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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Highlight Notice




  • The Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme is inviting proposals from eligible individuals and research teams for collaborative research projects to better understand and manage the health and social care consequences of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD). We are particularly interested in populations in the North East of England (NE) where there is a high disease burden and which has been historically underserved by research activity.
  • To support capacity building, all proposals to this call must include an early career researcher in the NE as a co-lead applicant.
  • This call is an important part of the Programme's strategy to fund high-quality and timely evidence and to support research at the source of patient need. Through this highlight notice we are looking to support networking activities that will open up new cross- and inter- disciplinary research agendas and develop new national collaborations between researchers in the COPD research field. 
  • The call offers researchers considerable flexibility to focus on any subject area or topic providing that it falls within the COPD highlight notice remit. We particularly encourage ambitious and novel research proposals addressing new concepts and techniques and those with the potential for significant scientific or societal and economic impact, as well as developmental work potentially leading to such research. 
  • We are keen to encourage fresh ideas from new researchers and appropriate proposals are welcomed from those with limited research experience (early career researchers) when supported by an experienced, strong and multi-disciplinary team.
  • Our funding decisions are based on a number of criteria including quality, timeliness, potential impact and value for money. 
  • The call is for proposals up to £350,000 for a period of up to three years. 
  • Proposals should be submitted to competition 45 under the highlight notice.


Proposals should be within RfPB scope and the scope of the COPD highlight notice.

Applications should be co-produced with service commissioners, providers and service users wherever appropriate to better ensure findings are of immediate utility in policy and practice. Applicants may wish to consult the NIHR INVOLVE guidance on co-producing research.


The Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme is inviting proposals to investigate any aspect of the diagnosis, treatment, support or care of patients with COPD, including access to or the delivery of services. Research methods may involve primary research or evidence synthesis, including systematic reviews, modelling studies or the analysis of existing datasets.

Proposals have to clearly identify the research context of their proposal in terms of recent and currently funded UK and international research in the area and the potential impact of their proposed research for patients, carers and the NHS. 

Themes of interest include but are not limited to:

  1. Treatment of COPD and exacerbations in adults, including: antibiotic therapy, use of systemic steroids, inhaled therapies for people with COPD including inhaled corticosteroid responsiveness, and strategies for optimising the delivery of non-invasive mechanical ventilation (NIV)
  2. Home-based management of COPD 
  3. Pulmonary rehabilitation during hospital admission for exacerbation and/or in the early recovery period
  4. Ways to better support COPD patients to tell the difference between an exacerbation and day-to-day symptom variation.

These themes have been based on the research priorities identified by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the European Respiratory Society and in consultation with the leading respiratory medicine experts.

Research following patient need

The focus of this highlight notice is to study populations with a high disease burden and which have been historically underserved by NIHR research activity. We plan to do so by facilitating national collaborations and by bringing COPD research expertise to places with high disease prevalence. Special consideration should be given to inclusion of socio-economic and other hard-to-reach and/or disadvantaged groups that are more affected by COPD.

The maps below are provided to illustrate the mismatch between regional research activities (measured by patient recruitment per 100,000 patients) and prevalence of COPD in England in the past 10 years (2010-19).

Call details

Requirements for applications submitted under the highlight notice

  • The notice is open to researchers at all career stages from across England and standard eligibility rules will apply as detailed in the Applicant guidance
  • To encourage early career researchers* (ECR) to lead on RfPB awards, we require ECRs from the NE region to be included as either the lead applicant or joint lead applicant.  ECRs will have to be supported by a senior researcher (who may be from outside of the North East) who will act as joint-lead applicant, supported by  a strong research team. So if you intend to apply under this highlight notice but you are not an ECR you will need to partner with such a researcher based in the North East region to co-lead the project with you.
  • We expect the host institution to be in the North East region. 
  • We expect the lead applicant to establish national collaborations with research organisations outside the North East region, where appropriate.
  • Patient recruitment to the study must take place from the North East region, however this can be in conjunction with sites located in other regions. The choice of recruitment regions and sub-localities has to be justified in relation to the size of patient burden. Applicants are advised to use a mapping tool, such as the Research Targeting Tool, to demonstrate how the planned recruitment sites fit with prevalence/patient burden. The platform is open to anyone who has an NHS email address or University email address. For more information about the tool please contact  

* For this highlight notice we consider any researcher who has not yet been the principal investigator for a substantial award (£100,000+) to be an early career researcher.


The call is for applications up to £350,000 (100% direct costs for NHS and 80% full Economic Cost (fEC) for HEI) for a period of up to three years. Detailed information on eligible costs can be found in the RfPB’s Finance guidance.

How to apply

Facilitating national collaborations - networking events

  • Potential applicants need to pre-register their interest. By doing so they agree to sharing their details among the participants of this networking event.  
  • Registered participants will be invited to participate in a call launch event on 7th December 2020 followed by a series of parallel structured networking events the same day, hosted online.
  • The aim of each event is to facilitate the identification of research opportunities for collaboration (i.e. identifying recruitment sites and other infrastructure), initiate building collaborations between researchers from the NE and other regions with expertise in COPD, and present the local Clinical Research Network (CRN NENC) and Research Design Service (RDS) support available to the researchers. So, if you have a good proposal but no contacts in the NE region we want to support developing and linking colleagues together. 

Register for call launch event

Assessment process and criteria

  • The applications submitted under the highlight notice will undergo routine scrutiny along with other applications submitted to Competition 45. Proposals submitted under the highlight notice will be assessed on their quality and individual merits according to standard RfPB scheme criteria. Reviewers will also be asked to consider fit to the highlight notice including collaborative approach and justification for recruitment site(s).
  • Proposals will be considered by a cross-disciplinary expert assessment Panel drawing on members of other RfPB Committees and/or other experts as appropriate. 
  • The standard RfPB two stage application process will apply to proposals submitted under this notice. Templates of Stage 1 and Stage 2 application forms are available. 

Call timetable

Activity Date
Pre-registration to research topics / networking groups Deadline 16 November 2020
Networking events 7 December 2020
Competition 45 and Highlight Notice - call launch 24 March 2021
Competition 45 and Highlight Notice - call close 14 July 2021 - 1pm
Invited to Stage 2 decision October 2021
Funding decisions March 2022

Please contact for further queries.