Cross-Disciplinary Mental Health Network Plus Call

Research Councils UK funding to establish six to ten cross-disciplinary ‘Network Plus’ centres to provide innovative approaches to important mental health research questions and strengthen the UK mental health research base.

Fund Information

Funding body:
Research Councils UK (RCUK)
Maximum value:
£ 1,250,000
Application deadline:

Extended Description

It is estimated that 23% of the UK population is affected by mental health problems at some point each year. Whilst Research Councils UK (RCUK) recognises that excellent research is taking place within the area of mental health, more research is needed to better understand how to prevent, diagnose and treat mental illness.

The UK’s seven Research Councils (AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC and STFC) are therefore seeking to bring together researchers from across disciplines to complement the excellent work currently underway, and are inviting proposals for the creation of a number of cross-disciplinary mental health networks. These networks will address important mental health research questions that require an innovative, cross-disciplinary approach to accelerate progress; to build cross-disciplinary research capacity in the field; and to strengthen the UK mental health research base.

The research aspirations of the networks are as follows:

  • Novel and transformative research.
  • Build capacity in the field.
  • Cross disciplinary from the outset.
  • Patient and public involvement.
  • Impact.

The call has been informed by the research councils recently published Cross-disciplinary Mental Health Research Agenda which represents their collective interest in supporting and furthering mental health research. It encourages areas where high quality cross-disciplinary research could add the most value and impact to the broader mental health research landscape through novel and transformative research.

It is intended that, through novel and transformative engagement and research, these awards will collectively and collaboratively bring together the relevant expertise to address specific research questions that are relevant to the research areas identified below:

  • Understanding mental health and mental health problems.
  • Connection between physical and mental health.
  • Public health, prevention and wellbeing.
  • Living with mental health problems.

In addition to this, the networks should consider the following cross cutting themes when addressing their research questions:

  • Effective intervention(s).
  • Technology and data.
  • Lifestyle and behaviour.
  • Inequalities.
  • Empowerment, ethics, confidentiality and trust.

It is anticipated that between six and ten awards will be issued that will collectively address the breadth of research areas listed above. Successful network plus awards will be expected to work collectively as a group to identify synergies between them and to maximise their potential.

Eligibility Criteria

Proposals must be submitted from an RCUK-eligible research organisation (higher education institution or recognised independent research organisation). Further details can be found here.

The network plus leadership team (PI and Co-Is) should be UK-based. Applicants are encouraged to read the Economic and Social Research Councils’ (ESRC’s) Co-Investigator guidance for further information on eligible co-investigators, including non-academic co-investigators.

Network plus awards can be local, regional or national. It is expected that project teams will involve disciplines that cross multiple Research Council boundaries.

Additional Information

Shortly after announcing the successful network plus awards, the research councils will be inviting proposals for a network plus co-ordinator. Applications for this co-ordination role will be accepted from individuals or small teams where there is added value from that approach. The successful candidate(s) will co-ordinate activities that will allow the networks to share knowledge and work collaboratively, and will help to maximise the impact of the full portfolio of mental health network plus awards.

The call will be open to applicants from eligible organisations. Investigators of the successful network plus awards will be eligible to apply for this co-ordinator position.

Value Notes

The total funding available through this call is £9-10 million. However, use of the full budget will be contingent on the quality of the applications and the successful awards collectively engaging the range of disciplines covered by the research councils.

Successful applicants will receive a grant of up to £1.25 million (at 100% full economic cost (fEC)) for up to 48 months’ duration. The research councils will contribute 80% fEC on successful proposals.

Match Funding Restrictions

The research councils will contribute 80% fEC on successful proposals.


Associated studentships will not be eligible for funding through the network awards, but the involvement of early career researchers in the networks is encouraged.

International researchers would not be eligible to be funded as an Investigator within the leadership team, but international researchers could be included as members of the wider network.

Terms and Conditions

Awards will be issued by ESRC as the administering organisation for this call. This will be done on behalf of all of the research councils and successful networks will be identified as cross-council awards.

Each principal investigator (PI) must contribute a significant proportion of their time to the overall leadership and co-ordination of their network plus award. The proposal should outline a clear management structure for the network. Networks will also be expected to participate in collaborative activities organised by the research councils or the Network Plus coordinator.

While the PI will be ultimately responsible for the administration of the grant and collaboration arrangements, they should work on this with a team of co-investigators which should reflect the crossdisciplinary nature of the network. The proposal should clearly explain the division of roles between the PI and the rest of the leadership team.

Applications for network plus awards based within one institution will be considered where a strong argument can be made for the specific expertise that particular research organisation holds, and the added value of that model.

Applications can include core costs for investigator salaries, travel and subsistence, administrative support, general management of the network and also planned activities that can be defined from the outset. In addition each network will set aside an appropriate amount of ‘plus’ funds that can be used for organising activities open to the whole research community throughout the period of the award. These activities are expected to include the funding of small research projects, but could also include running seminars, lectures, expert working groups, placements or exchanges, sandpits, skills training sessions etc.

It is expected that the application process for network plus funded activities will allow for applicants from outside of the network to participate, thereby drawing more people into the community of researchers. Applications for network plus awards should outline appropriate plans, including timelines, governance and assessment criteria, for the distribution of ‘plus’ funding.

As well as academic representation, networks should include a range of non-academic representatives where appropriate, from policy organisations, service user organisations, industry and also people with lived experience of mental health problems. The management team should be able to articulate how they intend to recruit a diverse membership for the network and its management structure. This should reflect different genders and ethnicities as well as the representation of different disciplines and organisations, and those at varying stages of their career.

Networks should convene an advisory committee to support and advise the leadership throughout their award.

Application Procedure

All proposals must be made through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. Proposals must be costed and approved by the relevant institutional authority at the research organisation before submission.

The call for network plus proposals has a closing date of 22 March 2018.

Interview panel meetings will be held over May-June 2018, and funding decisions will be announced in June-July 2018.

Projects should commence in 2018.

Addresses and contacts

For further information on how to obtain this grant locally, please contact the following:

  1. Mental Health Network Plus Enquiries
    Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
    Polaris House
    North Star Avenue
    SN2 1UJ
    Tel: 01793 413000
    Fax: 01793 413001

Leave a Reply