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UKRI GCRF Health and Context

The UKRI GCRF Health and Context call is seeking proposals for interdisciplinary research addressing wider contextual factors contributing to the burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These factors may include social, cultural, historical, and religious beliefs and practices, or wider biological, ecological and environmental factors. We want to fund consortia conducting ambitious research that:

  • goes beyond description to determine causal relationships between contextual influences and health, and/or;
  • develops or tests feasible interventions that are sensitive to or mitigate contextual influences on health.

Via the GCRF, UKRI will support impactful, three-year research projects of a value between £1-2 million (at 80% FEC for UK costs; 100% FEC for overseas costs). This call is being led jointly by the Medical Research Council, Economic & Social Research Council, Arts & Humanities Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and applications may fall within the remit of any of, or across, these councils.


This call is led by the MRC, ESRC, AHRC, NERC and BBSRC with the GCRF Challenge Leader for Global Health. This is one of a series of UKRI GCRF Collective calls of relevance to health. Information on the related calls, including themes on education, food systems and conflict.

This call seeks interdisciplinary approaches that determine the impact of contextual factors on the health of the community and/or develop interventions that take account of or mitigate these influences. Successful projects will involve the input of a variety of stakeholders, which could include members of the community where the research is conducted. Proposals are encouraged to cut across disciplinary boundaries to fully understand contextual influences that can promote or obstruct improvements in health (e.g. water and sanitation, agricultural practices, habitation and urban planning, religion, education, gender).

Remit and scope

This call will support interdisciplinary research projects addressing contextual influences on infections and/or NCDs. Projects may seek to determine the extent to which contextual factors influence rates of NCD/infection, and/or how this influence can be accounted for or mitigated through culturally-sensitive intervention. To maximise impact, we encourage applications where the contextual factors identified are common to multiple locations within or across LMIC settings. Applications from across the spectrum of basic to applied research are eligible for this call. Where appropriate, applicants should engage with communities in the research planning process, and for applied research, engage with local, regional, and national stakeholders to maximise impact.

Subject areas may comprise, but are not limited to:

  • contextual drivers of non-communicable or infectious disease (e.g. contaminated drinking water, agriculture and food production, hygiene, sexual behaviours, air pollution, work practices, wider land-use and environmental changes)
  • contextually driven barriers to management and treatment of infection/NCD, which may include altered diagnostic, vaccine, or drug efficacy
  • feasible interventions that take account of or mitigate contextually driven causes of increased rates of infection/NCD
  • identification and management of clusters of coexisting health conditions (multimorbidities) that are particularly prevalent in a particular community.

Successfully addressing the above challenges will require an understanding of:

  • the influence that society, history, culture, religion, and the environment might have on risk behaviours and care seeking behaviour, and culturally sensitive approaches to addressing these
  • community-centred approaches to data collection and sharing to enable better management and prediction of infectious diseases and NCDs.

Who should apply

The research team can be drawn from any relevant academic discipline. This call is open to UK based PI’s and applications directly from PIs at LMIC Research Organisations.

For more information on eligible research organisations in the UK and LMICs please see 'How to make an application' section below.

We encourage the engagement of community stakeholders in the development and implementation of proposals to allow a deep understanding of context. To help maximise impact, applicants should ensure that research questions, methods and outcomes are relevant to the communities in which they are working.

Given the scale of the awards and the need to demonstrate tangible impact, applicants are required to provide evidence of substantial, relevant preliminary work, existing relationships with stakeholders in the location where the project will take place, and existing partnerships with other named researchers. These existing partnerships may be added to by the proposed work to create a consortium of varied expertise. 

Applications involving industrial collaborators are eligible and should follow the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) process.

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and health systems research projects are eligible for this call but must put forward a strong case for how they are grounded in local context and address the other ambitions of this call. Depending on demand for this call, RCTs and health systems proposals may be directed to the MRC-Wellcome-DFID-NIHR Joint Global Health Trials scheme or MRC-Wellcome-DFID-ESRC Health Systems Research Initiative at the outline assessment stage. Researchers considering submission of a trial application should contact the MRC beforehand (international@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk). Mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) designs are welcomed. 

Research projects investigating contextual influences on nutritional status and links to NCDs are not eligible for this call. Researchers wishing to submit a nutrition application should see the related UKRI GCRF Collective calls in Food Systems and the MRC Nutrition and NCDs in LMICs call.

Capacity building

Awards funded through this call will build and strengthen UK-LMIC partnerships and should incorporate research training and capacity building activities. Examples of building capacity include: building of capability to work across disciplines and in partnerships; support and mentoring for more junior team members; building leadership skills amongst key team members; co-design of research; opportunities for those with relevant skills to orient their research towards global issues. 

Where the PI is based at a UK Research Organisation, a clear plan for sustaining UK-LMIC partnerships beyond the duration of the award should be presented. Such applications should also demonstrate scientific leadership and intellectual contribution to the development of research from LMIC co-investigators.


UKRI has made up to £20 million available for the UKRI GCRF Health and Context call. PI's may apply for research grant funding for a duration of up to three years. In accordance with the funders’ objective to support ambitious, impactful research, individual projects should cost no less than £1 million and no more than £2 million. Awards are required to start before 31 March 2020.

The funding is intended to support:

  • UK and LMIC research consumable costs
  • salary costs for UK and LMIC-based researchers
  • research training and capacity building activities
  • travel and subsistence

 The funding is not intended to support:

  • continuation of existing research grants 
  • capital or infrastructure expenditure
  • establishment or continuation of cohorts
  • equipment above £10,000
  • studentships (e.g. masters or PhD costs)

Requested costs for UK activities should be at 80% full economic cost (fEC) in-line with standard UKRI rules. Please note that all funds will be administered through the lead research organisation. Costs for work undertaken at overseas research organisations are allowed and should be 100% of eligible costs. Please see Guidance for Applicants for more information. Where applicable, the lead UK research organisation must consider the financial controls and risk mitigations that will be put in place for the transfer of funding to overseas organisations.