1-1.6 Check if you’re eligible for funding - MRC


1.3 Applicants

Research teams include a range of individuals and grant applicants will have one of the following roles. For guidance on detailing the research staff that will be involved see section 3.2.1.

Individuals can be involved in more than one MRC grant at a time. The award of a grant does not guarantee any further commitment to funding by the MRC.
A principal investigator (PI) or co-investigator (CoI) must have a contract of employment with the research organisation (RO) for the duration of the grant prior to application – except New Investigator Research Grants (NIRGs) and fellowships.

Applicants must ensure that they have obtained the permission of any other person named on the proposal form – for example any CoIs or project partners – for the provision of their personal information to UKRI and the processing of their data by UKRI for the purpose of assessing the application and management of any funding awarded.

1.3.1 The principal investigator

Each proposal must have one principal investigator (PI). The PI is usually responsible for the intellectual leadership of the research project and for the overall management of the research. If intellectual leadership of the research is shared, the PI should be the individual who will act as the MRC’s main contact and coordinator.

By the time the grant starts, the PI must be based in the UK at the eligible research organisation at which the grant will be administered (the lead organisation). The PI must have a verified Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system account to apply.

We will consider proposals for research grants from any researcher who can demonstrate they will direct the proposed research and be actively engaged in carrying it through. The minimum formal qualification required is a graduate degree, most applicants are also expected to have a PhD. Proposals from less experienced PIs should normally include a senior colleague as a co-investigator (unless applying for a NIRG or fellowship).

If the PI leaves the RO for any reason, the RO must notify us and seek permission for a named replacement. If possible, one of the co-investigators usually takes on the role of PI. If the PI is moving to another RO it may be possible to transfer the grant subject to the agreement of both organisations. If the PI wishes to do this, they need to contact us – see guidance for MRC award holders for more information.

An emeritus professor can be a PI. Please refer to section 3.2.1 or how they should be included on applications.

1.3.2 Co-investigators

Research is often undertaken by teams and the PI may be supported by one or more individuals who can be named on the application as co-investigators (CoIs). A CoI assists the PI in the management and leadership of the research. CoIs should normally be able to meet the eligibility criteria for PIs and be based in the UK at an eligible RO. All CoIs must have a verified Je-S account.

Researchers from overseas research organisations may be a CoI if they provide expertise not available in the UK. Inclusion of an overseas CoI must be discussed and agreed with the relevant programme manager in advance of application. Please provide details of the agreement in a cover letter. For more information on how to include costs for work undertaken at an overseas organisation please see section 3.3.

1.3.3 Researcher co-investigator

A researcher co-investigator (RCoI) is someone who has made a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the project but is not eligible to be either PI or CoI in their own right (they do not have a contract of employment with the RO of the PI or any of CoIs).

Research staff this could apply include postdoctoral research assistants, clinical fellows and technology specialists or equivalent roles.

A RCoI will be:

  • working on the proposed research project as a postdoctoral research assistant or equivalent
  • making a substantial intellectual contribution to the formulation and development of the project
  • employed on the project up to 100% FTE by and based at, the RO of either the PI or any CoIs
  • given intellectual ownership (for example, through corresponding authorship) and grant management duties in relation to the ensuing research.

The PI and the RO need to identify and explain how the RCoI will be supported in their career and personal development throughout the duration of the project and a Letter of Support from the PI should highlight this support. A mentor who is not the PI or a CoI should be appointed to provide the RCoI with independent career guidance.

Please note that RCoIs are not permitted on new investigator research grants. Learn more about the role of a RCoI. The researcher co-investigator option has been available on funding opportunities that opened from 23 July 2018 onwards.

1.3.4 Project partners

MRC encourages and supports collaborative research projects and team approaches, especially between academic and industry researchers. Collaborators based in different organisations to the investigators or in industry can be formally recognised in applications as named project partners.

A project partner is a third-party organisation, or third-party person not employed on a grant, who provides specific contributions either in cash or in kind to a project. Project partners provide contributions to the delivery of a project and therefore should not normally seek to claim funds from that project. However, if there are specific circumstances where project partners do require funding for minor costs such as travel and subsistence, this will be paid at 80% of full economic cost (fEC) (unless exceptionally agreed otherwise in advance).

Any project partner costs should be outlined and fully justified in the proposal and will be subject to peer review. Any applicable subsidy control regulation and HM Revenue and Customs guidance will also be taken into account, which may affect the percentage of these costs that we will fund.

Organisations or individuals that are applicants on a project or UKRI head office staff acting in their capacity as a UKRI employee are not eligible to be project partners.

The contribution of project partners should be acknowledged in the project partner section of the application form and described in detail in the case for support (see section 2.2.3), where the whole team and their expertise and responsibilities should be set out for the benefit of assessors.

Please note project partners do not need to be based at an eligible RO or have a verified Je-S account.

Each project partner must provide a letter of support (see section 2.2.6).

If the project partner is from industry, applicants must follow the guidance relating to the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA).

Last updated: 15 October 2021

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