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Our areas of strategic focus

We are proud of our work and continuously innovate in order to deliver against our mission of improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Alongside the work to deliver our core workstreams, we have identified areas where the environment is changing and where we need to work with urgency and in markedly different ways if we are to tackle the health and social challenges facing people and communities today. 

In these areas of strategic focus, we aim to deliver transformative change over the next five to ten years and will be sharing information on the work we are doing in each of these areas to help deliver this.

Build on learnings from the research response to COVID-19 and support the recovery of the health and social care system

  • Through studies funded or supported by NIHR, the UK is at the forefront of the COVID-19 research effort.
  • NIHR continues to fund and support research to tackle the ongoing threat from COVID-19.
  • We must ensure the research system is ready to tackle future pandemics and other global health challenges.
  • We must help the health and social care system to recover, restore services and become more resilient.
  • We must apply learnings from COVID-19, integrating research into services and accelerating our processes.

Read more about our response to COVID-19.

Build capacity and capability in preventative, public health and social care research

  • Preventing ill health and improving public health and social care are difficult and important challenges.
  • We are working to build up research capacity, particularly in local authorities as they can affect the wider determinants of health.
  • We must draw in new communities of researchers, including those working in areas of deprivation.
  • We must research how to reach populations with the poorest health and encourage them to engage with preventative services.
  • We must increase our focus on obesity, mental health and dementia research, working in partnership with others.

Find out more about our work in social care research.

Improve the lives of people with multiple long-term conditions through research

  • More than 14 million people in England are living with two or more chronic conditions, but their needs are not well served by clinical services or science.
  • We have published a strategic framework for multiple long-term conditions (MLTC) research and are funding research to map common clusters of disease using artificial intelligence..
  • We must ensure all our processes and committee members accommodate and actively support MLTC applications.
  • We must provide and promote MLTC research opportunities and encourage researchers to collaborate across disciplines and disease areas.
  • We must deliver research that enables the health and social care system to reconfigure services, taking a whole person approach.

Read more about our work in multiple long-term condition research.

Bring clinical and applied research to under-served regions and communities with major health needs

  • People in regions and communities where the burden of need is greatest are often under-served by health and social care research.
  • We have developed a framework which identifies opportunities along the research pathway for improving inclusion of these people.
  • We must encourage and enable investigators to extend the reach of their research beyond local ‘tried and trusted’ research sites.
  • We must build the research capacity and capabilities of healthcare professionals and researchers in under-served regions.
  • We must engage communities in under-served regions in dialogue about research, building long-term relationships with community leaders.

Find out more about our under-served communities programme of work.

Embed equality, diversity and inclusion across NIHR’s research, systems and culture

  • We are committed to equality, diversity and inclusion but know we must do more to embed it in all our ways of working.
  • We have reduced barriers to career progression for female academics and developed a framework to encourage ethnic minority participation in clinical trials.
  • We must reduce inequalities in the type of research we fund, who we fund and our decision-making processes.
  • We must diversify research participants in the studies we support and the voices of those who shape our research agenda.
  • We must systematically track, report and evaluate diversity within NIHR and use these data to set appropriate targets.

Explore our EDI work and read our EDI strategy.

Strengthen careers for research delivery staff and under-represented disciplines and specialisms

  • There are groups in our research community that lack recognition and career support including nurses, midwives, clinical research practitioners and methodologists.
  • We have introduced programmes to invest in their skills and provide advancement opportunities, and we actively promote ‘team science’.
  • We must build capacity across disciplines and in statistics, data science, economics, behavioural and social sciences.
  • We must engage clinicians in research and attract research-qualified full-time clinicians back into research.
  • We must make academic career pathways attractive for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals who often lack advancement into senior research posts.

Expand our work with the life sciences industry to improve health and economic prosperity

  • We are determined to maintain and grow the UK’s share of the international clinical trials market and to be at the forefront of new technologies.
  • We have established Patient Recruitment Centres for late-phase trials and encouraged links between industry, academia and the health and care sector.
  • We must develop and promote a pan-NIHR offer for companies large and small across biopharma, diagnostics and medtech.
  • We must deepen our engagement with nascent industries such as artificial intelligence, digital health and design and help to develop new industries.
  • We must support the development of life science clusters across the country, stimulating internal investment and the rapid growth of home-grown SMEs.