NIHR Third Call for Global Health Research Groups

NIHR Third Call for Global Health Research Groups

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In 2015, the NIHR Global Health Research (GHR) portfolio was established to support applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list, using UK Aid from the UK government.

The Global Health Research portfolio is underpinned by three principles which guide development and delivery. These are:

  • Meet eligibility criteria as Official Development Assistance (ODA), i.e. funded research directly and primarily benefits people in ODA-eligible countries on the OECD DAC-list
  • Deliver high-quality applied health research, building on the Principles of the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR): Impact, Excellence, Effectiveness, Inclusion, Collaboration
  • Strengthen research capability and training through equitable partnerships

The NIHR has established a substantial portfolio of applied global health research and training in areas that are underfunded or where there is an unmet need. The programme aims are delivered through a mix of researcher-led and commissioned calls, funding initiatives to develop and advance global health research career pathways both in LMICs and in the UK, and through partnerships with other major global health research funders. Together these have positioned the NIHR as a key player in supporting high-quality global health research.


The NIHR Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups awards form a key part of the NIHR Global Health Research commitment to ODA. The Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups offer is unique for NIHR in that it provides funding to support not only delivery of research that will improve health outcomes for people living in LMICs, but also strengthens crucial research capability and capacity in resource-poor settings, in particular, training and capacity-building in both academic research and programme support functions. Together these provide a vital and sustainable platform for future research in those countries.

The active portfolio currently comprises 13 Global Health Research Units and 40 Global Health Research Groups delivering high-quality research through equitable partnerships with researchers in LMICs, which are addressing a broad spectrum of under-funded and under-researched areas of need.

Find out more about the active portfolio of NIHR Global Health Research Units and NIHR Global Health Research Groups.

The NIHR is pleased to launch a third call for Global Health Research Groups that will meet the aims and ambitions set out in the following call specification. The call will have two closing dates to reflect the different challenges research teams may face in developing high quality applications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aims: Global Health Research Groups

Building on the NIHR GHR principles above, the strategic aim across the Global Health Research Groups programme is to:

  • address locally-identified challenges in LMICs through equitable research partnerships between researchers and institutions in the UK and ODA-eligible countries
  • to generate the scientific evidence that can improve health outcomes for people in low resource setting through improving practice and informing policy.
  • strengthen research and research management capacity and capability to support future sustainability of research in partner countries.

These strategic level aims are the same for the Global Health Research Units and Global Health Research Groups. The core differences lie in the status of the research partnerships at start-up, the scale and extent of the research and partnership ambition, and the likely impact of work programme outputs.

Global Health Research Groups are defined as a partnership of specialist researchers within universities and research institutes in LMICs and the UK:

  • either new to delivering applied health research globally, or expanding to new global partnerships to deliver applied global health research addressing unmet needs in new health areas or geographies in ODA-eligible countries;
  • who, through a planned start-up phase, will develop or expand equitable research partnerships and networks, to undertake LMIC-led needs analysis designed to refine relevant research questions and priorities through engagement with policy makers, evidence users and local communities, as appropriate;
  • who will establish a new programme of applied health research delivered through ambitious, structured plans for e.g. scoping studies, needs analysis, economic analysis, pilot studies and potentially trials;
  • who are able to develop the strength of the partnership to improve practice and inform policy based on scientific evidence;
  • who will set up and deliver a focussed programme of capacity and capability strengthening at individual and institutional level appropriate to the respective goals.

Budget / length of funding

Through this call, awards up to £3 million over a period of up to 3 to 4 years are available to NIHR Global Health Research Groups.

The amount requested and the length of the funding period should be fully justified according to the nature of the proposed research.

Applicants will need to reflect the costing of the initial start-up phase within their proposed budget.

Applications can indicate a budget line for responsive or commissioned funding to address emerging priorities/needs and/or developmental work up to 5% of the total budget. If included, these research costs must not exceed the maximum £3m budget limit for Global Health Research Groups set for proposals submitted to the call. Applications must clearly describe the proposed way the funds will be used. Funds must be spent in LMICs to deliver research. Any research activities funded through this route must align with the application aims, be completed in the contracted award timeframes and adhere with finance guidance for the call. These funds may not be used as contingency i.e. a reserve of money set aside to cover possible unforeseen future expenses. Activities supported from this budget line will be monitored by the NIHR through routine monitoring processes.

See the more detailed NIHR GHR Finance Guidance for further information.


Applications in any field of applied global health research for the direct and primary benefit of people living in one or more ODA-eligible country/ies will be considered.

In recognition that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant impact across global health systems, applicants should consider the context of COVID-19 where relevant to their research proposal, both in terms of project planning and the generalisability of outcomes.


Visit funding web page

Translate »