Get up to £750,000 for African Researchers in the MRC/DFID African Research Leader Scheme 2020

Submit a proposal addressing health challenges relevant to regional health needs in this Researcher-led scheme to receive funding to pursue highly innovative research in Global health.

Open to African researchers specialized in biomedical and health research fields, the scheme will award selected researchers funding to conduct their research with support from a UK based mentor.

Application Deadline: 8 September 2020


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Successful candidates will receive 

  • Funding of up to £750,000 
  • Award support for up to 5 years
  • Maternity/paternity leave when relevant.
  • A potential contribution to the African Research Leader’s salary (up to 100% in the first years)
  • Access to a collaborative working relationship between the African and UK institutions.
  • An offer to spend up to 3 months for further career development activities, training or skills development in either country for the African Research Leader.


The African Research Leader Scheme is open to

  •  African researchers in sub-Saharan African countries 
  • African researchers currently working overseas who wish to return to Sub Saharan Africa


  • Demonstrate a clear commitment to foster a dynamic research group
  • Hold a PhD
  • Have at least 3 years of active research experience
  • On a path to independence in their selected field 
  • Are potential future research leaders.


  • Exceptional candidates with no Ph.D. but with a Master’s degree and evidenced research experience may also be considered.
  • Priority will be given to applications that address key health problems relevant to national and regional health needs in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Female researchers are especially encouraged to apply. 
  • The resources requested should be specific, justified, and relevant to the research proposed.
  • Candidates wishing to combine their research with domestic responsibilities may seek the award on a part-time basis. 
  • 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.
  • Researchers who already have a well-established record of securing significant international research grant funding or have reached a level of seniority e.g. professor or head of department are not eligible for this grant. 
  • The ARL scheme will not support clinical or health-related trials.
  • Candidates returning to work in SSA are expected to make their own arrangements for obtaining a tenured academic position in an eligible African research institution if one is not already held (and should be in post by the start of any award). 
  • Successful candidates will be required to continue their appointment at the African research institution beyond the term of the ARL award. 
  • There are no UK residence eligibility restrictions for this scheme as the ARL candidate will be based in sub-Saharan Africa.


Selected candidates will 

  • Hold an established academic position in an African research institution. 
  • Undertake innovative and original research with a research team. 
  • Support scientific collaboration with the partner UK institution 

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Application Instructions

Applicants are required to 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).

The ARL award will be made directly to the PI (i.e. the ARL) based within the African Research Institution. Check for ARI eligibility criteria. 

To apply, 

  • Read the MRC Guidance, which will provide you with the page limit for the attachments and guide you through the standard processes for preparing a proposal, costing your projects, and any ethical and regulatory requirements that may apply to the research.
  • Your application will consist of the online Je-S proposal form and the following attachments to it:
  • Cover letter (optional, maximum of 2 pages)
  • Separate CVs for PI, Co-Is and each named researcher (maximum of 2 pages)
  • List of Publications  for PI, Co-Is and each named researcher (not to exceed a page)
  • A case for Support (maximum 19 pages)
  • Justification of Resources (maximum of 2 pages)
  • Data Management Plan (maximum of 3 pages)
  • Supporting letters (PDF copy of signed letters, use Je-S attachment type ‘Letter of Support’) from:
    • The Vice-Chancellor or equivalent at the African research institution (mandatory, maximum of 2 pages)(When uploading the document as ‘Letter of Support’, describe the document as the ARL Host Institute Declaration’), to include:
      • A declaration that it is a Government-owned/not-for-profit institution
      • statement about the supportive researc environment available at the institution
      • commitment to the continuity of support for the ARL
      • formal confirmation that the institution agrees to the roles and responsibilities as detailed in the application
    • The placement organization confirming their willingness to host the Research Leader’s proposed training visit plus details of the proposed placement using the placement template (if appropriate, maximum of 2 pages) – as one PDF.

When uploading this ‘Optional’ document as ‘Letter of Support’, describe the document as ‘Placement Confirmation’

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

About the MRC/DFID African Research Leader Scheme

The MRC/ DFID African Research Leader Scheme is a jointly funded initiative administered by the African Research organization to support research leadership across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It enlists and helps intellectuals to take up high-quality research projects on global health issues in Sub Saharan Africa. 

In recognition of the current COVID-19 pandemic, proposals contributing to the understanding, prevention, and management of the COVID-19 outbreak are encouraged. Not only proposals in COVID-19 related research are expected, but a candid assessment of how the pandemic might affect research plans.  

The project can be focused on any major health priority in Sub-Saharan Africa including:

  • Research focused on the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and mental health.
  • Prevention and control of infectious diseases (major diseases such as malaria, HIV, and TB), neglected tropical diseases (including snakebite), zoonotic and emerging diseases, co-infections, and issues associated with emerging resistance to current drugs.
  • Multimorbidity, i.e., the co-existence of two or more chronic conditions, including long-term infectious and non-communicable diseases and mental health conditions.
  • Basic, discovery health research approaches, experimental medicine providing mechanistic insight to human diseases, epidemiological (social, genetic, immunological) research, prevention research;
  • Applied research approaches, including public health, health systems, health policy, and implementation research;
  • Research targeting vulnerable or disadvantaged groups including refugees, people living in informal settlements, those living with disability, neonates, children, adolescents or the elderly.

Discover more opportunities from UK Government.

Key Dates and Order of Program

All applications must be submitted by the deadline at 4:00 pm (BST) on 8th September 2020.

The External Peer review will take place between October to November 2020

Shortlisting Panel meeting will take place by Mid December 2020

Shortlisted candidates will be notified four weeks before the interview date  

Interviews will be conducted by March 2021

Results will be announced by April 2021

The ARL award will normally run for 4-5 years with a maximum tenure of five years.

Applications will be peer-reviewed by external reviewers and considered by an independent expert panel. 

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview. The Co-I mentor from the UK partner institution will also be invited to the interview with the candidate for Research Leader.

COVID-19 related proposals will be assessed according to the scheme-specific assessment criteria in a competitive manner with wider non-COVID-19 research proposals.

Interviews will take place in March 2021 and possibly online. Onsite interviews will take place in London if the state of the pandemic allows it. Moderate travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the MRC.

The majority of the proposed research is expected to take place in the African environment.

Networking and Partnership Opportunities

Enabling the partnership between the African and UK Institutions is aimed at encouraging a research-supportive environment for the developing African Research Leader, both in the host African institution but importantly involving strong support from and access to expertise in a UK academic research institution.

Hence, the African Research Leadership proposal should be submitted in partnership with a UK Co-Investigator offering relevant opportunities. 

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Babajide is a content writer and site admin at Camberene. He majored in zoology and is also a tech enthusiast proficient in the use of python, R and other data analytics tools.

Babajide is looking into using machine learning and artificial intelligence in the near future.

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