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NIHR Development and Skills Enhancement Award - Chairs Report Rounds 4-6


Published: 23 December 2021

Version: 1 - December 2021

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The NIHR Academy launched the first round of Development and Skills Enhancement Award (DSE) Award in 2019 as part of the newly restructured NIHR Fellowship Programme, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. 

The new NIHR Fellowship Programme supports individuals with the potential and on a trajectory to become future leaders in NIHR research. The programme has been designed to support people at various points in their development to become leading researchers; from initial pre-doctoral training right through to senior post-doctoral research. Four different types of Fellowship are available:

  • Pre-doctoral Fellowship
  • Doctoral Fellowship
  • Advanced Fellowship
  • Development and Skills Enhancement Award

The DSE Award is a post-doctoral level award aimed at supporting NIHR Academy Members to gain specific skills and experience to support the next phase of their research career. The award supports a mixture of applications in areas of strategic importance and researcher led applications.

Strategic Themes

We have a number of strategic areas which we are keen to develop expertise in, although all applicants do not necessarily need to target these areas. If you are proposing training which fits within one or more of these themes you should indicate this on the application form.

These themes are:

  • Health data science
  • Clinical trials
  • Entrepreneurship and working with industry

Development and Skills Enhancement (DSE) Award Rounds 4-6

The DSE Award launches three times a year in May, September and January. Each round is open to applications for approximately 3 months. Following the close of competition, the NIHR Academy check all applications for eligibility to identify applications clearly outside of NIHR remit. All eligible applications are then assessed by 3 individual selection committee members.

A funding recommendation meeting is held to discuss the applications and make recommendations for funding. Following review of the indicative budget for the programme, NIHR Academy will then request approval from the Department of Health and Social Care for the applications that can be accommodated. 

In the second year of the DSE Award we received 47 applications, 25 of which were awarded funding, further details are available in Annex A.

We are pleased to see applications from a wide range of NIHR Academy Member and from a broad range of professional backgrounds (Annex A). We would like to see more applications from academy members who are keen to collaborate with industry and during Rounds 4-6 opportunities were offered with 3 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) providing bespoke training programmes for Academy Members.

Selection Committee Observations

During the funding recommendation meetings, the selection committee made a number of observations about the applications received.

Career Stage

The DSE award is a post-doctoral level award aimed at supporting NIHR Academy members to gain specific skills and experience to support the next phase of their research career. Whilst not ineligible, we wouldn’t expect professorial level applicants to require this award. For applicants at a more senior academic level, i.e. Chair or Pre-Chair, there must be a clear justification why the training in your application is required. There should also be a clear explanation of why the support for such training is not available through your host organisation.

Matched funding

There is an expectation that host organisations will match the level of support provided by NIHR. If this is not the case then the level of host support will be assessed as part of the application review process.

In terms of NIHR funding the maximum award duration is 1 year therefore matched funding can be used in two ways:

  1. Cover 50% of costs over 1 year.
  2. Extend the award beyond the time funded by NIHR. For example Year 1 costs covered by NIHR and Year 2 by Host organisation.

Please note that collaborating partners, such as an industry partner or a Clinical Trials Unit, is not expected to provide match funding, this is an expectation of the host organisation.

Lack of matched funding does not necessarily mean that the award will not be funded. No applications have yet been rejected due to the lack of matched funding.

Host Organisation Support

NIHR see the responsibility for training the next generation of research leaders as a joint enterprise with host organisations. Therefore information should also be provided on the organisation’s track record of supporting early career researchers, such as evidence of bridging or other support provided to fellows upon completion of an award.

In addition, the statement should also describe the host organisation’s approach to creating and maintaining an inclusive and supportive research culture for all.  The statement should provide evidence of how the organisation values and supports equality, diversity and inclusion as well as acknowledging the organisation’s responsibilities with respect to research integrity.

Statements may wish to refer to the principles and best practice outlined within relevant Charters and Concordats in these areas, such as the Researcher Development Concordat and Advance HE’s Equality Charters.  It should be noted that being a signatory to Concordats or holding bronze/silver status from the Equality Charters is not a requirement of funding and evidence can be provided through other means.

Useful Resources for Prospective Applicants

NIHR DSE Award Guidance Notes are available from the NIHR website. These provide full details of the DSE Award scheme, including the eligibility requirements, the funding available, the required employment arrangements and the assessment criteria used by the DSE Selection Committee when reviewing applications. Guidance Notes should be read in full before starting an application.

Please note that updated Guidance Notes are published with the launch of each new competition. Applicants must ensure that they are referring to the most recent version when making an application.

Current and Previous NIHR training award holders are listed on the NIHR webpages and may be a useful resource for prospective applicants wishing to link in with other nonmedical clinical academics.

Annex A: Development and Skills Enhancement Award Summaries

Table 1. Strategic Themes

Strategic ThemesRound 4 AppliedRound 4 FundedRound 5 AppliedRound 5 FundedRound 6 AppliedRound 6 FundedTotal AppliedTotal Funded
Clinical trials 6 4 8 5 5 3 19 12
Health data science 3 3 3 1 6 2 11 5
Industry 1 0 4 1 3 2 8 3
Researcher led 4 3 2 1 3 1 9 5
Totals 4 3 2 1 3 1 47 25

Table 2. Professional Backgrounds

Professional BackgroundsRound 4 AppliedRound 4 FundedRound 5 AppliedRound 5 FundedRound 6 AppliedRound 6 FundedTotal AppliedTotal Funded
Medically qualified 5 4 5 2 4 2 14 8
Dentist 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nurse 2 1 0 0 4 2 6 3
Midwife 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Allied Health Professional 2 2 2 2 3 2 7 6
Other Registered Health Professional 2 0 2 0 5 2 9 3
Not A Registered Health Professional 3 2 7 3 1 0 11 5
Total 14 9 16 8 17 8 47 25

Table 3. NIHR Academy Membership

NIHR Academy MembershipRound 4Round 5Round 6Total
NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship 2 1 3 6
NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow 3 4 2 9
NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellowship 0 1 0 1
NIHR Post Doctoral Fellowship 3 2 0 5
Research Support Post (NIHR Clinician Scientist) 1 0 0 1
NIHR Clinical Lectureship 4 4 6 14
NIHR Senior Clinical Lectureship 0 0 1 1
NIHR Career Development Fellowship 1 1 1 3
Infrastructure 0 3 4 7