What funders are looking for

All funders will consider the project, the researcher and the institution, and how these three complement each other.

Project/Person/Place

Panels will assess whether your background aligns with the project. They will look at how you have addressed the gaps in your expertise through the team you have assembled and the help your institution is willing to provide.

Panels need evidence that you have the support of your institution. For example, the MRC look for a commitment from your institution to “seriously consider” you for a full post after you have completed your research. The best research projects are collaborative so ask yourself who at your institution will support your project. If you need skills your institution cannot provide, then set out where you will find these in your application.

In short, it is vital to present a clear and complete picture of how you will produce impactful science.   

Here, we’ll focus on the major non-disease-specific UK health research funders. We also offer advice on other smaller funders such as the engineering and biosciences research councils.

The three main funders are:

  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • National Institute of Health Research (NIHR)
  • Wellcome Trust

All three of these fund asthma research, but they have distinct missions and funding strategies which you should consider.

Consider funders carefully and do not just dismiss one because it has previously funded very little in your field. If you are confident in your idea and are eligible, then funders want to hear from you.

Major funders at a glance

MRC

  • Currently the UK’s largest asthma research funder.
  • Focuses on basic health research. It has a wide-ranging remit and strategy but also funds specific areas it sees as being strategically important.
  • The focus for its response-mode funding is “innovative impactful science”. Although this is hard to define, it sets out clear instructions throughout the application process.

NIHR

  • Focuses on applied science that has the potential to benefit patients and the NHS.
  • Most strategic of the three funders. It asks applicants to present a clear route for how their research findings will get adopted and used to improve health outcomes, and give a clear link to patient benefit.
  • Applications must demonstrate how they align with NIHR’s priorities.

The Wellcome Trust

  • A politically and financially independent foundation.
  • Its over-arching objective is funding the best science. It does not have specific strategic aims and funds very few restricted calls. The focus is on funding the best ideas that apply.
  • Of all the major funders, Wellcome’s application process is the most unique - for example, it is the only one of the three major funders to interview candidates.

Other funders

  • The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Healthcare Technologies programme will be relevant to researchers with an interest in tech-enabled asthma management, asthma data and diagnostics.

Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC)

Asthma UK is a member of the AMRC, a group of 140 UK charities that together spend over £1.4bn each year on research. Many are disease-specific and will not be relevant to asthma researchers. However, look at the AMRC website to check for any overlap with your work. For example, some AMRC charities focus on child health or smoking, which could be relevant.

Once you’ve chosen which funder to apply to:

Read our advice on preparing a strong application