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22/171 NIHR HTA Application Acceleration Award – adaptation and assessment of digital technologies for social care commissioning brief


Published: 01 December 2022

Version: 1.0 November

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The aim of the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme is to ensure that high quality research information on the effectiveness, including cost-effectiveness and broader impact of health and care interventions is produced in the most efficient way for those who plan, provide or receive care from NHS and social care services. The commissioned workstream invites applications in response to calls for research on specific questions which have been identified and prioritised for their importance to the NHS, patients and social care.

There is growing interest in the potential of digital technologies to support and improve the delivery of social care in the UK, with many local authorities exploring and investing in digital solutions. The HTA Programme plans to hold a commissioning call in 2024 for research projects that will assess the effectiveness, including cost effectiveness, of digital technology-enabled interventions deployed in social care to facilitate more widespread adoption of effective solutions through high-quality evidence.

In accordance with the remit of the HTA Programme, the call will cover:

  • technologies that are already deployed in social care in the UK, for which a rigorous qualitative and quantitative evaluation is needed to support decision-making about continued investment and/or more wide-spread adoption
  • new market-ready technologies that are ready to be deployed at scale, for which there are good reasons to hypothesise that they would improve outcomes or lead to savings without impacting negatively on outcomes

The development of new interventions will be outside the scope of this call.

The Programme recognises that developing applications for funding to assess digital technology interventions in social care will be challenging. It is expected that multiple and varied individuals and organisations will need to contribute to the design and conduct of the technology assessment, including local authorities and relevant third sector organisations, people accessing social care services, social care practitioners, academic researchers within relevant health and social care specialities, methodologists, statisticians and economists. At the moment, there is less experience in conducting technology assessments and economic evaluations in the social care domain, compared to healthcare, and thus fewer established networks that include all the requisite expertise. Moreover, in order to get meaningful results, it will usually be more appropriate to evaluate digital technologies, not as standalone interventions, but as components of complex interventions. Added to that, mixed results of past research have been attributed to an ill fit between a particular technology and the specific needs of people accessing services, which suggests that the available technologies themselves, or the way they are deployed, may need to be adapted. Some interventions will require approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Through the present Application Acceleration Award call, we are inviting applications from project teams to receive up to £200,000 to enable the development of a comprehensive research proposal for the adaptation (if necessary) and assessment of digital technologies in social care, over a maximum of 12 months.

These Application Acceleration Awards applications must include, as a key deliverable during the lifetime of the award, the production of an application to the Social Care Digital Technology Assessment 2024 call, expected to be published in 2024. It is expected that the work should also contribute to generalisable learning around quantitative and mixed-methods social care research.

Who can apply

Applications are welcome from:

  • UK local authorities interested in high-quality evidence regarding the effectiveness (including cost effectiveness) of digital technologies they have adopted or plan to adopt subject to evidence
  • third sector organisations providing social care in the UK or involved in research or advocacy aimed at supporting and improving the provision of social care in the UK
  • SMEs who supply digital technologies designed to support the delivery of social care in the UK
  • UK-based academic research institutions
  • any other UK-based bodies with direct interest and/or expertise in providing or researching social care services

Applicants responding to this call do not need to have all the expertise required for conducting the assessment of digital technologies at the time of the application. What is required is that they present a credible strategy for building – within the maximum 12-month duration of the Award - a team capable of delivering a high-quality assessment under the Social Care Digital Technology Assessment 2024 call. As part of the team building, organisations benefitting from the Application Acceleration Award may identify a Lead Applicant for the Social Care Digital Technology Assessment 2024 call other than themselves (for example, a local authority may choose not to lead the actual technology assessment and instead task an academic partner with taking on the lead while the local authority becomes one of the research partners). 

Areas of interest

This is a call of a broad nature and proposals to assess a wide range of digital technologies for social care across both children and adult services, including, but not limited to:

  • digital applications for promoting behaviour change to prevent deterioration of a specific long-term condition or improve general wellbeing
  • technologies designed to improve the personal safety and/or wellbeing of people who draw on care and support services and carers, enabling them to live independently, including after discharge from hospital, e.g. technologies aimed at preventing falls or alerting carers to a fall, geographical positioning systems (GPS), home monitoring systems
  • digital memory aids, e.g., technologies to support the taking of prescribed medication
  • digital interventions for loneliness and social isolation
  • remote assessments (child development, occupational, etc.)
  • enablers of the adoption of digital technologies, such as tools aimed at improving digital literacy and preventing digital exclusion among specific populations

Call scope

The aim of this call for applications is to support and accelerate the development of a research proposal for a technology assessment within remit of the NIHR HTA Programme.

Applicants should define and justify the specific challenges which will be addressed through the Application Acceleration Award. Examples of the types of work which may be supported include, but are not limited to:

  • developing collaborations to co-produce a research proposal and ultimately deliver a technology assessment, including a robust cost-benefit assessment
  • identifying potential technologies to be assessed and establishing signals of efficacy
  • securing input of those who experience technology as part of their care
  • ensuring ability to comply with all applicable regulatory requirements, such as authorisation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
  • addressing challenges relating to the adoption of the technologies within social care delivered by relevant local authorities in the UK, including accessibility and acceptability to people accessing social care services
  • ensuring the evaluation gives due consideration to equality, diversity and inclusion
  • adapting technologies to be assessed, if necessary, to ensure they are ideally suited to the target user group and maximise their desired impact
  • defining outcome measures through preliminary qualitative work involving service users and local authorities and/or through evidence syntheses
  • defining the methodology for the evaluation, including learning from past evaluations of complex interventions
  • making arrangements for statistical analysis
  • defining methods for an economic evaluation
  • establishing the feasibility of a study in the proposed setting

Out of scope

  • this call is for application development only - proposals that are already fully developed should be submitted to the HTA Programme researcher-led funding opportunity
  • the technology that will be the subject of the application must already exist and there must be some initial evidence (signals of efficacy) that its use could be beneficial in the intended setting - the acceleration funding is intended for selecting the most promising technologies among commercially available or market-ready options e.g., by conducting an evidence synthesis and/or adapting the technology (developing a tailored protocol, working with manufacturers to change specific settings, etc.)

Making an application

If you wish to submit an application for this call, the online application form can be found on the funding opportunities page.  To select this call, use the filters on the right of the screen or search using the call name and/or number.

Your application must be submitted on-line no later than 1pm, 26 July 2023. Applications will be considered by the HTA Funding Committee at its meeting in September 2023. Applications received electronically after 1pm on the due date will not be considered.

Guidance notes and supporting information for HTA Programme applications are available.

Successful teams will be expected to start their Application Acceleration projects before the end of 2023.

A key deliverable must be the submission of a full research application when the Social Care Digital Technology Assessment Call is published in early 2024. The full research applications will be assessed in two stages. Initial shortlisting is expected to take place in the summer of 2024. Authors of the shortlisted applications will be invited to submit a further developed application, taking account of feedback from the HTA Funding Committee in the Autumn/Winter of 2024. Those who are successful in the second stage will need to be ready to start their technology assessment projects in the first half of 2025.

Additional support

The NIHR will be holding a webinar to discuss this call on 2 February 2023, 10.30 - 11.30am. The webinar will be followed by virtual clinics from 11.45am - 2pm. This will provide an opportunity for potential applicants to discuss their proposed research with the NIHR team and RDS colleagues. Applicants may register to attend just the webinar by emailing their name and institution to, however, if you would like to also join a clinic, please email in a 1 page PICO summary of your proposed project to before 20 January 2023.

As places are limited, we will then review the submissions and confirm whether you have a place. The intention is for the one-page summary to provide a basis for discussion at the clinic. Please note that there is no guarantee of funding by attending a clinic; the purpose of the clinics is to offer assistance, and advice to potential applicants.

Important information for potential (Co-)Applicants intending to join more than 1 project team

For commissioned topics, the Programme strongly discourages the practice of the same Co-Applicant joining more than 1 competing team. There may be unusual circumstances where the same person could be included on more than 1 application e.g. a lead from a named charity or a unique national expert in a condition.

For such exceptions, (i) each application needs to state the case as to why the same person is included, (ii) the shared Co-Applicant should not divulge application details between teams and (iii) both teams should acknowledge in their application that they are aware that 1 of their Co-Applicants is part of a competing application and that study details have not been shared.

Should you have any queries please contact us: