MRC/DFID African Research Leader scheme 2020

The UK Medical Research Council and the UK Department for International Development announce a further call for proposals for the prestigious African Research Leader awards.

This MRC/ DFID jointly funded scheme aims to strengthen research leadership across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by attracting and retaining exceptionally talented individuals who will lead high quality programmes of research on key global health issues pertinent to SSA. The African Research Leader (ARL; PI) should be supported by an enthusiastic local research environment and by a strong linkage with a UK partner (i.e. the UK Co-Investigator; Co-I).

Application Deadline:8 September 2020 16:00 GMT+1


The scheme is open to talented and enthusiastic African investigators working in all biomedical and health research areas within the MRC/DFID remit on global health. A series of short case studies demonstrates the range of challenges being tackled by current ARL award holders (note, these awards were made when the UK mentor was the named PI). It is important that applications address the key health problems relevant to national and regional health needs.

The African Research Leader will be supported by a UK based mentor as part of the partnership between their African and UK institutions.

Awards provide support for up to five years. The grant package includes a potential contribution to the African Research Leader’s salary (up to 100% in the first years); funds for a programme of research; funds for development activities and for collaborative activities between the African and UK institutions.

Key elements of the Scheme

Strong applications will meet the four key elements of the scheme, namely:

  • a talented ‘rising star’ African Research Leader candidate,
  • a high-quality research programme proposal,
  • a research-conducive academic African environment / institution,
  • a firm partnership with a UK partner institution

The African Research Leader Candidate – a rising star

The ARL scheme seeks to support African researchers already based in sub-Saharan African countries and those individuals currently working overseas who wish to return to SSA.

The focus of the scheme is on ‘rising star’ African Research Leaders. Candidates will be high-calibre, early-to-mid career researchers, who show clear ability to cultivate a dynamic and innovative research group, likely to attract increasing international recognition and external funding by the end of the award.

The African candidate will have completed a PhD, will be well-qualified for academic research having spent at least the last 3 years in active research, be building a track record of independence in their selected field and demonstrating promise as a future research leader. Outstanding ARL candidates who do not have a PhD but who are educated to Master’s level and have substantial research experience, as evidenced by their publication record, may also be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Applications from women are particularly encouraged. Candidates wishing to combine their research with domestic responsibilities may seek the award on a part-time basis. The terms and conditions of award make allowances for maternity/paternity leave. Allowance will also be made to those researchers whose career has been affected, either by a late start or by interruption, for personal or family reasons.

As a ‘rising star’ the African candidate will hold an established academic position in an African research institution, be developing a research team and be undertaking original research. This may be evidenced through a growing track record of staff and student supervision; through an expanding portfolio of lead author publications, by securing local or national funding and by attracting recognition through prizes and awards.

The African Research Institution

The scheme is offered to candidates employed by eligible institutions based in sub-Saharan Africa, that provide a strong research environment. This can include:

  • Higher education institutions based in sub-Saharan Africa: A university or institution based in an LMIC with degree awarding powers recognised by the government in which the organisation is based. This includes MRC Units at LSHTM in Uganda and the Gambia.
  • Research institutes based in sub-Saharan Africa: A research focused institution based in an LMIC funded by the government of the country in which the organisation is based or by a not-for-profit non-governmental organisation.

Funding available

Funding for the scheme is provided by the UK MRC and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Awards will provide support for up to 5 years and the MRC Contribution should not exceed £750k in total.

The majority of the funding will be for work taking place in the African research institution and so would be eligible for full economic costing (FEC) at 100% and must be entered as exceptions. Any costs specifically for the UK research institution will be provided on the basis of 80% FEC as usual. Please refer to the MRC Guidance for Applicants.

Tenure of award

The ARL award is intended to provide longer term support and will normally run for 4-5 years with a maximum tenure of five years. Candidates wishing to combine their research with domestic responsibilities may seek the award on a part-time basis over a maximum of five years. The terms and conditions of award include provision for maternity/paternity leave.

How to apply

Please note change to previous calls – the African Research Leader candidate should now apply as the Principal Investigator (PI) on the grant and the UK-based mentor should be included as the first named Co-Investigator (Co-I).

Unlike previous ARL rounds and the majority of MRC’s funding routes, the ARL award will be made directly to the PI (i.e. the ARL) based within the African Research Institution. Please see ‘The African Research Institution’ section, above, for eligibility criteria.

Full applications should be submitted using the Research Councils’ Joint electronic Submission (Je-S) System. Access J-eS guidance.

For More Information:

Visit the Official Webpage of the MRC/DFID African Research Leader scheme 2020

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