COEN Phase II call for Proposals


1. Introduction

Network of Centres of Excellence in Neurodegeneration (COEN) is an international initiative involving research funders in the UK (Medical Research Council), Canada (Canadian Institutes of Heath Research), Germany (DZNE), Belgium (Flanders, VIB), Ireland (Health Research Board / Science Foundation Ireland), Itdaly (Ministry of Health), Slovakia (Slovak Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport), and Spain (ISCIII).

The aim of the initiative is to encourage collaborative research between recognised national centres of excellence in neurodegeneration in order to accelerate progress in understanding the mechanisms of disease as well as the identification of new therapeutic approaches. The first phase of the initiative, in 2011, provided pilot funding for collaborative research spanning the development of new disease models, the identification of biomarkers and the harmonisation of methodologies for clinical studies.

Phase II of the initiative aims to further catalyse collaborative research between centres with a critical mass of resources and expertise to drive a step change in neurodegeneration research. The agencies are contributing £5.0m (equivalent to €5.5m or CA$7.5m) to establish an innovative and progressive research programme to address the grand challenges in the field.

2. Aim of the call

The call sets out to encourage the community to think “outside the box” and stimulate new approaches and creative solutions to the challenges of neurodegeneration research. The call also provides the basis for a two-stage funding approach, under which it is envisaged that Pathfinder grants will provide the Centres of Excellence (CoE) with the opportunity to undertake high risk / high pay off research, which, if successful, would have the potential to win follow-on Programme funding where it is judged there is the potential for impact in the near to medium term. These could be through either targeted translational approaches or as game-changing studies in basic research.

It is expected that teams will combine the research strengths across CoEs in at least two partner countries to provide a true value-added collaborative effort that will advance our approach to neurodegeneration research. Projects will address issues which would not readily be funded through the standard grant mechanisms of the CoEN partners, and it is expected that in addition to collaboration across CoEs, projects should also serve to provide a platform for future collaboration with industry.

3. Call Remit – “Pathfinder” Awards

To maximise the potential for innovation, the scientific remit for “Pathfinder” awards is broad in scope, and projects may include studies to illuminate our understanding of neurodegenerative mechanisms, or create technological advances to support novel diagnostic or therapeutic approaches. Connectivity with research in aligned modalities, such as inflammation and sensory neuroscience, or vascular and mental health is encouraged, as is outreach to experts in the fields of physical and computational science.

Disease areas within the COEN remit:

  • Alzheimer's Disease and associated dementias
  • Parkinson's Disease and PD-related disorders
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Motor Neurone Disease
  • Huntington's Disease
  • Prion Disease

Type of research to be supported:

  • Basic, clinical and translational
  • Innovative reductionist systems
  • Systems biology / medicine
  • Cutting edge in vivo studies
  • Proof of concept for novel therapeutic approaches
  • Development of innovative disease models or technologies for application to the field

Key Characteristics of Pathfinder Awards:

  • Proof of principle and high risk / high pay off studies with clear deliverables
  • Innovative and collaborative
  • Could not be funded via other regular schemes of COEN partners
  • Novel approaches to interdisciplinary and industry partnering encouraged
  • Leverage of existing CoE infrastructure in neurodegeneration research
  • Maximum of 24 month funding period, with the potential to provide the foundation for future collaborative projects if successful

The call will only fund research which has the potential to move the field forward significantly. Incremental studies, embellishment of known mechanisms or biomarker identification from known pathways will be ineligible.

4. Eligibility

  • Applications are restricted to joint bids from Investigators within identified CoEs or CHIR-eligible institutions in Canada (for a list of identified CoEs and eligible institutions for partner countries see the following link)
  • All bids must be submitted through the relevant CoE director or in the case Canadian eligible institutions, the Head of Research Office of the lead institution of the proposal.
  • Only joint trans-national research projects will be funded. Each proposal must involve researchers from at least two CoEs (or eligible institutions) from different countries.
  • More than one CoE may be involved within any single country, as long as the primary cross-border criterion is met.
  • Essential expertise can be included from outside the CoEs as an identified collaborator(s). Collaborators external to the CoEs could in principle receive funding via the lead CoE where they are providing essential expertise or resource that brings clear added value to the project.
  • Projects with cross-disciplinary elements are encouraged and collaborators from outside the field, eg. in the physical sciences, are encouraged, as are industry partners.
  • Each project should identify a Principal Applicant from each participating country. An investigator may not be a Principal Applicant on more than one project submitted through this call.
  • Consortia funded under Phase I of COEN may bid for funds for new science projects under Phase II if aligned with the scope of the call.

5. Engagement with industry

In addition to driving innovation through teams within CoEs, Phase II of the initiative aims to open avenues to new therapeutic approaches, research which should be highly attractive for industry partnership.

Pathfinder award holders will be invited to an industry showcase (held to tie in with the end of the Pathfinder cycles) where researchers would have the opportunity to present emerging findings prior to publication and potentially engage industry sponsorship for future research.

6. Funds available

The initiative will make up to £5.0m (equivalent to €5.5m or CA$7.5m) available to Pathfinders awards. Projects will be up to 24 months in duration, with total combined costs across collaborating CoEs typically in the range of £250-£500k (equivalent to €300-€600k or CA$375-CA$750k).

Detail regarding the possibility of follow-on Programme-level funding for successful Pathfinder awards will be provided in due course. The funding available will primarily support direct research costs within CoEs.

It will not provide support for:

  • Major equipment, defined as any item over £10,000 (equivalent to €12,000 or CA$15,000)
  • The salaries of tenured investigators, although funds for research staff employed on the grant will be permitted
  • Clinical trials
  • Student stipends

Each funding partner will fund the research component performed by researchers associated with CoEs / institutions within their respective jurisdiction, according to their standard Terms and Conditions. 

Partner contributions to the Pathfinder call:

Details of allowable costs, including those which may need to be exceptionally agreed, are detailed for each funding body at the following link.

7. Reporting

In addition to the standard guidelines of the relevant funding partners, including requirements for reporting the outcome of funded research, researchers will be required to provide a descriptor of the project for publication on the CoEN website, and a progress report CoEN Oversight Group after the first 12 months of the award.

8. How to apply

Applications must be submitted by email as a PDF copy of the application form to:

The application form can be found here: DOC or PDF

All applications must be accompanied by a letter of support from the Director of the lead CoE of the proposal, who must verify the eligibility of researchers in each of the partner CoEs. For applications where the lead CoE is a Canadian Eligible Institution, the proposal must be accompanied by a letter from the Head of the Research Office.

Applicants should notify their CoEN funding partner of their involvement in a proposal (see contacts below).

Where an industrial partner will be included as a collaborator, applicants must contact their CoEN funding partner to discuss terms of inclusion. Industry partnerships would be required to comply with the terms and conditions of the relevant CoEN partner.

Please bear in mind that the budgets within proposals may have to be signed off by the host institutions administrative department. Please allow sufficient time for these additional processes. Any late applications will be rejected.

The case for support must not exceed 4 sides of A4 (Point 10 verdana) and should cover the following:

  1. the rationale for the proposed study identifying gaps in existing knowledge/barriers to progress;
  2. the objectives;
  3. the justification for the collaboration including the role of each investigator and co-investigator from each partner; the added value and unique opportunity in addressing the issues identified the collaboration will provide;
  4. an overview of the methodology to be used;
  5. expected outcomes and deliverables.

Total costs for the collaborative proposal should be presented in addition to a breakdown of the costs of research to be undertaken in each participating partner country. In these breakdowns, costs should be presented in the host country’s currency and in Pounds Sterling according to the following exchange rates: Canadian Dollars £1 = CA$1.5 and Euros £1 = €1.2. Costs should be calculated according to the relevant funding partner’s standard terms and conditions.

All research undertaken must comply with the host funders’ terms and conditions with regard to:

  • Ethics and research governance
  • Data preservation and sharing
  • Intellectual property

Release of funds for successful applications will be dependent on satisfactory compliance with such terms and conditions.

The Lead Principal applicant will assume responsibility for ensuring other members of the team are appropriately informed, and will coordinate any necessary communication between the team and the funding partners.

Canadian researcher applicants will be required to submit a budget in CAD to CIHR. Please contact the Canadian contact listed below for detailed information.

9. Evaluation process

The full applications will be assessed by an international scientific review committee which will score and rank applications using the following link.

Funds will be allocated to proposals considered to be in the fundable range starting at the highest ranking until the relevant partner funding for components of the collaboration is exhausted.

Funding decisions will be taken in June/July 2013. The decisions of the CoEN partners will be final.

10. Evaluation criteria

The applications will be assessed against criteria for importance, scientific quality and value for money, in the context of the aims of the initiative of driving innovation, building productive partnerships and addressing barriers to progress. Scoring criteria can be found here.
As well as scientific innovation and excellence, the Panel will be looking for true collaboration and partnership working above and beyond that already taking place. Applicants should highlight why, in the absence of the requested collaboration and funding, the planned research could not be undertaken to the required quality level or timescale.

11. Dates

  • Launch of call 29th November 2012
  • Closing date for submissions is 4pm on Monday 4th March 2013 (GMT). Applications will not be accepted after this time.
  • Feedback of funding decisions July 2013
  • Funding take up dates 1st October 2013 - 1st January 2014
  • Please send the proposals to

12. Contacts and further guidance General enquiries:

Secretariat of the CoEN Oversight Group

For Canadian applicants:
Ms. Marilyn Desrosiers
Deputy Director, Strategic Program Design and Analytics

Canadian Institutes of Health Research
+1 613 954-6242

For German applicants:
Dr. Sarah Jewell
Head, Scientific Strategy Office

German Center for Neurodegeneration Diseases (DZNE)
+49 228 43302-501

For Flemish applicants:
Dr. Lieve Ongena
Science Policy Manager VIB

+32 9 2446611

For Irish applicants:
Dr Manus Ward
Scientific Programme Manager

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)
+353 1 607 3230

For Italian applicants:
Dr. Gaetano Guglielmi

Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (MIUR)
+39 0659942186

For Spanish applicants:
Dr. Miguel Medina
Deputy Scientific Director

+34 1964628 / 4803

For Slovakian applicants:
Lubica Pitlova
Science and Technology Division

Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic
+421 2 59374741

For UK applicants:
Dr. Katherine Giles
Programme Manager
Neurosciences and Mental Health Board

Medical Research Council
+44 20 7395-2233