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Epidemic Preparedness: COVID-19 funding call (Closed)

This call aims to strengthen the evidence base to better prevent and control coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemics and to increase research and response capacity.

It's part of an existing partnership between Wellcome and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through the Joint Initiative on Research in Epidemic Preparedness and Response to help low- and middle-income countries prepare for and tackle epidemics.

This scheme is now closed. Find out who we funded.

Scheme at a glance

This scheme is now closed

Career stage:

Where your host organisation is based:

  • Anywhere in the world (apart from mainland China)

Level of funding:

Up to £2 million

Duration of funding:

Up to 2 years

Who can apply

You can apply to this funding call if you can swiftly begin to investigate new approaches for preventing and controlling COVID-19. Your proposal should focus on helping low- and middle-income countries prepare for and deal with the epidemic.

These awards are open to individuals or teams of up to five members. You can be based anywhere in the world (apart from mainland China). We particularly encourage applications from lead applicants based in low- and middle-income countries.

You can apply if you're based at:

  • an academic research organisation
  • a not-for-profit or government body
  • a private sector organisation.

You must be able to accept our standard grant conditions.

Teams may be based in the same or in different organisations.

Your proposal

The scope of this call is broad. Examples of areas you may want to research include, but are not limited to: 

  • Clinical research, such as understanding the natural history of the disease, optimising clinical management, or population cohort studies including vulnerable populations.  
  • Treatments (supportive and specific), understanding impact in moderate to severe cases and on clinical recovery and outcomes. 
  • Pathogenesis: 
    • immunopathology and pathophysiology of the disease and its complications
    • host factors predisposing people to more severe disease
    • patterns of viral replication and excretion.
  • Epidemiology:
    • molecular epidemiology
    • transmission dynamics
    • long-term protection against disease
    • serology assays for a range of applications.  
  • Social sciences and ethics:
    • operational response
    • media, communication, and community engagement
    • social and economic impact
    • ethical issues related to clinical assessment of medical countermeasures.

Wellcome and DFID will review these areas of interest periodically and may adjust the focus of this funding call. If you have been invited to submit a full application, we will inform you of any changes.

We will review:

  • the vision and scope of your proposal, including the aims, methods and impact your research is likely to have on preventing and controlling this epidemic, and where relevant, to future epidemics
  • the track records of all team members, relative to their career stage
  • how your proposed research environment supports the planned work
  • the plans for sharing your research outputs (and samples, if relevant) and how you will integrate scientific evidence in epidemic preparedness and response programmes
  • the extent to which your research and the dissemination of data involves genuine participation of researchers and stakeholders at a national level from low- and middle-income countries (where applicable)
  • how it aligns with the priorities set out in the WHO's COVID-19 R&D roadmap.

Depending on your proposal, we may also review how it will:

  • increase in-country research and response capacities in low- and middle-income countries and empower countries to carry out research and be leaders in outbreak response
  • influence decision-makers, including international organisations, governments and ministries of health, to bring about policy change.

We will also consult with the MRC UKRI and the European Commission on the applications they receive through their calls.

Who can't apply

We will not consider proposals that address vaccine development.

You can’t apply to carry out activities that involve the transfer of grant funds into mainland China. 

This call provides flexible funding of up to £2 million. Awards can last up to 2 years.

You should ask for a level and duration of funding that’s justifiable for your proposed research.

You can hold an award on a part-time basis.

The support includes:

    • We will cover the salary costs of all staff, full or part time, who will work on your award. Staff members typically include research assistants or technicians employed on your grant. If you’re doing fieldwork or clinical studies in a low- or middle-income country, we’ll consider requests for more research staff.

      We don’t usually provide a salary for any applicants for this scheme. But if you, or any applicants, hold a permanent, open-ended or long-term rolling contract and have to get your salary from external grant funding, you can ask us for this in your application. See the 'Eligibility and suitability' section above for more information.

      We don't provide studentship stipends.

      • Staff salaries should be appropriate to skills, responsibilities and expertise. You should ask your host organisation to use their salary scales to calculate these costs, which should include:

        • basic salary
        • employer’s contributions, including any statutory obligations (eg National Insurance contributions if you’re based in the UK) and pension scheme costs
        • Apprentice Levy charges for UK-based salaries
        • any incremental progression up the salary scale
        • locally recognised allowances such as London allowance.

        You should allow for salary pay awards during Year 1. These should be based on pay awards already agreed: if you don’t know what the pay award is yet then use our inflation rate.

        From Year 2 onwards, you should use your organisation’s current pay rates. We’ll provide a separate inflation allowance for salary inflation costs.

        Find out more about people working on a Wellcome grant.

        We may make a contribution towards the salary of departmental technicians funded by Research England and its equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You will need to provide a full audit record of their time on your project.

    • Visa and work permit costs

      If you have named people on your grant whose salaries will be funded by Wellcome, you can ask for visa or work permit costs to help them take up their posts at the host organisation. You can also ask for:

      • visa costs for the person's partner and dependent children
      • essential associated costs, such as travel to attend appointments at a visa application centre or embassy if you can justify these
      • Immigration Health Surcharge costs for the person, their partner and dependent children if they will be in the UK for six months or more.
  • If you work in the humanities, social sciences, and ethics field, you can ask for funds for research or teaching replacement to cover the cost of a temporary replacement lecturer. Costs can:

    • cover up to 40% of your contracted time and up to 40% of your coapplicant's contracted time
    • be spread across the full period of the grant.
  • We will pay for the materials and consumables you need to carry out your proposed research, including:

    • laboratory chemicals and materials (eg reagents, isotopes, peptides, enzymes, antibodies, gases, proteins, cell/tissue/bacterial culture, plasticware and glassware)
    • associated charges for shipping, delivery and freight.
  • You can ask for funds to buy animals if they are essential to your project. We will also fund the charge-out rates for animal house facilities if your organisation uses full economic costing methodology. These costs include:

    • running costs (including animal maintenance, any experimental procedures, licences and relevant staff training)
    • appropriate estates costs
    • cage and equipment depreciation costs, but not building depreciation costs.

    We may not pay the full charge-out rate for an animal house facility if we've provided significant funding towards the infrastructure and/or core support of the facility.

    If your organisation doesn’t use full economic costing methodology to establish charge-out rates for animal house facilities, you can ask for funds to cover:

    • the cost of buying animals
    • running costs (including animal maintenance, any experimental procedures, licences and relevant staff training)
    • staff costs, eg contributions towards the salaries of animal house technicians.

    We won’t provide estates or depreciation costs.

  • Equipment purchase

    You can ask for items of equipment that are essential to your proposed research project. Costs may include purchase, delivery, installation, maintenance and training, where necessary.

    We will cover VAT and import duties if:

    • the usual UK exemptions on equipment used for medical research don’t apply
    • you’re applying from a non-UK organisation, and you can show these costs can’t be recovered.

    You can ask for larger items of equipment if they're not available at your host organisation.

    If a complete piece of equipment costs £100,000 or more, we expect a contribution of at least 25 per cent from the host organisation or another source.

    In some cases we may expect a larger contribution. We’ll discuss this with you after we’ve assessed your application.

    Contributions can include benefits in kind, such as refurbishment or the underwriting of a key support post.

    Equipment maintenance

    We will cover maintenance costs for equipment if:

    • you are requesting it in your application
    • it is existing equipment that is:
      • funded by us or another source
      • essential to the proposed research project
      • more than five years old
      • cost effective to keep maintaining it.

    We won’t cover maintenance costs for equipment if there is a mechanism in place to recoup these costs through access charges.

    Computer equipment

    We will cover the cost of one personal computer or laptop per person up to £1,500.

    We won't pay for:

    • more expensive items, unless you can justify them
    • installation or training costs.
  • You can ask for the cost of access to shared equipment or facilities if they’re essential to your research project. These may include materials and consumables, plus a proportion of:

    • maintenance and service contracts
    • staff time costs for dedicated technical staff employed to operate the equipment or facility.

    We don’t cover the costs of:

    • estates and utilities
    • depreciation or insurance
    • other staff eg contributions towards departmental technical, administrative and management staff time.

    If the facilities or equipment were paid for by a Wellcome grant, you can only ask for access charges if:

    • the grant has ended
    • any support for running costs and maintenance contracts has ended.
  • You can ask for overheads if your grant will be based at a:

    • university outside the UK or Republic of Ireland
    • research organisation that does not receive core funding for overheads
    • charitable or not-for-profit organisation
    • small or medium-sized commercial organisation.

    You can also ask for overheads on any part of your grant that is sub-contracted to any of the organisations listed above.

    If you’re based at a UK university you can’t ask for overheads for sub-contracted activity if your university will include the sub-contracted funding in its annual report to the UK Charity Research Support Fund.

    Overheads can include:

    • estates, for example building and premises
    • non-project dedicated administrative and support staff
    • administration, for example finance, library, and room hire.

    The total cost for overheads should not be more than:

    • 20% of the direct research costs if you’re based in a low- or middle-income country
    • 15% of the direct research costs if you’re based anywhere else.

    These costs must directly support the activity funded by the grant.

    How to apply for these costs

    In your grant application you must:

    • give a full breakdown of costs (you can't ask for a percentage of the research costs)
    • explain why these costs are necessary for your research
    • include a letter from the finance director of your host organisation, or the sub-contracted organisation, confirming that the breakdown is a true representation of the costs incurred.
    • Travel costs

      Collaborative travel

      You can ask for travel and subsistence costs for collaborative visits for you and any research staff employed on your grant. You’ll need to justify each visit and its duration.

      Conference attendance

      You can ask for a contribution towards the costs of attending scientific and academic meetings and conferences, including registration fees and the costs to offset the carbon emissions of your travel. The limits are:

      • All applicants named on your grant – £2,000 a year
      • Staff employed on your grant – £1,000 each a year.

      You’ll need to specify the amount you’re requesting for each person.

      You can also ask for costs to cover caring responsibilities if you or any staff employed on your grant attend a conference. This includes childcare and any other caring responsibility you have, provided:

      • Wellcome is paying your salary
      • the conference is directly related to your research
      • the caring costs are over and above what you'd normally pay for care
      • the conference organiser and your employing organisation are unable to cover the costs.

      You can ask for up to £1,000 per person for each conference.

      Other travel

      We will pay for other essential visits, for example to facilities, for sample collection and for fieldwork. You can include subsistence costs.

      Carbon offset costs

      This is a new policy. It applies to all types of travel costs Wellcome provides.

      You can ask for:

      • the cost of low carbon travel where practical, even if it's more expensive (for example travelling by train instead of flying)
      • project-related resources or activities that provide an alternative to travel, such as video conferencing, communication and file-sharing software
      • costs to offset the carbon emissions of the journeys you make.

      We won't pay for the core infrastructure that your host organisation should provide, unless you're eligible to ask for these costs under our overheads policy. Examples of these costs include:

      • organisation-wide video conferencing packages
      • high-speed broadband
      • HD screens.

      See our carbon offset policy for travel for information on what you and your organisation need to do.

      Subsistence costs

      If you’re away for up to one month you can ask for subsistence costs. These include accommodation, meals and incidentals such as refreshments or newspapers.

      If your administering organisation has a subsistence policy, use their rates.

      If your administering organisation doesn’t have a subsistence policy, please use the HMRC rates.

      If you’re away for more than one month and up to 12 months, we will pay reasonable rental costs only, including aparthotels. You should discuss appropriate rates with your administering and host organisations, or Wellcome, as appropriate. We expect you to choose the most economical options, booked in advance where possible.

      If you’re from a low- or middle- income country and will be working in a high-income country for more than one month and up to 12 months, you can also ask for up to £10 a day to cover extra costs, such as transport and incidentals.

      If you’re away for more than 12 months, we will pay the costs of your housing. You should discuss your needs with your administering and host organisations.

      The allowance we provide will be based on family and business need. We will set the maximum allowance we pay for each location. This will be based on current market data or, where data is unavailable, in consultation with your administering organisation, using equivalent market rates. Please contact us if you need help calculating the costs.

      We will cover the direct expenses you have to pay to find and rent a home. We will not cover the cost of utilities or any refurbishment.

      Overseas research

      If you or any research staff employed on your grant will be doing research away from your home laboratory, we'll help with the additional costs of working on the project overseas. Please see the 'Overseas allowances' section for details.

    • If you or any staff employed on your grant will be spending time in another country, we’ll help you with the additional costs of working on the project overseas.

      Our overseas allowances are:

      • a contribution towards the personal cost of carrying out research overseas, to ensure that you are not disadvantaged
      • provided on the assumption that you’ll be paying income tax, either in your home country, or the country you will be working in (your personal tax is your responsibility).
      • provided on the understanding that you or your partner will not receive equivalent allowances from elsewhere
      • determined by the amount of time you will spend away from your home country.

      Carbon offset costs

      We expect the people we fund to choose travel that has a lower carbon impact, where practical, even if it’s more expensive (for example travelling by train instead of flying).

      You can ask for costs to offset the carbon generated by the travel, as part of your overseas allowances.

      See our carbon offset policy for travel for information on what you and your organisation need to do.

       

    • If you will be away more than 12 months, we will provide overseas allowances for your partner and any dependants if they are travelling with you.

      If you will be away for 12 months or less and can justify why your partner and dependants must travel with you, we may provide overseas allowances for them.

      We define your partner as the person:

      • you’re married to
      • you’re not married to but with whom you’ve been in a relationship for at least a year

      and

      • you live with at the same permanent address and share some form of joint financial commitment with (eg a mortgage).
    •  

      See a list of low- and middle-income countries, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

      You can ask for the following allowances. You need to provide estimated costs as accurately as possible.

        • We will pay your travel costs at the beginning and end of your overseas work. Costs can be for air, ferry, train or coach fares.

          All fares should be:

        • If you are away for up to 12 months, you can ask for up to 80kg of additional baggage or unaccompanied airline freight for your outward and return journeys.

          If you are away for more than 12 months, you can ask for the costs of shipping your personal items at the beginning and end of your overseas work.

          We will pay the full cost of transporting:

          • half a standard shipping container if you’re travelling alone
          • a whole standard shipping container (20ft) if you’re travelling with a partner and/or dependants.
        • We will pay the cost of your medical insurance and travel insurance.

          If you will be working in a low- or middle-income country we will also cover the cost of emergency evacuation cover.

          We won’t pay for medical insurance if you will be based in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

        • We will pay the costs of visas, vaccinations and anti-malaria treatment.

        • You can ask for this if you’ll be based in a low- or middle-income country and it is necessary.

          Costs can include guards, panic buttons and alarms. You should ask your employing organisation for advice on the level of security you need.

        • If you’re away for up to one month you can ask for subsistence costs. These include accommodation, meals and incidentals (eg refreshments or newspapers).

          If your administering organisation has a subsistence policy, use their rates.

          If your administering organisation doesn’t have a subsistence policy, please use the HMRC rates.

          If you’re away for more than one month and up to 12 months, we will pay reasonable rental costs only, including aparthotels. You should discuss appropriate rates with your administering and host organisations, or Wellcome, as appropriate. We expect you to choose the most economical options, booked in advance where possible.

          If you’re from a low- or middle- income country and will be working in a high-income country for more than one month and up to 12 months, you can also ask for up to £10 a day to cover extra costs, such as transport and incidentals.

          If you’re away for more than 12 months, we will pay the costs of your housing. You should discuss your needs with your administering and host organisations.

          The allowance we provide will be based on family and business need. We will set the maximum allowance we pay for each location. This will be based on current market data or, where data is unavailable, in consultation with your administering organisation, using equivalent market rates. If you need help calculating the costs please contact Grants Management.

          We will cover the direct expenses you have to pay to find and rent a home. We will not cover the cost of utilities or any refurbishment.

        • If you’re away for more than 12 months we will pay:

          Local nursery or school fees

          You can ask for these costs if you are in a location where there isn’t free local education of the same standard as in your home country.

          Costs include:

          • local nursery school fees up to a maximum of 30 hours a week for 3 to 4 year olds
          • local junior or secondary school fees, up to the end of secondary school education.

          Local international school fees

          You can ask for these costs if local schools do not provide the same standard of education as in your home country. We will only pay the published termly school fees.

          We will not cover the costs of:

          • extracurricular activities, including field trips
          • other extras including, but not limited to, uniforms, sports kit and equipment, transport, meals, books and electronic equipment.

          Boarding school fees

          We will consider paying the cost of boarding school fees in your home country if:

          • a local international school is not available
          • both parents, guardians or the sole care giver live outside the home country.

          The allowance covers:

          • up to a maximum of £30,000 a year for each child for the published termly fees only
          • the cost of return airfares at the start and end of each school term, in line with our carbon offset policy for travel.

          We will not cover the costs of:

          • additional annual leave airfares
          • extracurricular activities, including field trips
          • other extras including, but not limited to, uniforms, sports kit and equipment, transport, meals, books and electronic equipment.

          We will cover the cost of providing special needs education as far as possible. Please contact us to discuss your needs.

          We would not usually expect to provide an education allowance if you will be working in a high-income country.

        • If you will be away for more than 12 months, we’ll pay for you to travel back to your home country for annual leave. This is in addition to your outward and return travel costs and depends on how long you will be away:

          • 12-24 months – 1 annual leave trip
          • 25-36 months – 2 annual leave trips
          • 37-48 months – 3 annual leave trips
          • 49-60 months – 4 annual leave trips
          • 61-72 months – 5 annual leave trips.

          All fares should be:

        • If you will be away for more than 12 months, you can ask for up to 100 hours of lessons in the local language for you and/or your partner during the first 12 months of your visit.

          We will cover 100% of the costs for local language school classes or up to 50% of the costs of individual tuition.

          We will not cover the cost of examinations or personal learning materials such as DVDs and books.

  • We cover fieldwork costs if they’re essential and you can justify them. Costs can include:

    • survey and data collection, including communication and data collection services and any associated costs such as essential field materials, travel costs and language translation services
    • the purchase, hire and running costs of vehicles dedicated to your project
    • expenses for subjects and volunteers, including the recruitment of participants, their participatory fees and travel costs
    • statistical analysis.

    You can ask for other fieldwork costs that aren’t listed here, but you’ll need to justify them.

  • We will add an inflation allowance to your award.

    How we calculate your inflation allowance

    Your inflation allowance is based on your total eligible costs and the duration of the award. You'll receive the following allowance if the costs in your application are in pounds sterling, euros or US dollars.

    Award duration (in months)Inflation allowance
    0-120.0%
    13-241.0%
    25-362.0%
    37-483.0%
    49-604.1%
    61-725.1%
    73-846.2%

    These rates are calculated using compound inflation at 2.0% a year from Year 2 onwards.

    If your costs are in any other currency, we will use an inflation allowance that reflects the inflation rate of the country where the host organisation is based.

    What to include in your application

    The costs in your application must be based on current known costs, excluding inflation.

    You should allow for salary pay awards during Year 1. These should be based on pay awards already agreed; if you don’t know what the pay award is yet then use our inflation rate.

    Wellcome's studentship stipend scales for non-clinical/basic science PhD studentships include an annual increase for inflation.

  • If your organisation receives block funding through the UK’s Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) you can ask them to cover your open access article processing charges.

    If you're at an organisation that doesn't receive COAF funding, we’ll supplement your grant when your paper has been accepted for publication.

    You can't ask for these charges in your grant application.

  • If you need to carry out clinical trials or research using NHS patients or facilities, we will cover some of the research costs.

    Annex A of the guidelines for attributing the costs of health and social care research and development (AcoRD) sets out the costs we cover, and which costs should be funded through the Department of Health in England, or its equivalent in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If you're based in the Republic of Ireland, we would expect you to adhere to the spirit of these principles.

    Further information on our clinical trials policy.

  • Costs you may ask for (you will have to justify these costs in your application):

    • specialist publications that are relevant to the research and not available in institutional libraries
    • consultancy fees
    • expenses for subjects and volunteers – includes recruitment of participants, their participatory fees and travel, as well as interviewee expenses
    • reasonable research-associated costs related to the feedback of health-related findings but not any healthcare-associated costs
    • costs associated with developing an outputs management plan
    • questionnaires, recruitment material, newsletters etc for clinical, epidemiological and qualitative research studies
    • public engagement materials where dissemination (including printing and publishing) is a key activity of the project
    • recruitment, advertising and interviewee travel costs for staff to be employed on the grant
    • purchase, hire and running costs of project-dedicated vehicles
    • PhD student fees for postgraduate research assistants employed on your grant
    • formal transferable skills and personal development training, including the International Funders Award.

    Costs we won’t pay:

    • estates costs – such as building and premises costs, basic services and utilities. This also includes phone, postage, photocopying and stationery, unless you can justify these within a clinical or epidemiological study.*
    • page charges and the cost of colour prints
    • research, technical and administrative staff whose time is shared across several projects and isn’t supported by an audit record*
    • PhD stipends
    • charge-out costs for major facilities* – departmental technical and administrative services, and use of existing equipment
    • cleaning, waste and other disposal costs*

    *We will fund these costs in the case of animal-related research.

    • indirect costs – this includes general administration costs such as personnel, finance, library, room hire and some departmental services
    • office furniture, such as chairs, desks, filing cabinets, etc.
    • clothing such as lab coats, shoes, protective clothing
    • non-research related activities, eg catering, room and venue hire for staff parties, team-building events and social activities
    • indemnity insurance (insurance cover against claims made by subjects or patients associated with a research programme)
    • ethics reviews, unless you are in a low- or middle-income country
    • radiation protection costs.

    Costs grantholders can claim on biomedical science research grants.

What we don’t offer

We don't fund:

  • salary costs for any applicants or staff who are already funded by their organisation
  • costs for capital build or refurbishment.

We don't fund overheads unless they're included on this page.

Stages of application

  1. Email an expression of interest to us

    This scheme is now closed.

  2. Submit your invited application

    If you submitted an expression of interest before 28 February 2020 and we've invited you to submit an application, you should do this on Grant Tracker.

    If you’re applying as a team, the lead applicant must submit the application form on behalf of the team.

    We’ll only accept one application from each lead applicant. Other applicants can be included in more than one application.

    View the  Sample application form for Epidemic Preparedness: Covid-19 funding call [PDF 253KB]

    ‘Details of proposal’ section
    Provide the following information in no more than 2,000 words:

    • background and justification
    • aims and key deliverables
    • details for planned activities
    • timetable and milestones (as appropriate).

    ‘Outputs management’ section
    Provide information on how the evidence, knowledge and tools generated will be used to inform preparedness and response globally. 

    ‘Additional information’ section
    You can provide up to the equivalent of two A4 pages of extra information. If you provide more than this, we will ask you to reduce the amount of information.

    You can either:

    • embed it in your upload for your ‘Details of proposal’ section – any text (such as legends, labels, or captions) will be excluded from the word count

    or

    • upload it under 'Additional information'.
  3. Assessment of your application

    Applications will then be considered by the Epidemic Technical Advisory Panel. 

  4. Decision

    We aim to give you a funding decision no more than three weeks after you have submitted your application. There are no interviews, but we may contact you for more information about your proposal.

    In general, we don't provide specific written feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

Disabled applicants

If you are disabled or have a chronic health condition, we can support you with the application process.

Dates

This scheme is now closed.

Grants awarded

Find out about some of the people and projects we've funded for this scheme.

Contact us

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

For any COVID-19 related research enquiries, contact: