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Strategic skills awards

Call status: Closed
Next application deadline: TBC

BBSRC and MRC are collaborating with the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) to provide additional funding to BBSRC- and MRC-funded studentships to support research training in integrative mammalian biology.


  • This is an important joint initiative reflecting concerns which have been raised regarding the funding of high-quality research training in an area of strategic importance to the life sciences industries in the UK
  • The Research Councils are building on the experience of the BPS in running a very successful scheme to provide additional funding to Research Council PhD studentships using funding from industry


  • To ensure departments do not feel under financial pressure to keep students away from high-cost research training which is strategically important for the UK

What the awards cover

  • Additional funding to cover the costs of integrative mammalian research skills in BBSRC and MRC PhDs
  • Funding is only available to supplement studentships funded by BBSRC and MRC, in particular studentships funded from BBSRC and MRC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) 
  • Awards will provide additional funding towards the high-costs of in vivo training and will not replace normal studentship funding being drawn from DTPs. Standard studentship costs (i.e. student stipend, fees, etc) should be drawn from BBSRC and MRC DTPs as normal. Justification of resources required above and beyond that provided through standard studentship support, will be taken into consideration in determining the level of award, if any, recommended.
  • Funding will be available on an individual student project basis. Projects must involve a significant component of high quality in vivo training and research. Priority will be given to projects that use advanced in vivo recording techniques that maximize the data obtained from each animal and minimise disturbance. Projects in which the in vivo component comprises of the generation of a transgenic line or the use of animals solely as sources of tissues or biological fluids will not be considered for funding, as they do not provide a sufficient level of in vivo training.
  • Proposals are invited relating to individual PhD projects which will commence in the coming academic year.

How to apply

The call for applications is closed.

The application deadline for proposals to MRC and BBSRC was 20 May 2013.

  • Proposals are invited relating to individual PhD projects which will commence in the coming (autumn 2013) academic year. This may be either when a new MRC or BBSRC funded student will be starting their PhD, or where an existing MRC or BBSRC PhD student will be starting the research phase of a 4-year PhD programme (i.e. after a rotation or taught first year).
  • The deadline is deliberately late in the academic year to allow for projects to be planned and agreed for students who are currently on a rotation or taught first year.
  • It is not necessary to have a named student in place or departmental DTP allocations finalised at the time of making an application. Proposals should be submitted using the application form provided (see application downloads below), by the holder or coordinator of the DTP, citing the reference number of the DTP which will be used to fund the proposed studentship.
  • If the correct DTP number is not provided then the Council is unable to process the application further.
  • Applicants are advised to read the full guidance notes (see application downloads below) to ensure that the details of the PhD projects submitted meet the strategic aims of the scheme.

Application downloads

Proposals for SSAs relating to MRC studentships should be sent to with 'MRC Strategic Skills Award Application' clearly marked in the subject line.

Proposals for SSAs relating to BBSRC studentships should be sent to with 'BBSRC Strategic Skills Award Application' clearly marked in the subject line.

Research organisations wishing to submit multiple proposals must simultaneously send all proposals via one email.


Proposals are scheduled to be assessed by an independent panel (including representation from the NC3Rs) to ensure projects fully align with the 3Rs of animal research:

  • Replacement
  • Refinement
  • Reduction

The panel will ensure projects provide students with high quality training to be able to undertake research in the most effective way to ensure good animal welfare.


For any queries relating to the awards please use the BBSRC or MRC contacts below (depending on whether the award will be associated with a BBSRC or MRC DTP). Where possible, queries should be made from a single point of contact per institution.

External contact

MRC studentships


Innovation and Skills Group - Studentships