MRC Proximity to Discovery (P2D) 2018: Guidance for applicants

LSTM has again successfully secured institutional funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to fund projects under the Proximity to Discovery Fund (P2D). This year's call is expanded to include the members of the Tropical Infectious Disease Consortium and aims to increase interactions, foster new collaborations, and knowledge exchange between industry and academic researchers in the MRC strategic areas

Objectives

1. Increasing interactions and support new collaborations between industry and academia with potential to have impact in Global Health.
2. Increasing understanding of industry, joint funding applications, licencing of IP and successful knowledge exchange.
3. Creating a platform for Consortium member researchers interested in translating their research into benefits for Global Health.
4. Delivering scientifically excellent translational proposals that have the potential for sustained collaborations which will ultimately lead to increased research capacity and an improvement in research outputs and impact.

What we can support

5. We will support projects that include initiatives that facilitate the early stage interactions with industry, as well as the further development of research outputs by highlighting collaboration and commercialisation opportunities to potential industry partners.
6. It is intended to provide multiple awards, typically between £25k - £75k, for translational research projects that meet the aims of the MRC P2D
7. Projects will typically last 6-12 months and will include initiatives aimed at building critical interactions with industry and enabling the establishment of academic-industry relationships using novel, creative approaches.
8. The fund is intended to accelerate relevant translational activities so projects should aim to provide sufficient preliminary data to establish the viability of an approach and the market need for its outputs.

What we cannot support

9. The funding is not intended to support staff exchange between LSTM subsidiary companies, early stage "blue skies" research, entire translational projects, staff between posts (i.e. bridging support), PhD studentships, or the continuation of research grants.

Examples of potential uses

10. Awards would typically be able to provide support to the following:

  • Early stage industry engagement activities (e.g. visits to potential industry partners to discuss areas of mutual interest).
  • Relationship Development of Pilot Projects to support the development of relationships with new companies. Relationship Development Pilot projects do not need to be focussed on the delivery of specific technical objectives, but rather should seek to assist project partners in technical and business knowledge-exchange activities, to provide a sound platform from which to develop collaborative projects in the future.
  • Activities to support collaborations and KE between staff such as (a) showcases, (b) workshops, (c) best-practice sharing events, and (d) training events that will enhance understanding of industry and vice versa (experimental design, regulatory requirements, clinical needs, capabilities, business models, commercialisation routes to market, etc.).
  • People exchanges, secondments and staff placements to develop and facilitate the transfer of skills and expertise: academic to industry, industry to academic. Inbound and outbound secondments are admissible. Exchanges cannot exceed 6 months. These are also open to early career researchers/ post-doctoral research assistants (PDRA) or professional support staff into external organisations, to work on projects with external partners and/or allow incoming staff from external organisations to work at Consortium member institutions.
  • Support to bring in consultants to advise on translational projects within MRC remit.

Partners

11. Applications must have a PI from one of the Consortium member institutions.
12. Applications must include at least one external partner which may be Pharma, SME, Charity, industry, commercial, external not-for-profit organisations, public sector/government. Please specify the type of organisation in Section B of the application form for each partner.
13. External academic establishments and other HEIs as a partner are not supported by this scheme.

Applicant Eligibility

14. The call is open to academic and research active staff on a core-contract (or fixed-term contract that covers the proposed duration of the project) from any academic department.

Deadlines and project start/end dates

15. The deadline for the 2018 round is 4 PM on Wednesday 23 May 2018. It is anticipated that decisions on awards will be issued in June 2018. Applicants will be notified by email. The earliest start date for projects will be August 2018. End date of projects must not go beyond 30 September 2019. Extensions beyond this date will not be granted.

Anticipated outcomes and outputs

16. We would see the outcome of the funding being the prioritisation of translational research, based on (a) potential impact, (b) novelty and (c) the inclusion of tractable but appropriately ambitious outcomes as below:

  • An increased number of new relationships with industry partners.
  • Increased cross-sector and interdisciplinary collaborations. 
  • Greater understanding of industry research priorities and requirements for collaborations.
  • The identification of industrial partners for downstream funding opportunities (e.g. Innovate UK, MRC DPFS, MRC CiC, Innovate UK KTP, SBRI, Horizon 2020 etc.) and development of collaborative project proposals.
  • Increased commercial awareness and market understanding amongst researchers.
  • Strengthened partnerships with the potential to generate future research income.

Budget

17. Projects would typically include funds for travel, subsistence, consumables and other non-recurrent expenditure as below:

Eligible costs

Non eligible costs

Staff costs

Salaries of seconded personnel

Equipment (up to 15% of total budget only)

Overheads

Consumables

Bridging funds

Travel & Subsistence (most economical form of travel)

PhD studentships

Short-term accommodation

Work likely to be funded entirely by partners

Training & Development

Attendance and travel to an academic conference

Costs associated with hosting an event

Costs relating to commercialisation or the protection of IP

Training & Development

 

18. Funding will only be provided for the academic partner and the costs directly associated with hosting an industrial partner at the Consortium member institution.
19. Institutional overheads are not eligible.
20. It is assumed that incoming staff from industry are drawing their salary at their home institution, therefore no contribution will be made towards their salary.

Staff exchanges and secondments

21. Both inbound and outbound secondments can either be full-time or part-time, i.e. may be continuous or split into specific periods but must be complete by 30 September 2019 and cannot exceed six months in total duration.
22. For both inbound and outbound secondments, applicants must discuss secondment preparations with their HoD and HR to ensure correct arrangements and agreements are put in place prior to the start of the project (e.g. access to facilities, contracts, desk space, etc.).
23. For inbound secondments (member of staff from an industry partner to Consortium member), the company will be expected to cover the salary costs of their employee. Do not include the secondee salary in the budget. Any additional expenses incurred by the secondee (e.g. travel, subsistence, short-term accommodation) can be included in the budget.
24. For outbound secondments (staff from Consortium member to an industry partner) it is critical that the secondment does not impact on the delivery of professional support and on the staff existing commitments. For early career researchers/PDRAs on a fellowship, it should be investigated whether the funding can be extended for a period of time to account for the secondment.

Application process and Selection Criteria 

25. Application forms are available here and must be emailed once completed to lstmro@lstmed.ac.uk by 4PM on Wednesday 23 May 2018.
26. You must include a Letter of Support from your industry partner with your application providing details on the anticipated follow-up/next steps upon completion of the project and clearly outlining the potential benefits the partner sees from the interaction. Any cash or in-kind support, while not essential, is a reflection of partner commitment to the interaction and should be detailed. The external partner should also indicate that they agree with the terms of the draft collaboration as given in the MRC MICA website .
27. You must also include with your application a statement from your HoD at your Consortium member institution that demonstrates enthusiasm to engage.
28. Funds will be allocated to projects which address the key MRC strategic areas and the aims of the P2D scheme.
29. Eligible applications will be reviewed and scored by an External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC) comprising external members with relevant academic and industrial translational expertise.
30. The ESAC will review, assess and score the appropriateness of the projects for funding under the P2D scheme using the following criteria:

- Is the environment suitable for collaboration with industry?
- Is there the expertise to develop relationships appropriately?
- Is there a convincing strategy for engaging with industry?
- Is there a track record of success in this area?
- Is it likely to make a significant difference, beyond what the Consortium members already achieve?
- Is there a plan to harness the learning achieved through people exchanges?
- Is the proposal using novel, creative and new ways of building relationships with industry?
- Will an award build on or enhance successful portfolio funding already received?

Transparency and Conflicts of Interest

31. LSTM and the Consortium is committed to transparency throughout the decision making process and it is important to us to manage all real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest with integrity, impartiality, honesty and openness.
32. Any ESAC member who has a conflict of interest on any submitted project will be asked to declare it, and they will not score that particular project, with the scoring average being adjusted accordingly.
33. The final decision on which projects to fund within the funding envelope will be made, based on the weighted grade point average scores, by the Senior Management Group of the Consortium at a meeting in June 2018. Members of the Senior Management Group will be asked to declare any conflict of interest at the start of the meeting and will be requested to leave the meeting when individual project discussions are taking place.
34. Detailed minutes of the meeting will be taken and available for inspection. Further details of how to identify a potential conflict of interest, the scoring methodology and how the final list of projects will be selected can be found here.
35. If you would like to see the minutes at the end of the process please contact the Research Management Services team on lstmro@lstmed.ac.uk

If your application is not successful

36. Given the high volume of applications we expect to receive we will be unable to provide detailed feedback to each applicant.
37. Unsuccessful applications may be re-submitted to future calls.
38. Due to the competitive nature of the P2D, projects which have previously been funded under this scheme will not be considered.

If your application is successful

39. Notification will be sent only to the PI. It is the responsibility of the PI to ensure the whole team is notified.
40. It is a mandatory requirement that successful projects should follow the MRC Industry Collaboration Agreement (MICA) principles and policies. This webpage also provides comprehensive guidance on MRC requirements for the form of the collaboration agreement.
41. The PI must complete an MRC MICA form within three months of the project start date. A blank form will be sent at the same time as the notification of success.
42. In addition, when collaborating with industry, a collaboration agreement, signed by all partners, must be in place within 3 months of the start date. The MRC MICA format will be followed for successful awards. Please liaise with the LSTM Contracts team lstmroc@lstm.ac.uk if you need any further information.
43. The sum awarded is the maximum available and no supplements will be made.
44. All the results of your research are subject to the procedures laid down by LSTM in accordance with normal academic practice and the RCUK Policy on Open Access and you must acknowledge the support received from the P2D as appropriate.

Payment of the grant

45. Successful projects will be allocated a unique cost centre within the P2D (2) 2018 parent award. Sub contracts will be established with Consortium members.
46. Award-holders will be expected to complete the specified project within the duration of the project, unless they were prevented by exceptional and unexpected circumstances. Details of any such delay should be promptly communicated to RMS (lstmro@lstmed.ac.uk) within this period.

Reporting

47. Awardees will be required to provide interim and final reports via researchfish. This is a compulsory requirement from MRC and a condition of eligibility for further funding.