NIHR Programme Development Grants call for child health and wellbeing research - brief and guidance

The NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) programme for child health is offering significant funding to address some of the most challenging issues in paediatrics, and the College has supported this grant call. The funding opportunity extends beyond health research and includes wider aspects of child wellbeing, including public health, mental health, social care and education.

The first and second call for applications have now closed, as of 17 January 2024 and 22 May 2024 respectively.

For your reference, this page provides the programme brief and NIHR's informational webinar, which was held in November 2023.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Programme Development Grants (PDG) call aligns with the College's aims to bolster research capacity, capability and sustainability in some of the most complex and challenging areas of paediatrics.

We are delighted to work alongside NIHR and colleagues across sectors to bring this opportunity to you. We encourage you to be part of this multisector, collaborative research to help improve the capacity and capability to research some of the most challenging issues to help shape the future of child health.

Professor Paul Dimitri, Professor of Child Health & Consultant in Paediatric Endocrinology, VP for Science and Research, RCPCH

A child health and well being funding opportunity

Children and young people (CYP) represent almost a quarter of the UK population and their wellbeing will determine our future. How we support and manage their health and care will have an impact for the next century. The worsening health of CYP living in low-income families or areas of social deprivation, and the avoidable and inequitable systematic differences in health outcomes between these different groups of CYP, make it a priority for NHS England to respond to the challenges facing households across the UK and guarantee equitable access to care and reduce health inequalities at both national and system level.

The Programme Development Grants scheme funding opportunity extends beyond health research and includes wider aspects of child well being, including (but not limited to) public health, mental health, social care and education. Through this multisector approach, we hope the funded research can inform tangible advancements to improve the health of children and young people.

The new NIHR PDG call shows dedication to address critical gaps in research capacity and capabilities as well as acknowledging the importance of investing into the needs of children and young people.

Applications for the second call opens on 27 March. For reference, you can download the NIHR Programme Development Grant Brief at the bottom of this page.

Recording of webinar 

This webinar was hosted by NIHR on 15 November 2023.

Aim and expected output

The ultimate aim is to support large scale multi-sector and multi-professional programmes of applied research.

In recognition that significant development work will be required to formulate a competitive programme of applied research, development awards will first be made available via the NIHR Programme Development Grants programme (Stream A only) to enable national multisector and multi-professional research teams to be formed and/or existing teams to be consolidated and strengthened, and to undertake preparatory research work.

The expected output from these awards will be applications for at scale, ambitious multisectoral and multi-professional applied programmes of research, that:

  • lead to a stepped change in practice and/or outcomes
  • provide clear and identifiable benefit and impact in child health outcomes, via the PGfAR funding programme
  • develop research capacity to support ingoing, and a pipeline of research beyond the lifetime of the programme grant award.


To support the aim of improving CYP health, care and wider outcomes, the PDG scheme (Stream A only) is inviting applications aimed at strengthening child health and care research across the UK, with an emphasis on areas of high need and/or that are currently underserved – leading ultimately to the development of at scale, ambitious, applied programmes of research, capable of delivering at pace to tackle the major issues facing child health and care. Whilst the call is open to all proposals within the topic areas detailed above (ie including but not limited to safeguarding, disability/neuro-disability, community child health and care mental health in children and young people, health inequalities, social care and public health issues, and obesity), applications building on the CORE20PLUS5 approach are welcome.

Our expectation is applications are centred on early years and young people; but there is flexibility around the upper age limit to be inclusive of health and care and public services that are mandated to go beyond 18 years of age, as long as there is an emphasis on improving health and wellbeing pre-19 years of age. (For example, CAMHS, which can extend to age 25, and local authorities, (as 'corporate parents') that continue to have certain responsibilities to support young care leavers until they turn 25 years of age).

Seeking to address issues beyond health, applications are expected to build national teams across health, mental health, public health, social care, education and charitable sectors, alongside high-quality collaborations between multiple agencies.

It is expected that the awards will help establish new national multisectoral and professional teams and collaborations, and/or consolidate and broaden/strengthen existing collaborations between academic experts and professionals from a wide range of fields, as well as allowing key preparatory research to be undertaken to submit a competitive, at scale, applied programme of research.

The proposal should:

  • Identify and justify the child health and care research context in terms of recent and currently funded research in the UK and internationally.
  • Be conducted in geographical areas with a high need relative to the problem being studied.
  • Include a team member residing in the high-need area of the subject under investigation.
  • Actively address barriers to engagement in research and co-production, such as disability and social exclusion. Collaboration with third sector and non-profit organisations dedicated to improving citizens' lives is highly encouraged.
  • While acknowledging that the funding is available to strengthen and develop this area, show evidence of patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE): include meaningful, inclusive and novel approaches to PPIE in terms of agreeing the research questions, developing and defining outcomes of importance and relevance to patients.
  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to inclusivity in shaping the choice, design, development, and delivery of the development work. NIHR has developed guidance on improving inclusion of under-served groups in health and care research: INCLUDE and INCLUDE website.
  • Consider how the work contributes to reducing inequalities nationally.
  • Demonstrate how the preparatory work will underpin the development of capacity and training within the chosen field of research
  • Specify how the preparatory work informs the development of a credible at scale, multisector and multi-professional programme grant for applied research application.

The development awards can support a broad range of activities:

  • Formation (and/or consolidation and broadening/strengthening of existing) of national multi-sector and disciplinary teams/collaborations. Collaboration across social care, public health, education, third sector, and allied professions is strongly encouraged.
  • Networking and strengthening of community engagement and patient and public and engagement (PPIE) involvement activities. Community engagement should extend to community organisations, social care users, patients, carers, caregivers, individuals with lived experiences, and those with unmet health and social care needs. Inclusion of voices not traditionally involved in research is vital.
  • Strengthening preparatory research (e.g., proof of concept and feasibility studies, development of access to data and data linkage etc) using a range of methodologies.
  • Development of a credible, at scale, multisector and multi-professional programme grant application.


While applications are expected to fall within the remit of the PDG programme, a pragmatic and flexible approach to assessment will be taken to allow applications to be considered that may include early work more upstream than typically funded.

All applications must be made via NHS bodies and other providers of NHS services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in collaboration with an appropriate academic partner or partners, provided they are capable of fulfilling the role of research sponsor as set out in the UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research (i.e., the host/contracting institution must be a NHS bodies and other providers of NHS services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). On a case by case basis, a collaborating partner may opt to fulfil the research sponsor role on behalf of the NHS host organisation.


Individual awards can be for up to £250,000, over 12 – 18 months. The amount of funding awarded, however, is determined by the scale and nature of the development work to be conducted. There is no formal expectation or guarantee that recipients of a Development Award will be successful in obtaining a subsequent programme award in the future. All future applications for the at scale programmes will be judged on their own merits against the published criteria.

How to apply

Applications for the first call and second call have now closed, as of 17 January 2024 and 22 May 2024 respectively. 

The below is provided for reference. 

Proposals are submitted online through the Research Management System. We supply a template application form to help researchers prepare their proposal ahead of submission. Please note that we will only accept applications submitted through the online form.

If you are interested in applying, you will first need to register on the RMS. We recommend that those who will be named applicants register for an RMS account as early as possible as the process can take up to 48 hours. This will enable immediate access to the application form when the call opens.

We recommended that the host organisation submit the application several days in advance of the deadline, to allow time to fix any last-minute technical glitches that you might encounter.

Activity Date
Call launch 22 November 2023
Call close 17 January 2024
Second call launch 27 March 2024
Second call close 22 May 2024
Notification of outcome August 2024


Applications will be considered by a committee members drawn from existing PGfAR Committees supplemented with child health experts recommended by RCPCH.

Further information on NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) and Programme Development Grants (PDG)

The PGfAR funding scheme seeks to support collaborative, multisectoral and multidisciplinary programmes of applied research that lead to clear and identifiable patient/service user, carer benefits at population or individual levels.

The scheme is particularly well suited to understanding and addressing the wide range of challenges facing child health and care. Given the multi-dimensional nature of the problems, key research questions in child health and care need to be tackled over the longer-term, using varied methodological approaches and from a national, multisectoral and multi-professional perspective – something that can be achieved given the flexibility and sustainability available in large programmes of research.

The PDG funding scheme is designed to enable a research team to carry out targeted preparatory work to develop a competitive PGfAR funding application.

NIHR anticipates opening a child health and care focused PGfAR call in 2026/27 when funding of up to £3-5m per application may be available. It is expected that such future PGfAR applications must demonstrate a commitment to capacity building, training, research inclusion, and ensuring the sustainability of both the research topic area, public partnerships and the research team in the future.

Other resources

The College has a health inequalities and poverty toolkit for paediatricians.

For more information or any queries about PDG please contact