Rare Diseases Research and Innovation Catalyst Awards (RDCat) 2023

The scheme will provide stimulus funding to create a more supportive environment for rare disease R&I, regardless of disease area, with the aim of increased capacity for pre-clinical, clinical, population health and health services research, and to promote clinical trial readiness. 

Investment should catalyse R&I activity in Ireland, and drive significant engagement with the planned new Rare Diseases Partnership. The award can provide targeted research support for ERN sites in Ireland as they transition to active members of the ERNs. It should enable RD research stakeholders to engage in collaborative research and other transversal research activities under the Rare Diseases Partnership, including on research data infrastructures, and identifying patient priorities for research. 

RDCat activities should link to international efforts as appropriate, and support early-career researchers to build further capacity for rare disease research in Ireland.  

The HRB award is intended as a strategic and focused investment and must demonstrate added-value above and beyond any research activities, collaboration or networking that is currently taking place. 

Information Session:

Ahead of launching this targeted scheme, the HRB held an in-person Information session on Thursday 23rd Feb for key stakeholders in the rare disease research community, a representative from each ERN active in Ireland, as well as charity representatives and data infrastructure experts.  The purpose of the Information session was twofold: 

  • To provide information on the planned European Partnership in Rare Diseases and to focus on a number of relevant initiatives.  
  • To provide an overview of the proposed HRB call, and an opportunity for attendees to provide feedback or seek clarifications on this targeted investment. 

The agenda for the session included 3 presentations: 

  1. Dr Caitriona Creely, Programme Manager HRB, presented on the background to the proposed Rare Disease Catalyst Award call and planned European Partnership in Rare Diseases 
  2. Professor Rachel Crowley, Consultant Endocrinologist / UCD Clinical Professor, presented on the Rare Disease Clinical Trial Network (RD-CTN) 
  3. Professor Eileen Tracey, Clinical Lead of the National Rare Diseases Office (NDRO), presented on European Reference Networks: Research Opportunities 

The three presentations are linked to the right of this page.  

Additional Information

Out of scope for this scheme: 

  • Funding for individual research projects, trials and interventions is not provided*.  
  • Building work, fit-out of buildings, or major pieces of equipment. 
  • Applications which are solely or predominately developing the infrastructure for biobanking, databases or patient registers.**  
  • Direct costs of biobanking. 
  • Applications from individuals applying for, holding, or employed under a research grant from the tobacco industry.  

* Funding for individual rare disease research projects, or trials and interventions is not provided through this award. Such funding is expected to come through separate, competitive sources (such as the HRB Definitive Interventions and Feasibility Awards scheme, HRB Investigator-Led project grants, HRCI/HRB Joint Funding Scheme, EJP-RD and ERAPerMed Joint Transnational Calls among others ).  

**Due to the critical importance of having a sustainable funding model and appropriate governance for patient registries, this RDCat Award should not be used to establish new registries or to subvent the costs of maintenance of existing registries.  Consideration can be given, however, to expanding and optimising the use of registries to support rare disease research. Patient registers should be funded through other mechanisms and may count as co-investment as long as they are aligned with ERN standards and intended to be interoperable.

The award must commence in 2023, and the earliest start date is 1 December 2023. 


One application should be made on behalf of a consortium of individuals and organisations, that is representative of a national endeavour and can credibly lead this initiative on behalf of the Irish rare disease research community, including representation of the ERN clinical sites. 

The Lead Applicant and Co-Applicants must come from a variety of different centres in Ireland. The RDCat call requires researchers from three or more centres/organisations in Ireland to be eligible to apply. The appropriate number of centres/organisations involved will depend on the scale and nature of the proposed activities. 

In addition to typical HRB eligibility requirements, the Lead Applicant for the RDCat call is expected to be active in rare disease research, and with experience of health service delivery in Ireland. 

The Lead Applicant must

  • Hold a post (permanent or a contract that covers the duration of the award) in a HRB recognised Host Institution in the Republic of Ireland. For clinicians, an adjunct position in a HRB recognised Host Institution is acceptable or 
  • Be a contract worker recognised by their Host institution as a person who will have a dedicated office space for the duration of award, for which they will be fully responsible, or 
  • Be an individual who will be recognised by their Host Institution upon receipt of the award as a contractor as defined above. The Lead Applicant does not necessarily need to be employed by the Host Institution at the time of the application submission.  
  • Please note, this call is not open for Host Institutions from Northern Ireland. 

Applications must be completed and submitted through the HRB online Grant E-Management System (GEMS) (https://grants.hrb.ie/)  and this system will close automatically at the deadline. 

The application must have been reviewed and approved by the signatory approver at the research office (or equivalent) in the host institution before it is submitted to the HRB. Therefore, applicants should ensure that they give the signatory approver sufficient time before the scheme closing date to review the application and approve it on GEMS. Please note that many host institutions specify internal deadlines for this procedure. 


Dr Caitriona Creely

Head of International Cooperation, Evaluation and Targeted Programmes