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24/20 NIHR Application Development Award for Health and Care Professionals - commissioning brief


Published: 23 January 2024

Version: 1.0 - January 2024

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We are seeking to commission up to ten Application Development Awards (ADA) to carry out development work prior to research applications, with a requirement for applicant teams to involve Health and Care Professionals (HCP).

Through these ADAs and other HCP specific initiatives, we are offering more opportunities for HCPs to develop as highly skilled researchers and research leaders, and to move towards a more multi-professional approach to addressing the health and care challenges of today and the future.

The Health and Care Professionals (excluding doctors and dentists) eligible for this ADA call are listed below and must hold registration with one of the listed HEE/NIHR ICA Programme approved regulatory bodies or have plans in place to hold the required registration by the proposed award start date:

  • nurses (including nurses that work in social care)
  • midwives
  • pharmacists
  • healthcare scientists
  • Allied Health Professions


Despite the large numbers of HCPs working in practice, the proportion who facilitate, deliver and lead research remains low. For example, in 2017 clinical academics were represented by 4.6% of the NHS medical consultant workforce and less than 0.1% of the nursing, midwifery and allied health professions. One of our seven strategic areas of focus, as articulated in Best Research for Best Health – The Next Chapter, is ‘Strengthening careers for research delivery staff and underrepresented disciplines and specialisms’. In addition, the recent House of Lords Science & Technology Committee inquiry into NHS clinical academics recommended that government research funders, such as NIHR, should ensure that applied health and care research is accessible to a wider range of health and care professionals.


NIHR has committed to increasing research opportunities for HCPs, including those at early to mid-career research stages, through a range of new and expanding activities. As part of this commitment, we are advertising the first in a series of Application Development Awards (ADA). Funding of up to £150,000, over a maximum of twelve months, is available for each ADA. Applicants will need to justify how funds are to be used; please see the separate HCP ADA guidance notes for more details.

For the purposes of this ADA funding opportunity, the following definition of early-mid career researcher applies:

Individuals who have recently been, or are about to be awarded a PhD, or who have equivalent demonstrable years of research knowledge and experience


are a registered professional within one of the target Health and Care Professionals groups (as listed above) who have not yet been the chief investigator for a substantial award (£100,000+)

The objective of the ADA funding is two-fold:

Firstly, to establish a collaborative group, assembled predominantly from any combination of the HCPs named above, in order to design, plan and prepare for a research project. To enable development of the capacity and capability of these underrepresented professions in research leadership, ADA teams should contain a mix of experienced clinical and practitioner academics, along with less experienced HCPs, where this application will support their potential to become a research leader of the future. Other professions, for example doctors, dentists, methodologists, can be included in the ADA team to support the design, planning and preparation but the balance of the team is expected to focus on developing research capacity of the above-named underrepresented professions in order to fulfil the spirit of the call.

Secondly, the ADA funding should support activities that build and develop academic/practitioner research networks whilst carrying out preliminary scoping and preparatory work for research that will build the evidence base that underpins practice. The ADA funding is expected to support and inform a subsequent research application to any of the domestic NIHR research funding programmes (EME/ESP/HSDR/HTA/i4i/PGfAR/PHR/RfPB/RPSC), via their researcher-led workstreams or any relevant research funding opportunities. The future intentions of the applicant team should be made explicit in the ADA application, describing a clear pathway to a future high-quality NIHR research application submission, with the expectation that an HCP would be the Lead Applicant, or Joint Lead Applicant of the subsequent application.

These ADAs offer opportunities for HCP early-mid career researchers to access NIHR research funding through use of the joint applicant facility, along with a more senior colleague fulfilling the role of mentor and Lead/Joint Lead Applicant, and with support from a wider team. We will expect to see details of mentorship plans and arrangements within the application. The Lead Applicant or Joint Lead Applicants, will be responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of the proposed ADA activities and will manage the funding in accordance with the NIHR standard research contract. Lead applicants may be based in any appropriate host institution or organisation within the UK e.g. Local Authorities, NHS or voluntary organisations, Universities and HEIs.

We strongly encourage ADA applications which focus on geographical areas, health and care settings and populations where health and social care needs are greatest, as well as research areas of national priority.

Suggested ADA activities could include but are not limited to:

  • Development of new academic and/or practitioner networks or partnerships to support anticipated research. For example, across or within regions or geographical areas, service delivery organisations, patient/user/carer experience groups. N.B. These will need to be independently sustainable beyond the ADA contract end, as ongoing funding will not be available.
  • Activities to build HCPs leadership knowledge, skills and ability
  • Identification, development, analysis, feasibility or mapping work in a specified priority area of research interest.
  • Workshops to build on already identified areas of priority to refine research questions, methodology and study design.
  • Identification and engagement of relevant stakeholders. For example, with specific communities, policy makers, occupation groups, patients and the public.

Additional guidance

  • There will be future opportunities to apply for an HCP ADA. However, successful applicants already in receipt of ADA funding will not be eligible to reapply for additional funding for the same programme of work.
  • Successful applicants will be expected to be working towards gaining the necessary contractual agreements and governance approvals required to start the project within eight months of a decision to fund notification, or by a date mutually agreed by both parties on acceptance of the award.
  • The NIHR portfolio already contains some examples of funded ADAs. Whilst the focus will be different to this opportunity, there may be some valuable insight into the scale, scope and activity.
  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to make early contact with the NIHR Research Support Service. They provide free and confidential advice to develop funding applications within the remit of the NIHR, supporting a broad range of research designs, from pre-application through to post-award delivery, as well as providing specialist topic or methods expertise. There are also specialist centres with expertise in public health and social care research.


The purpose of these HCP ADAs is to deliver the proposed development activities, including dissemination to a range of audiences, leading to timely, full-scale subsequent NIHR research applications. As a result, it is important that a complete account of each ADA is made available as soon as possible to support and inform applicants applying to future research funding opportunities.

Successful ADA applicants will be expected to produce a single research article of the commissioned work, two weeks after the contract end date, for publication in one of NIHR publication platforms.

In addition, NIHR supports teams to produce audience-appropriate outputs, such as a variety of digital formats (e.g., podcast, video, social media) including related articles to third-party journals, but the publication of the research article cannot be delayed to accommodate this.