Funding an IR project

All through the course of the IR project process, consideration must be given to how the funds to carry out the project will be obtained. There are several potential sources from which research teams can hope to obtain funding for their implementation research project. Click on each of the headings below to explore each of the sections individually.

Many low- and middle-income counties (LMICs) have developed national health research agendas, which, although not always fully resourced, provide a framework for obtaining domestic resources for IR projects. Specific institutions also exist in some countries for the funding of research efforts. Teams should include such institutions as they explore the possible sources of funding for their projects. Generally, the first place to look for funding for IR projects should be within the budgets of the programmes themselves. Disease programmes in several LMICs routinely earmark small amounts of funds directly for research efforts or for monitoring and evaluation aimed at improving access and delivery of interventions.

For example, this might include the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the European Commission (EC) and programmes such as the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR), the Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP).

Most multilateral organizations, particularly the GF, have developed implementation programmes in LMICs of which part of the programme budget is allocated for monitoring and evaluation. Countries can include IR in their concept notes/proposals if such research will clearly improve the implementation of programmes.

For example, the Canadian Government, United Kingdom Government (DFID), United States Government (USAID, National Institutes of Health, Fogarty International Center), Norway Government (Norad), Sweden Government (SIDA) Australia Government, and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

An increasing number of bilateral organizations, such as IDRC, NIH/FIC, DFID, USAID, CDC and NORAD have supported IR. Almost all bilateral organizations have aid projects/programmes in LMICs with a certain part of the programme budget allocated to monitoring and evaluation. A case could be made for using such resources for IR if such research will significantly improve the delivery of their programmes.

For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, Wellcome Trust.

Private foundations and trusts have a tradition of supporting health research, among other issues. Implementation research is a potential area of interest for these entities.

To find a good donor match for your proposal, consider:

  • your level of experience;
  • the resources/funds you need;
  • timing and deadlines;
  • your location;
  • who is interested in the topic.

Other related resources

  • NIH Office of Extramural Research (OER) Grants Guide.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • ( – A portal collecting funding applications information from all United States government agencies.
  • Ministries of Health/National Research Councils.
  • National Medical Research Councils.
  • Foundation Center Directory (Free Library).
  • PA Foundation Directory (Free Library).
  • GrantsNet – from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
  • The Doris Duke Foundation.

Subscription databases like the ones listed below provide information on sources of government and nongovernmental research funding:

  • Community of Science (COS).
  • InfoEd (Spin/Genius).
  • Others (IRIS, Egrants).

Do your searching...

  • Go to a library where good internet access is available.
  • Talk to your institution’s Office of Research Administration, if you have one.
  • Search comprehensive databases such as COS, eRACommons and Spin.
  • Set up alerts from your database searches.
  • Search US government grant websites such as OER or, or individual agency websites.
  • Search association and foundation websites.
  • Search specialized research websites such as AuthorAID (
  • Find out what projects related to your subject area were already funded.

This is a very important aspect of your work. If you have some experience in searching databases, you can proceed, otherwise seek help from a library within or outside your institution. Whatever approach you take, there are basic steps that you have to follow and several things to consider when deciding where to submit your IR proposal for funding matters.

Find out which funding opportunities are offering research calls or requests for proposals (RFP)/ letters of intent (LOI). This is important as often they only call for applications once a year. Therefore, planning ahead and working back from the application deadline is important. If you miss the deadline it could be a year until another competition or opportunity arises. In IR, a 12-month delay is significant.

n addition to regular RFP/LOI invitations, some funding agencies may also be interested in supporting IR in accordance with their health research strategies. In other words, researchers from LMICs could play a proactive role by sending short research proposals for their consideration. Some funding agencies are more interested in commissioning or soliciting health research proposals, based on their mandates and strategies.

You need to ensure a good match between the funding agency and your research project, with regard to research topic, size of grant, geographic region, partners’ eligibility, participating countries, required affiliations etc. Explore research that has already been done on the topic to ensure you are not duplicating existing work. Assess the types of projects the agency has funded in the past, so you can expand or complement these activities. Demonstrate that you have done your homework and are aware of what exists on the topic, identify the gaps and justify what needs to be done and how the findings will benefit the community.

Preparing your application

  • Read the instructions for submitting a proposal carefully.
  • Refer to pertinent literature.
  • State the rationale for the proposed investigation.
  • Include clearly presented tables and figures.
  • Present an organized, lucid write-up, including as much detail as possible.
  • Request pre-review from experienced researchers.
  • Use the style and elements required by the funder’s specifications.

When applying for a research grant, take advantage of the resources available to you. Most universities in Europe and North America have an Office of Research with trained staff to assist researchers with large grant applications. This may not be available in institutions and health agencies in LMICs, but there may also be resources available online that can be helpful. It is important to visit the website of the funding agency to which you plan to submit your proposal. They will usually have full instructions on what to do and when to submit your proposal.

You can also explore the possibility of communicating with the project manager in the funding agency to obtain more clarity on the application process. Reviewers will look for clear, innovative and exciting ideas, clarity and brevity of writing and realistic objectives and timelines. They will expect a clear, well-written application that promises outcomes that are useful to the population.

TDR Implementation research toolkit(Second edition)

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