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  commissioning and funding research focusing on improving outcomes for health and social care

Research Programmes

Our main priority is to make sure that funding for research is focused where it is needed and provides quality outputs and value for money through a totally transparent and accountable system.

Our systems for processing research funding applications and the commissioning of research are currently being standardised. A number of the NIHR programmes are co-ordinated and managed by the NIHR Central Commissioning Facility (CCF) and the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC).

CCF managed programmes

Programme Grants for Applied Research
Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR) are prestigious awards directed towards leading researchers who can demonstrate an impressive track-record of achievement in applied health research. Each programme funds a series of related projects, which form a coherent theme in an area of priority or need for the NHS. The amount awarded and the length of the funding period will depend on the nature of the proposed work, in particular whether or not the proposal includes a substantial powered trial. Although, funding in excess of £2.5million over more than 6 years will be unusual.

Nested within the PGfAR programme is the Programme Development Grants scheme. This initiative offers investigators the opportunity to undertake preparatory research that will position them to submit a competitive Programme Grant for Applied Research application.

Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme
The RfPB programme is national response-mode programme for high quality investigator-led research projects that address issues of importance to the NHS. It funds research into everyday practice in the health service. All proposals must show evidence from systematic reviews to ensure patient safety and value for money.

Funds are available on a population basis. Applications are assessed and processed by Regional Committees. The Regional Committees cover each of the ten Government Office regions. Applications are accepted at any time and are considered at the next available Regional Committee. All researchers in England are eligible to apply. Joint applications from NHS researchers with academic partners are welcome although funding will normally be awarded to the NHS partner.

Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme

The Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme aims to support and advance the development of innovative medical technologies for the benefit of patients in the NHS in England and Wales.
The i4i programme funds projects lasting 1-3 years that aim to develop viable medical product prototypes. There is no funding limit for projects - the amount of funding awarded is determined by the scale and nature of the research activity to be conducted. The i4i programme supports collaborative research and development between at least two partners from industry, NHS organisations and universities or other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and for a proposal to be eligible for an award, the project team must comprise researchers from at least two of these sectors.
The i4i programme’s application process has recently been simplified. Previously applications were required to be submitted to either early- or late-stage product development award streams but all applications will now be submitted through a single route and assignment to early- or late-stage product development will be undertaken by the NIHR i4i sub-panels as part of the review process. All applicants invited to submit a full proposal are required to present a high level summary to the Selection Panel and take part in a question and answer session.

NETSCC managed programmes

Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme
The HTA programme funds research to ensure that healthcare professionals, NHS managers and the public and patients have the best and latest information on the costs, effectiveness and impact of developments in health technology. The programme:

  • Commissions response-mode Clinical Trials to investigate issues that are directly relevant to clinical practice in the NHS. 
  • Commissions primary research and assesses the effectiveness of new technology through Technology Assessment Reviews for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
  • Works with the NIHR Clinical Research Network to identify and fund clinical trials of importance to a network's topic area.

Public Health Research (PHR) Programme
The Public Health Research (PHR) programme commissions research to provide new knowledge on the benefits, costs, acceptability and wider effect of non-NHS interventions e.g. prevention of obesity in children and speed humps for the prevention of road traffic accidents

The PHR programme mainly works in responsive mode, taking applications for both primary and secondary research and assessing them at regular intervals. The programme funds primary research at all phases but especially pragmatic evaluation studies.  

The Health Services and Delivery Research Programme  
The Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) programme funds a broad range of research to produce rigorous and relevant evidence on the quality, access and organisation of health services, including costs and outcomes, to improve health services.

The HS&DR programme has two work streams:

  • Health services research (HSR) - focuses on research into the quality, appropriateness, effectiveness, equity and patient experience of health services.
  • Healthcare delivery research (HDR) - focuses on evaluating models of service organisation, delivery, and interventions, which have the potential to improve service effectiveness, efficiency and productivity.  

Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme
The EME programme is broadly aimed at supporting 'science driven' studies with an expectation of substantial health gain and aims to support excellent clinical science with an ultimate view to improving health or patient care. Its remit includes clinical trials and evaluative studies, in patients, which evaluate clinical efficacy of interventions and which may also add significantly to our understanding of biological or behavioural mechanisms and processes. The EME programme funds research through two work-streams:

·      Commissioned work-stream - commissions research about the effectiveness, costs and broader impact of healthcare treatments and tests. There are three calls for proposals a year. The Commissioned work-stream is funded by the NIHR with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, the NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

·      Researcher-led work-stream - is an on-going research funding opportunity funded by the MRC, which considers research questions proposed directly by researchers.

Other Programmes

National Horizon Scanning Centre
The National Horizon Scanning Centre appraises new technological developments to provide the Department of Health and policymakers with information on their implications to the NHS both in clinical and economic terms. The centre's appraisals include new medicines, medical devices, diagnostic tests and procedures, surgical and other interventions, rehabilitation measures and new public health and health promotion messages.


We seek the input of skilled and experienced individuals, across a variety of fields, and through a variety of channels to assure the quality of our research, we rely on the help of individuals to review:

  • research and commissioning briefs
  • research proposals
  • final reports of research findings.

Our community of reviewers play a vital part in maintaining and improving the quality of our programmes’ projects and outputs. Reviewers are sought from a variety of fields, including academics, clinicians, public health professionals and those who work in, and use, NHS services. Consultant grade medical reviewers may be interested to know that reviewing for the NIHR is a recognised contribution to research and innovation and can be referred to in domain 4 of any submission for a Clinical Excellence Award.
If you would like to know more about being a reviewer you can find out more in our role of the reviewer document
If you could help our programmes by commenting on short briefing papers, reviewing full proposals or reports of research findings, please complete our online registration form and email it back to