The development needs in different areas are likely to be very distinct. How will the Incubator model fit with this?
The development needs are indeed likely to be different in different areas. For example, some areas are new and emerging with small numbers of early career researchers who would benefit from networking, peer support and mentorship, whilst other areas struggle to attract people into academic pathways and mechanisms that raise awareness and promote the benefits of research would work well here. The intention is for the incubators to be “bespoke” to meet the needs for each area. The development approach should reflect this. What will be common to all incubators is the desire to attract and support the brightest people in the field. This is likely to include the development of national networks.
We are already working with a Royal College on capacity development. Does this preclude us from working with the NIHR Academy on developing an Incubator?
Absolutely not! We anticipate that most if not all Incubators will be developed in collaboration with relevant area partners. The NIHR Academy does not aspire to run Incubators, we are there to facilitate and nurture them. This approach will really benefit from partnership working. How we work with partners will vary and we therefore will remain flexible in our approach to incubator development.
If we have an incubator will we get more PhD fellowships?
NIHR and other funders already have plenty of fellowship and other opportunities. The challenge we face is where there are low numbers of competitive applications in priority areas. Incubators are principally designed to encourage people into areas to access existing funding opportunities, and to support the development of project applications. There will be potential to increase award numbers in incubator areas if incubators are highly successful.
How will you decide on the areas for Incubators?
Incubator areas can be proposed by anyone and will need to demonstrate the importance of the research area, and the extent to which the proposed incubator will build research capacity and capability. There will then be a remit-checking step, a scoping exercise and, if the idea is supported, a working/steering group will be established which is likely to include NIHR Academy members such as NIHR Senior Investigators and Research Professors. The final decision about support for, and the nature of the proposed incubator will be made by the NIHR Academy Strategy Group.
We feel that the problems with recruitment in our field originate from lack of awareness of the field at undergraduate level. How will the model help with this?
We agree that in a number of areas, problems with capacity originate with lack of awareness and interest generation during undergraduate stages. Incubators will be encouraged to work proactively with university bodies to increase awareness of, and exposure to research in the relevant areas.
What professions are the incubators aimed at?
NIHR is committed to multi-professional working. Incubators should support a range of professional groups relevant to their area where possible.