and emerging issues.


Successful projects will be expected to engage organisations from outside the academic sector that can contribute meaningfully to the challenges identified, such as:

  • non-governmental organisations (NGOS)
  • policy bodies
  • businesses
  • third sector and community organisations.

It is anticipated that these groups will be embedded across all research stages and that partnerships will be equitable with due consideration given for equality, diversity and inclusion.


Proposals must demonstrate a clear vision for how the work proposed will deliver a sustainable legacy beyond the funding period, building a consortium that is ready to commence activities should further funding become available.

Key theme: community assets as part of the integration of health services

The implementation of integrated health services through ICS, and equivalents in the devolved nations provides both a challenge and an opportunity.

New legislation recognises the potential benefits of better integration between NHS, local councils and other important strategic partners such as the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

However, operationalising such integration in order to make community assets more readily commissionable is challenging due to the complexity and diversity of the communities ecosystem.

Community assets tend to operate at a hyper-local level, servicing small numbers of vulnerable communities, and are often financed by small-scale, short-term funding.

Hence further research is required to understand how and in what ways community assets can be mobilised to address health disparities at a larger scale, without trading off against other benefits of the community assets. For example, balancing greater access to natural assets with maintaining ecological integrity.

We are looking to see how projects can connect research on community assets with healthcare improvement and research on health disparities and health inequalities, and by linking scholarship directly with decision making at local, regional and national levels using a system-wide, transdisciplinary and interprofessional approach.

The goal is to enable community assets to forge longer-term, more sustainable relationships with ICSs, becoming a key vehicle for tackling health disparities and improving public health across the whole of the UK.

Patient and public involvement and engagement

Research is expected to proactively collaborate and engage with a range of stakeholders, including those with lived experience of health issues. Inclusion of a diverse range of members of society is strongly encouraged.

Fixed start date

Successful projects will have a fixed start date of 1 November 2022 and will be nine months in duration.


Researcher time must be fully costed as per full economic costing rules. Applications which include researcher time that is costed in part or in full as in-kind by the research organisation will be rejected.

The combined costs for non-academic co-investigators must not exceed 30% of the total 100% full economic cost of the grant application.

Eligible costs

Eligible costs could include:

  • investigator salaries (including non-academic co-investigator salaries)
  • events and workshops to co-develop research agendas
  • horizon scanning
  • research activities, for example research staff, consumables, and costs of running the award including project management and administrative support
  • equitable partnership building and engagement activities with researchers and partners to identify research needs and opportunities, and to co-design and co-develop research agendas
  • training and skills development
  • local asset, landscape or network mapping
  • supporting PPIE including funding for lived experience or community researchers
  • early career researchers are strongly encouraged to be included within consortium building plans. Appropriate support and mentoring for these individuals should be provided, ensuring support and career development opportunities.

What we will not fund

The following is not within scope:

  • applications where the investigators are from within a single disciplinary area
  • applications with a single investigator
  • research around the efficacy of arts, nature, community and other place-based interventions for health
  • research where the primary benefit is outside of the UK.

Additional funding conditions

Collaborative working within the programme

The researchers funded through this opportunity will be expected to work cooperatively with:

  • the AHRC programme director for health disparities
  • other grant holders funded under the Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities programme.

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