How we fund and track the progress of grants

Our rigorous processes ensure that every research project we fund is high-quality science and meets the needs of people with Parkinson's.

We're the largest member-led charity funder of Parkinson's research in Europe. So far, we've invested almost £100 million in groundbreaking research. We fund research to advance our understanding of Parkinson's and what causes it. Our research also improves treatments to make life easier for people living with Parkinson's.

To ensure the excellence of the research supported by Parkinson's UK, applications for research grants are evaluated by scientific experts and people affected by Parkinson's. Awarded grants are subject to ongoing monitoring by the charity.

The purpose of this is to lay out the process by which Parkinson's UK makes its funding decisions and administers its research grants. Applicants should also read Terms and conditions for research grants, the Information for Applicants document for each grant scheme and other policies relating to grants.

Parkinson's UK funds research through open competition. Funding opportunities are announced each year via our website, Synapse (our e-newsletter) and through advertisement on external websites.

Project grants

Our project grants tackle major Parkinson's research challenges with ground-breaking studies that get right to the heart of complex problems. Grants are awarded for up to three years. There is no upper or lower limit on the award value, however, the cost of applications is usually up to £400,000 and the average amount is £220,000.

Non-drug approaches grants

Our non-drug approaches grants fund research focusing on what matters most and improving quality of life for people affected by Parkinson’s in the shorter term. Alongside medication, other approaches - such as living aids, exercise and therapies - can play a vital part in helping people to manage daily life and take control of Parkinson's. Grants are awarded for up to two years. There is no minimum award value, however, the maximum cost of applications is up to £200,000.

Themed research

Themed research grants are advertised on an ad hoc basis as priorities are identified. Applications will only be accepted if the proposed research is in the strategic area and complies with the specification for the award. Grants will normally be awarded for between two and five years. The value will vary depending on the specification.

Parkinson's Virtual Biotech programme

Drug discovery projects with solid target validation and identified early-stage chemical leads / hit-finding campaign, or early clinical stage drug trials may be considered for funding through the Parkinson's Virtual Biotech Programme. Before making an application in this area, please visit the Parkinson's Virtual Biotech website and contact the team at [email protected]

The College of Experts is formed of scientific experts from all areas of Parkinson’s research and additional areas of scientific technical expertise.

The College of Experts is involved in reviewing grants, from pre-proposal to full application and panel meeting phase. The College makes recommendations for funding for project grants, non drug approaches and themed research schemes.

We have up approximately 100 lay grant reviewers, who are people who are personally affected by Parkinson's, are members of the charity's Research Support Network. Reviews from lay grant reviewers allow us to incorporate the unique and valuable perspective of people affected by Parkinson's into how we decide which projects to fund. This means that the needs and interests of people affected by Parkinson's are reflected in our research. 

For project grants, lay review co-ordinators collate the feedback from lay grant reviewers into reports which they present at our College of Expert panel meetings, helping to inform funding decisions made by our review panels.

Lay grant reviewers are involved in the review phase for the non-drug approaches grants and are asked to attend the funding decision meetings.

Grant rounds will be advertised on the website and in our e-newsletter, Synapse, at least three months in advance of the deadline.

Pre-proposal application forms for project grants and non drug approaches grants are available on request by emailing [email protected] 

Applicants who are successful in the pre-proposal stage for project grants and non drug approaches grants will be invited to submit a full application via the charity's online application system.

Information on how to apply for each grant scheme is available on the charity's website, as are the terms and conditions for grants. Once the deadline has passed, no further applications will be accepted for that round.

Project and non-drug approaches grants

Applicants are required to submit a pre-proposal application. All pre-proposal applications will be reviewed by three scientific members of the College of Experts. Pre-proposal applications for non-drug approaches grants are additionally reviewed by lay grant reviewers at this stage.

Unsuccessful pre-proposal applicants will be given feedback based on the comments from the reviewers. Successful applicants will be invited to submit a full application by the specified deadline

We recommend that applicants who are invited to submit a full application, contact the Patient and Public involvement (PPI) team for support in writing the Plain English Summary.

Full applications will be reviewed by three scientific members of the College of Experts and our lay grant reviewers. Reviewers score applications on a scale from zero to ten.

Applications will be shortlisted at the pre-proposal and full application stage based on the combined average scores of the scientific and lay grant reviewers. Feedback from lay and scientific reviewers will be sent to principal applicants of shortlisted applications for review. Applicants will have at least one week to reply to the queries raised or provide clarification. Principal applicants will receive an email alerting them to the timing of the ‘right-to-reply’ period during the summer. The shortlisted applications (including additional information provided in reply to reviewers’ comments) will be considered by the College of Experts at a review meeting. The Panel’s recommendations for funding will be submitted to the charity’s Chief Executive for approval.

Project grant applications will be judged by scientific reviewers and panel members against the following criteria:

  • importance and relevance of the research
  • potential impact of the research for people affected by Parkinson’s
  • scientific quality of the proposal
  • quality of the researcher and team
  • value for money
  • budget and infrastructure
  • importance and relevance of the research

Non-drug approaches grant applications will be judged by scientific reviewers and panel members against the following criteria:

  • importance and relevance of the research to people living with Parkinson’s
  • potential impact of the research for people currently living with Parkinson’s
  • scientific quality of the proposal
  • likelihood of being rolled out on a wider scale if successful
  • quality of the researcher and team
  • value for money 
  • budget and infrastructure

Plain English summaries

A good plain English summary is essential for evaluation by lay grant reviewers. The summary should be written for a lay audience in plain English, avoiding scientific terms wherever possible. 

The Plain English summary must accurately reflect the research proposal and scientific abstract. It should include sufficient information to understand the importance, objectives, design and outcomes of the project. Applicants should be realistic about the potential outcomes of their research and the likely timescales involved.

Applications without a satisfactory plain English section may be rejected. Parkinson’s UK recommend checking the readability of your plain English summary using a tool such as the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level test (should be ninth grade reading level or below).

See our website to find out how we can connect you with people affected by Parkinson’s to help improve your summary and for tips on writing in plain English.

Lay grant reviewers will judge all applications against the following criteria:

  • the importance and relevance of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • the potential benefit of the research for people affected by Parkinson's
  • if the proposed research involves human participants, whether they think people would be likely to take part

NC3Rs review

Any application which involves non-human primates, cats, dogs or equines will be sent for additional expert 3Rs review by the NC3Rs.

Animal research funded by Parkinson’s UK should be guided by the principles of the 3Rs: replacement, reduction and refinement. For more information on the 3Rs and for information on animal welfare and research visit the NC3Rs website.

All research supported by Parkinson's UK must comply with the NC3Rs requirements to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research.

We have signed up to the Declaration on Openness on Animal Research.

Please also see our policy on the use of animals in research.

 

Funding decisions

The Chief Executive has delegated authority from the Board of Trustees to approve awards up to £500,000. For awards over £500,000, Research directorate staff will write a paper for presentation at the next Board of Trustees meeting or for circulation to trustees by email and a final decision.

Up to twice per year, the Research directorate will update the Board of Trustees on all awards.

Once the final decision on funding has been made, both successful and unsuccessful applicants receive an email notifying them of the outcome for their application. Successful application will receive an award letter. Unsuccessful applicants receive a summary of comments from the lay, peer and College of Expert reviewers.

Successful applicants must return an acceptance form within eight weeks and advise the Research Grant Team of the start date of their project within six months.

Website and charity publications

Information about funded grants will appear on the charity's website and in our research magazine, Progress, as well as other media and communication materials produced by the charity.

Reporting

Annual reports are due on the anniversary of the start date for the project. A final report for the grant must be submitted within three months of the end date.

The Research team monitors the content of the annual and final reports, and may contact the researcher to clarify or request further information. If annual reports do not demonstrate sufficient progress against the aims of the project, the charity (in accordance with its grant terms and conditions) reserves the right to terminate the grant.

If reports are not submitted on time, invoice payments will be withheld until the report has been received. The charity also reserves the right to refuse to accept further applications for funding from the grantholder (either as a principal applicant or co-applicant) until reports for active projects are up-to-date.

Grantholders are required to make annual researchfish® submissions on the outcomes of their research. Submissions will be required over the lifetime of the grant and up to five years after the end of the grant. Grantholders are encouraged to record their outcomes in researchfish® throughout the year as they arise. We use this information to monitor performance, to understand our impact, and to support fundraising.

Publications

Throughout the grant and after it ends, researchers are required to advise the Research directorate in advance of upcoming publications and to comply with our open access publishing policy.

Our Media and Communications teams work in partnership with researchers and host institutions to maximise publicity of research outcomes. To contact the team about an upcoming publication, please email [email protected].

Financial oversight

Grant payments are made to the host institution upon production of an invoice for expenditure (quarterly in arrears). Invoices will not be approved for payment unless the grantholder is up-to-date with reports for all their Parkinson's UK grants and Researchfish submissions.

Variations

Grantholders who wish to apply for a cost extension, no cost extension, virement of funds or other variation to their grant must fill out the appropriate form available by emailing [email protected]. Applications for variations must be made at least two months before the end of the grant.

Assessment panels

The charity's larger grants will also be monitored through annual assessment panels made up of staff, external scientific experts and lay grant reviewers.

Engagement

The grantholder will be asked to host up to two engagement activities (such as hosting a project visit, speaking at a local Parkinson's UK group or supporters' conference, attending an open day with other researchers) during the grant. These activities enable members of the charity's local groups and the RSN to learn more about the grant and to meet the grantholder and the research team.

Transfers to projects and fundraising

Trusts, corporates and individuals can donate funds in support of a specific project. 'Adopt a Project' transfers help the charity to achieve our pledged funds to the researchers rather than providing additional money for a specific project.

Grants may be underwritten by an external funding body. Grantholders may be asked to become involved in publicity for the trust and/or Parkinson's UK.

Grant completion

Once a grant has ended and the final report submitted, grantholders and the finance officer from their institution must sign a grant completion form. The grant completion form confirms that the final report has been submitted and the final invoice has been paid. The form can be downloaded from our online grant management system, and emailed to [email protected] once completed.

For further information please contact the Research Grants Team.