Many good projects fall by the wayside for want of funds. Conversely, just because a project has been externally funded does not guarantee its excellence. Researchers with a track record of successful applications, completed projects and publications are much more likely to attract new funding. Finding such a person who will endorse your proposal or enter into some kind of collaboration will boost your chances considerably. Most funding applications will require a detailed study protocol to accompany them and ethical approval (if appropriate) to follow on. The whole process of obtaining major funding is usually a lengthy one. You may need to apply at least a year before you plan to begin the research.

Possible sources of funding (UK focus)


Many small projects suitable for practitioners will have virtually no costs other than your time in carrying them out. You should estimate realistically how much time you can devote to it. Subjects specifically recruited for clinical trials would not usually expect to pay for their treatment. As a practitioner-researcher you will either lose income or time if you treat such patients. However, case series, practice evaluation and clinical audits can often be accomplished within your normal practice routines.

Acupuncture professional bodies e.g. BAcC, AACP, BMAS, ATCM

Most professional bodies have small amounts of funding available for research projects, usually only for their own members. The British Acupuncture Council has made available £10,000 per annum in recent years. Details are on their website [LINK to funding area on members website]

Directories of funders

This was the one and only site that you needed, a huge UK government/university supported database of health-related funding opportunities. Unfortunately it no longer exists; the funding has been withdrawn

Research Council for Complementary Medicine
Miscellaneous collection

Chartered Society of Physiotherapists
Useful summary of places to look for funding, and it’s not particularly focused on physiotherapy

British Sociological Association
A list of various funders, government and charitable, though by no means comprehensive

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy
Particularly relevant to psychological therapies but many of the opportunities are more general

Royal College of Nursing
Funding opportunities suitable for nurses. Largely these relate to condition-specific organisations

British Medical Association

Centre for Health Science
A miscellaneous collection from this Scottish organization.

Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce
US government, public health bodies and large charities

Fogarty International Center (National Institutes of Health)
A directory of non-NIH funding opportunities includes a variety of international grants and fellowships in biomedical and behavioral research. Its goal is to provide information about additional funding opportunities available to those in the field of global health research.

A vast array of biomedical type funding opportunities for health professionals worldwide. A long shot for acupuncturists though they have contacted us about grants in personalized medicine.



University courses and research projects

Increasing numbers of universities in Western countries are running, or accrediting, acupuncture courses and/or carrying out acupuncture-related research. To be involved in such programmes would usually require that you enrol as a Masters or Doctoral student, or become employed for post-doctoral work. In the UK in recent years the Department of Health has awarded a number of substantial grants for CAM projects, including acupuncture, at a number of universities. These have not always been widely advertised so it is worth looking regularly through the websites of the most likely universities.

University of Technology Sydney/ARCCIM This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ARCCIM Leadership Programme providing essential mentoring and career development around Chinese Medicine research with the ultimate goal of identifying, nurturing and supporting future international CM research leaders.

Government and other large institutions

Most large scale acupuncture studies in Western countries are funded by the government or quasi-government bodies or charitable trusts. Examples in the UK are:


National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the most important such UK body for health and social care research. It supports opportunities for research training, provides project grants, and offers advice on developing research proposals – in health and social care.

Training awards

The NIHR Research Trainees Coordinating Centre  makes training awards to researchers whose work focuses on people and patient-based applied health research.
The research must be relevant to the NHS, focused on the current and future needs of patients and the public and expected to have an impact within 5 years of its completion.
There are a large range of awards available: at different levels, to suit different work arrangements, types of NHS staff and career paths.

This centre coordinates the NIRH Fellowships programme, which is open to ‘individuals working in any sector or scientific discipline who propose to undertake people or patient-based clinical and applied health research at an institution based in England’ – i.e. acupuncturists would be eligible and you do not need to be in the NHS: Of the various fellowship areas the most appropriate for acupuncturists may be with the NIHR School For Primary Care Research (NSPCR) This comprises 8 university departments, of which Southampton has a track record in funding CAM studentships. You will need a strong academic background (1st or 2.1 degree in an appropriate subject) plus a clear research idea. Students will work for a Phd/DPhil.

Funding for Projects & Programmes

The most relevant for practitioner-researchers may be the Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme. It is a good starting point for researchers with ideas that have not yet reached the scale of established programmes of research

Help in preparing grant applications

Each region of the UK has a NIHR Research Design Service that supports researchers in the development and design of high quality research proposals for submission to NIHR and other national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health research.. Users of the service do not need to have existing NIHR support before seeking help.

Health and Care Research Wales (NISCHR) is for research that will inform care and improve the health and wealth of the people of Wales.

Chief Scientist Office (CSO) offers a number of different funding streams to directly support health research in Scotland.

Public Health Agency – Health & Social Care Research and Development Directorate (HSC R&D) for funding opportunities in Northern Ireland.

UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) provides a forum to coordinate the activities of funding bodies (and develops an evidence base to inform strategic planning).

Global Alliance for Chronic Disease (GACD) provides lists of funding opportunities for one leading research body from each of the UK, US, Europe, Australia, Canada, South Africa and India.

British Academy/Leverhulme. Small  grants are available to support primary research in the humanities and social sciences.

EU Health research
This is the UK contact point for the European Research Council, which assists applicants and grant holders from the UK by providing advice on the ERC and its grant schemes

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
NCCAM is part of the US National Institutes of Health. It funds:

  • Scientific research on CAM (predominantly in the US but not exclusively so)
  • Training of CAM researchers

Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) provides the opportunity for short-term visits for pre- and post-doctoral UK researchers and researchers from Europe and North America based in the UK to conduct cooperative research with leading research groups at Japanese Universities and Institutions.



If your research relates to a specific medical condition then it is well worth approaching any associated charities. Funding is usually for small to medium projects. Again, most of the relevant bodies can be located via RDFunding.

The Health Foundation
Runs research, evaluation and improvement programmes focused on the quality of healthcare. Awards are available in most years and can be taken up by private and voluntary sector organisations as well as NHS

Arthritis UK
Various grants at different levels.

In 2013 they advertised substantial grants dedicated to CAM research though there is no indication of this being repeated on a regular basis

Asthma UK
They fund three year research grants, supporting studies designed to answer a single question or a small group of related questions about a specific aspect of asthma which has been highlighted as a priority research area. Project Grants were capped at a maximum of £180,000 (for up to 3 years) in 2013.

National Osteoporosis Society
For projects which clearly demonstrate potential benefits to people with or at risk of osteoporosis and are in line with their research strategy and priorities.
In 2013 PhD studentships, project grants and innovation awards were available: total up to £250,000.

Parkinsons UK
A wide portfolio of research including innovation grants, projects, career development awards and studentships

They look for clinically relevant research projects aimed at increasing medical knowledge and effectiveness in patient care. These should have the potential to change policy and/or practice in the UK. The vast majority of the £2.6 million annual funding goes to research teams in NHS hospitals.

Travel-related and those based on links with other countries

Butterfield awards
To encourage and facilitate exploratory exchanges and collaborations between qualified professionals in Japan and the UK, and the investigation of scientific, clinical, social and economic aspects of medicine in which Japanese and British researchers, practitioners, policy makers, managers and voluntary sector workers may learn from each other

Churchill Travelling Fellowships
If experience overseas would enhance your effectiveness in your career or field of interest

Commonwealth scholarship scheme
Scholarships and fellowships for studying in UK universities: for Commonwealth citizens

Acupuncture equipment suppliers, publishers, insurers

Theoretically they could be a source of funds but there are few known examples. They may sponsor research conferences/workshops and publishers may be interested in the proceedings and any derived articles for journal publication.

Acupuncture Meridian Studies journal awards
Awards from the Korean Pharmacopuncture Institute for excellent research articles published in this journal

Local Health Service collaboration

Doctors, especially consultants, may have access to research money that is not yet specifically allocated. It does occasionally happen that they can be persuaded to channel this into a CAM project that lies in their area of interest. Existing, or newly developed, cordial relations with such a person are obviously crucial. The doctor may or may not want to be actively involved in the work but they would probably expect to have some influence on the methodology. Be aware though, it cannot be assumed that expression of interest in your research ideas, or even a joint project or one that they instigated, will bring any money with it. However, such endorsement may be useful in looking for funding elsewhere.

Other local sources

You should make use of whatever useful contacts you have and, if necessary, try to develop new ones. Local newspapers, directories and libraries may supply leads. There may be individuals, businesses, charities or societies that could be won over to support you. Local or regional authorities sometimes invite applications for integrated health projects.