This site is optimised for modern browsers. For the best experience, please use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Prioritised support for urgent COVID-19 research

Find out how COVID-19 studies are prioritised for NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) support

In March 2020, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the NIHR set up a UK-wide portal for applying for funding and/or prioritised support for urgent public health research into COVID-19. Our goal was to gather the necessary clinical and epidemiological evidence to inform national policy and enable new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to be developed and tested.

As of 1 July 2020, the NIHR portal is only for studies that already have funding and require prioritised CRN support.  Researchers seeking funding can apply through NIHR research programme researcher led calls which welcome COVID-19 research within the remits of their programmes.

Studies submitted through the portal must be urgent in nature, which means that they need to be prioritised for delivery during emergency phases of the COVID-19 pandemic when infection rates are high. They will be assessed against the following criteria:


A five step process has been established:


Apply by completing the High priority COVID-19 Urgent Public Health Research Prioritisation Application form, providing as much information as you can at this stage. If you have difficulty accessing the form please email Please refer to the guidance notes for additional information, including a list of the questions that are in the application form.

If you are planning a systematic review, please be especially careful to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort as many reviews are already underway. Before applying, please check with the PROSPERO register. We encourage people planning and doing systematic reviews to collaborate rather than compete with each other. Applications will require justification showing the special contribution that the review will make, that it is not an unnecessary duplication of effort and that the work represents good value for money.

If you are planning a clinical trial, it is critically important to include the relevant core outcome sets for COVID-19 as indicated on the COMET website.


Your application will be reviewed and prioritised by the the Urgent Public Health group, who may signpost you to appropriate resources such as platform studies. Following this review, DHSC determines whether studies shortlisted by the group should be accorded Urgent Public Health national priority status. The whole process is highly expedited and can take as little as five working days.

Chaired by Prof Nick Lemoine, CRN Medical Director, the Urgent Public Health group has over 50 members including healthcare professionals and research experts from across the four nations and patient representatives. DHSC originally asked the group to focus on therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics and the collection of samples and data from people undergoing treatment. Now that more research capacity is becoming available, the group has been asked to broaden its focus to include the most urgent questions relating to serious mental health problems such as suicide, self-harm and eating disorders. A group of mental health experts has been brought together to support this additional work, meeting for the first time on 22 April 2020.


The set-up and delivery of COVID-19 Urgent Public Health studies given national priority status by DHSC is expedited by all necessary organisations across the research, health and social care systems including the HRA.


The NIHR coordinates oversight of all nationally prioritised COVID-19 studies to optimise set-up and delivery.


The NIHR is a signatory alongside other funders, researchers and publishers committing to ensure that research findings and data relevant to COVID-19 are shared rapidly and openly. Full details of this commitment can be found here.

The NIHR is a member of the Research to Access Pathway for Investigational Drugs for COVID-19 (RAPID-C19) group, working alongside the MHRA, NHSE/I, NICE and representatives from the devolved nations, to ensure safe and timely patient access to medicines useful in treating patients with COVID-19 infection. By joining forces in horizon scanning, liaison with companies and investigators, consideration of study results, and availability of product, members of the RAPID-C19 group aim to significantly speed up the time it would otherwise take for a product to move from research into broader access for patients, while keeping to their individual statutory roles.