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NIHR CRN and NIHR HTA collaboration results in stronger research applications

NIHR CRN and HTA competition has resulted in stronger research applications, collaboration between specialty groups and cross-cutting approaches.

Published: 24 August 2022

Producing high quality research applications

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) has worked with the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme to develop a competition which ensures funding programmes finance the most appropriate and needed research. The partnership was a natural fit. The HTA grant scheme is one of the largest funders of health and social care research in Europe and funds many grants each year. HTA grants can often total more than £2 million. The NIHR CRN has an engaged community of researchers, health and care professionals who are skilled in delivering research and understand current healthcare research needs, who therefore can produce pertinent research applications.

The competition

Together the CRN and HTA produced a competition for NIHR specialty groups to apply for support creating and supporting briefs for HTA commissioned calls. This competition is highly needed to improve the funding of vital research answering big questions in a deliverable way. The competition involved CRN specialty groups developing a convincing bid that they could then develop with the HTA team into a research question while internally prioritising the specialty’s research project.

For the CRN specialty groups the competition enabled them to gather a better understanding of HTA processes. For the HTA, the competition resulted in higher quality applications with specialty groups being given a better understanding of HTA requirements, clinical know-how and study deliverability.

The result of the competition

The competition has proved to be incredibly useful raising greater awareness of the HTA as 20 of 30 NIHR CRN specialty groups submitting bids. Ten specialty group bids were selected and were considered robust ranging from respiratory, mental health to musculoskeletal.

The competition caused CRN groups to take novel approaches, resulting in pertinent and cross-cutting areas such as multimorbidity and mental health/physical health overlaps applications.

The competition also resulted in better collaboration between the individual specialty groups. Specialty groups developed internal prioritisation exercises and ranked their own best ten ideas. For instance, respiratory has many working groups across a diverse range of areas who could have submitted briefs including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchiectasis and interstitial lung disease. The specialty came together to rank their best five research questions, enhancing the resources that could be designated to each bid.

The suggested study designs, which have been developed as a result of this competition, lead commissioned calls that are open in national competition. These commissioned calls have a higher success rate than researcher-led grant submissions. 47% of specialty selected Patient/Population, Intervention, Comparison and Outcomes (PICO) ideas are now going through the system to be reviewed by HTA.

Ultimately, this programme will enhance research funding applications and ensure that the most needed research for patients and the public will be chosen.

Upcoming HTA funding opportunities

The HTA and CRN competition is an ongoing process. The HTA has various funding opportunities. View the latest HTA funding opportunities.

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