MRC/DFID African Research Leader Scheme 2020 (up to £750,000)

MRC/DFID African Research Leader Scheme 2020 (up to £750,000)

Deadline: September 8, 2020

Applications are invited for the MRC/DFID African Research Leader Scheme 2020. 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 sub-Saharan Africa.

The African Research Leader 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).


Lack of grant funding and research infrastructure in many sub-Saharan African countries can make it difficult to attract and retain talented African scientists and as a result, African nationals are currently under-represented as leaders in medical research in the region. The ARL scheme invites applications from African researchers already based in sub-Saharan African countries and from those individuals currently working overseas who wish to return to SSA. They would particularly welcome high-quality applications from female scientists and from investigators across a broad range of disciplines.

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.


  • 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 £750,000 in total.


  • 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.
  • 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 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.

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

For more information, visit MRC/DFID African Research Leader Scheme.