Round-up of our 2021 Small Grants Programme

14 May 2021

This year we have once again seen a record number of applications for our Small Grants Programme, receiving 1,198 applications in total.

We are thrilled to have had such a great response, meaning there are hundreds of ideas in our field of work that people early in their careers are keen to explore. This could be the first step to the next set of innovations that change all of our work.

The aim of the programme is to develop the next generation of global health researchers by providing seed funding to enable them to take on a one-year project of research in any area of tropical medicine or global health.

The programme funds projects across the research spectrum, from initial lab-based studies, through translation, implementation, community and policy-related research.

We are now working with our team of Global Assessors to check and assess all the applications and will update you as and when we have more news on when the funding will be awarded.

In the meantime, we wanted to share some data on the diversity and breadth of the applications.

Number of applications

2021 has been another year of growth, as the graph below shows.

The number of applications has increased almost six-fold year on year for the past five years, from 216 in 2017, to 1,198 in 2021.

Over the last three years the chances of being awarded have also improved from 39 to 1, to 13 to 1, to a success rate of 8 to 1 in 2020.

Gender balance

This year the balance is better than last year with 57% male, 43% female and four applicants not wishing to disclose their gender.

In 2020, roughly 60% applicants were male and 40% female, with two applicants not wanting to disclose their gender.

Maintaining this balance is important at this seed-funding level, as we are aware that the gender gap between male and female widens significantly at more senior levels in our sector.


Diversity has also improved in a number of ways for our applicants. Applications came from 87 countries this year, compared to 83 in 2020.

A highlight is that we received applications from more countries in South and Latin America this year. Indeed, we have seen applications from Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, which were not on the list of countries from 2020.

The top countries where people were based were Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and Uganda. It is great to have representation across all continents across the globe.

We would like to thank our Student and Country Ambassadors for raising awareness of the programme with their peers and networks.

Where research is being carried out

Of the applications we received, 93 different countries were mentioned in terms of research locations.

The top countries for research being carried out matches the top countries for nationality: Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and Uganda.

Disease areas

Like last year, the spectrum of disease and global health topics is very broad.

Last year, we saw more than 70 applications on COVID-19 related projects, alongside our priority areas, including snakebite, skin NTDs and co-morbidities.

The top three topics this year as it stands are malaria, COVID-19 and antimicrobial resistance. Others include tuberculosis, snakebite and schistosomiasis and are detailed below.


When applying, we ask people which sector they are working in, as we are keen to ensure that all professionals from across the tropical medicine and global health community can access our small grants.

At the moment though, our applications still come, for the most part, from the world of academia – 1,031 of 1,198.

However, there is a slight increase in the number of applications from NGOs and the public sector.

This shows that as the Small Grants Programme continues to grow, we must ensure that it is reaching those who might not think that applying for funding is for them.

Type of role

We want to ensure we are attracting applications from people in different roles and also from a range of sectors, and this year have seen applications ranging from students to those in senior roles, from universities and hospitals to NGOs and industry.

This diversity is important as we want to encourage ideas from a wide range of disciplines and practices to be tried and tested.

Supply and demand

Last year, we were lucky enough to have support from NIHR, ITI and Wellcome and so were able to fund over 120 applications.

We are very grateful that in 2021 we are partnering with NIHR, ITI and Wellcome again and with CIFF, International Alliance for the Control of Scabies and Journal of Comparative Pathology Educational Trust for the first time.

It is our hope to be able to fund as many quality applications as possible this year, although this depends on topic areas, assessments and other funds available.

If you know any partners who may want to join in the success of the programme by funding a number of early career researchers, please tell them to get in touch.

First step into a career in research and global health

RSTMH small grants often represent the first opportunity for those early in their careers to test out an idea and manage their own research project including budgeting, staffing, procurement, and producing reports.

Our hope is they go on to publish or present their work and continue to develop their ideas into innovations and successful outcomes.

Watch this space for further reports as we move through assessment, to award our next group of applicants.

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