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Eligibility for NIHR Clinical Research Network support


Published: 21 January 2020

Version: January 2020 v1.2

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To access NIHR Clinical Research Network support in England, and be included on the NIHR CRN Portfolio, studies must satisfy the requirements of the Department of Health and Social Care established Eligibility Criteria (PDF).

The eligibility criteria were expanded in January 2018 to include research taking place outside traditional NHS settings. This change in policy was introduced to better reflect the environment and services that people access and live in today. This means that the NIHR can now support the delivery of funded health and care research taking place in settings such as care homes, hospices, schools, prisons, or other social care and public health environments.

Eligibility requirements

All studies, regardless of type, must:

  • Meet the definition of research (as outlined in the Department of Health and Social Care Eligibility Criteria (PDF) as follows:
    “Research can be defined as the attempt to derive generalisable or transferable new knowledge to answer or refine relevant questions with scientifically sound methods. This excludes: audit; needs assessments; quality improvement and other local service evaluations. It also excludes routine banking of biological samples or data except where this activity is integral to a self-contained research project designed to test a clear hypothesis.”
  • Have appropriate ethical approval; and Health Research Authority (HRA) approval where required
  • Have full research funding (i.e. funding to meet all Research Costs in compliance with the AcoRD guidance

The source of research funding is the principal determinant of eligibility:

Automatically eligible funding streams

Studies funded through open and nationally competitive grant calls administered by the NIHR, other areas of central Government (including UK Research and Innovation and the Research Councils) and NIHR Non-commercial Partners are ‘automatically eligible’ for NIHR CRN support.

Find out more about how to become a Non-commercial Partner

Potentially eligible funding streams

Investigator-initiated, commercial-collaborative research (Industry-funded, non-industry sponsored) studies, and studies funded by overseas governments or charities are ‘potentially eligible’ for CRN support, and are required to  to undergo additional eligibility checks,  via the non-commercial extended review process, to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria.

A study is not eligible if it:

  • Does not meet the eligibility criteria definition of a ‘research study’, eg. if it is one of the following activities:
    • Audit
    • Needs assessment
    • Quality improvement
    • Other local service evaluation
    • Banking of biological samples or data except where this activity is integral to a self-contained research project designed to test a clear hypothesis
  • Does not have appropriate ethical approval
  • Does not have full research funding
  • Is funded by a training award that is not a recognised part of a research career pathway or by another funding source that does not meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Is fully funded by and conducted within another NIHR research infrastructure i.e. Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), Applied Research Collaboration (ARCs), Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC), Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC), Clinical Research Facility for Experimental Medicine (CRF), Medtech and In Vitro Diagnostics Cooperative (MIC). Please see our eligibility frequently asked questions for further information.

NIHR Non-commercial Partners

NIHR Non-commercial Partners are organisations that:

  • award research funds as a result of open competition across England with high quality peer review;
  • fund research that is of clear value to the NHS, social care or public health; and
  • take appropriate account of the priorities, needs and realities of the NHS, social care or public health in making decisions about the research that they fund.

The NIHR Non-commercial Partner list details all of the funding organisations that meet the NIHR Partner criteria.

Details of how an organisation becomes an NIHR Partner, and the benefits of becoming a Partner, can be found here.

Eligibility for infrastructure support in other UK administrations

Each of the four UK Health Administrations that use the Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS) have developed their own criteria for determining which studies can be supported and included in their respective portfolios. Details of the eligibility criteria for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be found via the links below:

  • Scotland: NHS Research Scotland (NRS)
  • Wales: Health and Care Research Wales (HCRW)
  • Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network (NICRN)