MRC/DFID African Research Leader scheme 2018 for African Researchers

Application Deadline: 27 February 2018 (16:00 BST)

The MRC 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) should be supported by an enthusiastic local research environment and by a strong linkage with a UK partner.

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 about the current awards are available showing the breadth of diseases being tackled and the different models of leadership. Priority will be given to applications that address the key health problems relevant to national and regional health needs and hence best conducted in SSA.

The African Research Leader will be nominated by a UK based principal investigator as part of the partnership between the African and UK institutions. The application must be submitted by the UK institution.

The 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 year), funds for a programme of research and support for collaborative activities between the African and UK institutions.

The scheme is offered to candidates employed by African Government-owned institutions and well-established ‘not-for-profit’ institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Universities, Medical/Dental Schools and Academic Institutes and the MRC units in Uganda and The Gambia. Please contact the office for further guidance if you are based at one of the Africa units. This scheme aims to foster research leadership in a spectrum of environments; it is, therefore, unlikely that several awards will be made to any one institution.

The African Institution must offer clear research opportunities with appropriate laboratory, field or clinical facilities to enable the research activities proposed. The candidate should be able to draw on support and mentoring from senior individuals, and their career development be nurtured. Where appropriate, fostering of scientific links across sub-Saharan African institutions is encouraged.

The African Institution will be expected to provide continuity of appointment of the researcher beyond the term of the award, such as a tenured position or equivalent. There is also an expectation that over time, the African Institution would increase its level of financial support of the individual (if not 100% from the outset).

Funding available

The total award package is anticipated to include the following elements:

1. The African research institution will be the employer of the African Research Leader. However, a contribution to the personal salary for the Research Leader may be requested. This may be up to 100% in the first years where a persuasive case is made. The expectation is that over time, the African research institution would take on increasing responsibility for providing the salary and by the end of the award this should be a minimum of 50% of the personal salary.

2. A research programme which could include research support staff, research consumables and equipment, travel costs (between partner institutions), and other necessary costs for the research to be undertaken. Overseas student fees and stipends for PhD students contributing to the research will not be provided.

3. The award has provision for a personal development element for the ARL candidate, to support leadership development, strategic planning, research management and continuing professional development or other similar activities. As part of this, support may be requested for the opportunity to spend time (up to 3 months in total) in an organisation other than the host African research institution. This may be at the UK partner institution or any other UK organisation including a biomedical/ pharmaceutical company. This element is to provide a concentrated period of training/career development that cannot be achieved effectively within the African research institution. This would be in addition to collaborative scientific visits to the UK. The justification for the placement should be robust and details should be submitted on the placement template. Candidates should be prepared at interview to discuss in detail any career development visit proposed.

4. Additionally, an institutional development element is available for the African research institution to support a set of institutional objectives the outputs of which should be verifiable and be able to be monitored. Support can be requested for help to strengthen institutional capacity to host and sustain competitive research groups. This could include, for example, improved financial management, data or research management and other professional training. Tools and good practice documents on capacity strengthening in low and middle-income countries are available on the TDR/ESSENCE websiteopens in new window.

Tenure of award

  • It is anticipated that the majority of awards will be between three to five years.
  • The tenure of the award will be for a maximum 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 the award include provision for maternity and paternity leave.

Key dates 



Call open for applications in Je-S

23 November 2017

Application deadline

27 February 2018 (16:00 BST)

Peer review (external)

March-May 2018

Shortlisting Panel meeting

Early June 2018


Late July 2018

Decision to applicants

August 2018

For More Information:

Visit the Offiicial Webpage of the MRC/DFID African Research Leader scheme 2018


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