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NIHR Infrastructure SPARC (Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration): Where Can I Go?



You can undertake a SPARC placement anywhere across the NIHR as long as you get agreement with the host first - the list below is by no means exhaustive and focuses on NIHR Infrastructure Sites only. What follows are some ideas that have been suggested as potential placements. You will still need to contact the host and arrange this yourself, but we hope this gives you some idea of what might be possible.  This document will continue to be updated as we receive more ideas for placements.

NIHR Infrastructure

1. Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs)

1.1 BRC University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

The Bristol BRC comprises 5 themes: Cardiovascular Research, Nutrition, Surgical Innovation, Perinatal and Reproductive Health and Mental Health.

Alongside these, it has noteworthy expertise in epidemiology, biostatistics and evidence synthesis.

The two departments in the newly formed Bristol Medical School have an excellent track record of supporting trainees and training at all levels and run a world class short course programme.

We would be delighted to host doctoral students and/or postdoctoral researchers who would be interested in coming to Bristol.

1.2 BRC Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust

Please see link above to the various themes in our BRC.  We feel that there are strengths within each of these and Lab placements within the portfolio of programmes

As there are no links to the Theme leads, please see these below:

Cardiovascular disease – Professor Ajay Shah

Cutaneous Medicine – Professor Jonathan Barker

Genomic Medicine – Professor Richard Trembath

Infection and Immunity – Professor Mike Malim

Imaging Sciences - Professor David Edwards

Transplantation – Professor Steven Sacks

Oral Health – Professor Paul Sharpe

Regenerative medicine and cellular therapy - Professor Fiona Watt

Women and Children’s Health – Professor Lucilla Poston

In addition to this there are projects within our Clinical Research Facility and our platforms, such as GMP and Flow.

Here are some of our Project supervisors and highlights from our BRC:

Andy Shennan

Nick Hart

Maddy Parsons

Gideon Lack

Giovanni Lombardi

John Maher

Andy Cope

Leonie Taams -

1.3 BRC Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

  1.       Advanced imaging through MRI, MRS using 1.5T, 3T and 7T imaging
  2.       Biomarker development which includes computational and molecular pathology pipelines to transform multiplatform biomarker testing into clinical decision making tools.
  3.       Microbiology and synthetic biology research includes our Clostridia Research Group and H. pylori group and the Pseudomonas group
  4.       Musculoskeletal Ageing Research facilitates in vivo human, whole body physiology investigations
  5.       Population based cohort studies (4 REF2014 Impact case studies) underpin epidemiology research

1.4 BRC University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Main themes: Nutrition and Respiratory health

The centre has two main, linked themes: 1) Lifecourse Nutrition, Lifestyle and Health, for further information please contact Professor jane Lucas and

2) Respiratory and Critical Care, for further information please contact Dr Mark Johnson.  We provide a vibrant environment supported by enthusiastic and caring supervisors and an effective mentorship scheme.

Lifecourse Nutrition, Lifestyle and Health

The Lifecourse Nutrition, Lifestyle and Health theme addresses major challenges to our nation's health including childhood obesity, liver disease and alcohol-related illness, cancer linked to obesity and healthy, independent ageing. Work in this Theme examines these issues at three stages of life: 1) from before pregnancy to adolescence; 2) adulthood; and 3) older age. For further details, contact Professor Keith Godfrey.

Expertise and strengths for placement:

The Lifecourse Nutrition, Lifestyle and Health theme team offers the following:

  • Expertise in nutrition and epigenetics
  • Skills in the assessment of nutrition and lifestyle related liver disease
  • Experience of mother-offspring nutritional cohort and intervention studies
  • Expertise in nutrition as it relates to healthy ageing
  • Training in communicating research stories to teenagers, as part of work to strengthen nutrition literacy in young people.

Respiratory and Critical Care

The Respiratory and Critical Care Theme addresses common problems that affect millions of people like asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, tackles rare lung diseases for which therapies are limited, and will discover new ways of improving the management of critically ill patients. Work on these topics involves three aspects, from better prevention of disease, through earlier and more accurate diagnoses, to developing treatments personalised to each individual including managing end-of-life care with dignity. For further details, contact Professor Ratko Djukanovic.

Expertise and strengths for placement:

  • Full breadth of cutting-edge research, from basic (laboratory-based) to clinical science, across all the major lung disease areas (respiratory allergy, respiratory infections, chronic airways diseases (asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, cough), critical care, rare lung diseases (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, primary ciliary dyskinesia, cystic fibrosis), lung cancer.
  • Expertise in key diseases across the life-course (e.g. asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and intensive care in children and adults).
  • An excellent inter-disciplinary research environment: collaborations with engineers, chemists, mathematicians, psychologists, respectively to build novel methods for study of disease ex vivo (experiments on relevant tissue outside the body), discover and test new chemicals to intervene in critical disease pathways, develop new mathematical models to group different types of data and thereby identify and elucidate the mechanisms of new types of disease groups, and develop psychological interventions to improve management of chronic diseases.
  • Close collaboration between basic and clinician scientists, ensuring availability of patient samples to study disease mechanisms from both a disease mechanism and clinical perspectives. This provides excellent opportunities for trainee scientists and clinicians to learn about each other’s areas of interest.

Cross-cutting themes

Three important areas of research are common to our nutrition and respiratory themes:

  • Data science: Using large amounts of clinical and research data to improve treatments and health
  • Microbial science: Fighting microbial infections and overcoming antibiotic resistant bacteria
  • Behavioural science: Supporting people in healthy behaviours and choices

 Data science

 With patient agreement we are making the most of patient information available in the NHS system and from research studies. We aim to help doctors make better, faster decisions on individuals’ treatment through new approaches to combining and analysing data from, for example, admissions to hospital, scans, genetic and biochemical results. For further details, contact Professor Karen Temple.

Expertise and strengths for placement:

  • Integrating omics data for personalized medicine
  • NHS data standards for research
  • Machine learning approaches to disease stratification
  • Ethical impacts of research using data

 Microbial science

A growing number of bacteria and fungi resistant to antibiotic drugs threaten to make currently treatable infections and routine surgery lethal. We’re combining genetic techniques to identify new drugs with an approach exploring use of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut and upper airways to fight infection and improve health.

To do this we’ve brought together experts in engineering, microbiology and physical sciences, and initiated groundbreaking studies of infectious diseases. For further details, contact Professor Rob Read.

Expertise and strengths for placement:

  • Experimental human challenge: design, recruitment and procedures
  • Microbiome analysis
  • Experimental models of human infection
  • Biofilm measurement and manipulation

Behavioural science

Supporting people in making choices that improve their health, and that of their families, is critical to wellbeing and our productivity as a nation. Through a new Centre for Participatory Medicine, we are combining digital, educational and face-to-face methods of offering support into new ways of improving control of respiratory diseases and reducing obesity and malnutrition. For further details, contact Dr Mary Barker

 Expertise and strengths for placement:

  • Expertise in digital intervention development and testing
  • Skills in running effective PPI
  • Experience of research in educational environments
  • Training in skills to support behaviour change in individuals and organisations.

1.5 BRC South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Theme 1: Novel Therapeutics

Theme Lead: Professor Allan Young

Project Team: Centre for Affective Disorders:  CRiB Study

Prof. Allan Young collaborating with senior academics across IoPPN and clinicians in SLaM.

Project Lead: Professor Allan Young

Areas of expertise / specialist skills offered by the placement opportunity:

Clinical Trials, Psychological Therapies, Cognitive Remediation, Neuroimaging, Bipolar Disorder Clinical interviewing, neuropsychological assessment, neuroimaging, data analysis

Project website address:

Theme 2: Substance Use

Theme Lead: Professor Sir John Strang

Project Team: The Heroin Overdose and Reversal Experimental Study group: Professor Sir John Strang working with other professors and senior academics within the Addictions group and collaborators.

Project Lead: Professor Sir John Strang , working with Dr Caroline Jolley, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine; and with Prof Ben Forbes and Dr Paul Royall (Institute Pharmaceutical Sciences) for development of prototype overdose reversal medications. 

Areas of expertise / specialist skills offered by the placement opportunity:

Development of skills working on the interface between addictions studies and respiratory and emergency medicine, also experimental studies developed and undertaken in partnership with patient groups and active clinicians.

For overview of the rationale, see:

Theme 3: Biomarkers & Genomics

Theme Lead: Professor Cathryn Lewis

Project Team: Statistical Genetics Unit

Project Lead: Professor Cathryn Lewis

Areas of expertise / specialist skills offered by the placement opportunity:

Statistical genetics, genetic association testing, polygenic risk scores. In collaboration with the trainee, we will develop a project based on polygenic risk scores for psychiatric and neuropsychiatric disorders, exploring how these could be moved from research studies to the clinic.   

Project website address:  

Theme 4: Clinical and Population Informatics

Theme Lead: Professor Robert Stewart

Project Team: Clinical Informatics in the BRC Nucleus

Project Lead: Professor Robert Stewart

Areas of expertise / specialist skills offered by the placement opportunity:

Analysis and interpretation of ‘big’ healthcare data. Applied natural language processing.

Project website address:  

Theme 5: Neuroimaging

Theme Lead: Professor Steve Williams

Project Team: Neuroimaging department at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

Project Lead: Professor Steve Williams

Areas of expertise / specialist skills offered by the placement opportunity:

Exposure to psychiatric neuroimaging research across the lifespan. S/he will be given the opportunity to engage in their choice of one or more projects from a choice of over 80 protocols currently underway.  

Project website address:

1.6 BRC Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust

The National Institute for Health Research Great Ormond Street Hospital Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR GOSH BRC) aims to accelerate discoveries into the basis of childhood rare diseases and to develop novel diagnostics, imaging techniques and new treatments, including cellular and gene therapies. The NIHR GOSH BRC is the only centre of its kind dedicated to paediatric research with research focused around the following four key research themes; Gene, Stem, and Cellular Therapies, Genomics and Systems Medicine, Novel Therapies and their Translation into Childhood Diseases and Advanced Treatments for Structural Malformation and Tissue Damage.

For more information on the NIHR GOSH BRC please visit our website:

1.7 BRC University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Our UCLH BRC research themes are comprehensive and internationally recognised:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Inflammation, Immunity and Immunotherapeutics
  • Neurological disease
  • Dementia
  • Mental health
  • Obesity
  • Oral health and disease
  • Deafness and hearing

These research themes are underpinned by cross-cutting themes:

  • Healthcare Engineering and Imaging
  • Healthcare Informatics, Genomics/Omics, Data Science
  • Education – the BRC Experimental Medicine Academy
  • Patient and Public Involvement, Engagement and Communications

1.8 NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre – Translational Neuroscience for Chronic Neurological Disorders


NIHR Sheffield BRC has NIHR Infrastructure Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC) opportunities in the following areas:

Predictive medicine technologies. These approaches are particularly effective when mechanistic knowledge has a significant biophysics component. INSIGNEO will host fellows interested in learning how to integrate and model quantitative phenotyping of balance, movement, and muscle force expression, combined with biomarker data from target diseases. Specific placements may cover: a) Instrumental quantification of neuromuscular and neuromotor deficits, b) Use of wearable sensors as part of a clinical motor functional assessment, c) Patient-specific modelling as a tool to quantify neuromotor degeneration.

Advanced Imaging. The Sheffield BRC will host fellows interested in applying advanced imaging techniques to provide diagnosis, prognosis, provision of mechanistic information, and imaging biomarkers to aid development and evaluation of new therapeutic interventions. Specific placements may cover different MR sub-modality techniques, acquisition protocols and analysis tools including:31P, 22Na multinuclear spectroscopy; 1H spectral editing; endogenous perfusion, macrovascular flow, advanced diffusion, fMRI & resting-state fMRI; multi-contrast carotid plaque characterisation.

Genomics and Bioinformatics. Clinical research centres are now routinely generating genomics and omics datasets that necessitate specialist training, not taught as part of traditional medical curriculum. We address the need for quantitative and computational skills to enable clinical researchers to design appropriate experiments, interpret and explore their data, build vocabulary and so forge more effective collaborations with Bioinformaticians. The Sheffield Bioinformatics Core, together with the cross-cutting genome analytics group, as part of the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre, provides a rich training environment for and best-practice data analysis in clinical genomics and research. We welcome fellows with an interest in developing their skills in this area to apply to their own research area.

If interested in a SPARC opportunity at NIHR Sheffield BRC please contact the training lead Oliver Bandmann ( or the BRC Manager Miss Jodie Keyworth

1.9 BRC Imperial College Healthcare Trust

Research Themes:

  • Brain Sciences
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular
  • Gut Health
  • Infection & Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Immunology
  • Metabolic Medicine and Endocrinology
  • Surgery & Technology

 Cross Cutting Themes:

  • Imaging
  • Informatics and Biobanking
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Molecular Phenomics

1.10 BRC Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

The Leeds BRC is a collaboration between Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and the University of Leeds.  The Centre is built around the existing strengths in rheumatology, bioengineering, regenerative medicine and imaging.

Facilities include

Research dedicated Musculoskeletal Imaging Facilities, including 3T MRI and  Ultrasound

State of the Art Gait and Motion Analysis Laboratory

Leeds Institute for Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine

Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

Psychometric Laboratory (Rasch Analysis)

Leeds Institute for Clinical Trials Research

1.11 BRC Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

  • NIHR Newcastle BRC have particular expertise in relation to ageing and long-term conditions.
  • Research activity includes projects relating to care of older people with ageing syndromes including sarcopenia and to the following themes relevant to ageing:
    • Dementia (including Dementia with Lewy Bodies)
    • Liver disease
    • Musculoskeletal disease
    • Neuromuscular disease (including mitochondrial disease)
    • Skin and oral disease
    • Ageing syndromes;  such as sarcopenia, frailty and multimorbidity including trials related to these conditions. For more information please contact Professor Avan Sayer or Professor Miles Witham
  • Our BRC has an expertise in relation to patient and public involvement in research design, delivery and dissemination
  • Our researchers have access to world-class facilities based at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University Medical School and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals. See more at

1.12 BRC Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

The Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and Institute of Cancer Research comprises six research themes:

 There are also two cross-cutting themes:

If interested in a SPARC opportunity, please contact the Training Lead, Dr Naureen Starling, the Clinical Research Operations Manager, Mark Terry and the relevant Theme Lead as outlined on the website.

1.13 NIHR BRC University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

The NIHR Leicester BRC is hosted by Leicester’s Hospitals, in partnership with the University of Leicester and Loughborough University.

The NIHR Leicester BRC is at the frontier of research into illnesses linked to respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and the consequences of inactivity. Our overall purpose is to translate scientific breakthroughs in these areas into diagnostic tests, preventions and life-saving treatments for our patients.

Our centre consists of three research themes:

  •         Cardiovascular
  •         Lifestyle
  •         Respiratory

 1 cross cutting theme:

  •         Precision Medicine

1.14 NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre

The NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre is a joint partnership between Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London.

1. Research Themes:

1.1      Inherited Cardiovascular Disorders

Our translational genomics research platform is exceptional with one the largest rare inherited disorders clinical services. Our strategy capitalises upon the 100,000 Genomes Project.

Research Lead: Panos Deloukas

Expertise and strengths for placement:

  •       Expertise in genetic markers for coronary heart disease
  •       Integrating multiomics and phenotyping for medicine

For further details, please contact Professor Panos (Panagiotis) Deloukas


1.2 Cardiovascular Devices and Innovative Trials

This research theme aims to exploit the potential of translational non-invasive/implantable devices by contributing to the establishment a UK based one-stop device centre that integrates a faculty of world-leading academics, bio-engineers, and industry partnerships in collaboration with Yale University, USA.

Research Team: John Deanfield , Andreas Baumbach, Alexandra Lansky, Anthony Mathur

Expertise and strengths for placement:

  •       Expertise in innovative trials, cardiovascular devices and new technology
  •       Strong academic and industry network

For further details, please contact Professor Anthony Mathur

2. Cross-Cutting Themes:

2.1  Barts BioResource (Incorporating Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging and Bioinformatics)

The BBR is home to one of the UKs most cutting-edge advanced cardiovascular imaging and bioinformatics facilities with its infrastructure based on a state-of–the-art multi-petabyte data centre platform.

Research Lead: Steffen Petersen

 Expertise and strengths for placement:

  •       Expertise in phenotyping using advanced cardiovascular imaging
  •       Bioinformatics skills in BioResource

For further details, please contact Professor Steffen Petersen

1.15 NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre

The Oxford BRC focuses on translational research, meaning first time studies of medical innovations in patients, to improve healthcare delivery for all. Our research is divided into 20 research themes covering all areas of therapy and includes developing new technology and devices as well as behavioural approaches to healthcare.

Antimicrobial Resistance & Modernising Microbiology


Clinical Informatics & Big Data

Diabetes & Metabolism

Gastroenterology & Mucosal Immunity

Genomic Medicine

Haematology & Stem Cells


Molecular Diagnostics

Multi-modal Cancer Therapies

Multimorbidity & Long-Term Conditions


Neurological Conditions

Obesity, Diet & Lifestyle


Stroke & Vascular Dementia

Surgical Innovation & Evaluation

Technology & Digital Health

Vaccines for Emerging & Endemic Diseases

Partnerships for Health, Wealth & Innovation


1.16 NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Our Manchester BRC research themes include:

Advanced Radiotherapy:

Our Advanced Radiotherapy research team is working to embrace technological advances and develop biomarkers to predict the effectiveness of different types of radiation and drug-radiation combinations, as well as helping to minimise the risk of long-term side effects.

Expertise & strengths for placement opportunities:

  • Personalised targeting of hypoxia for radiotherapy patients
  • Developing new radiotherapy-immunotherapy combinations
  • Improving radiation delivery
  • Identifying the genetic basis for benefit from protons


Cancer Prevention and Early Detection:

Our research will reduce the burden of common cancers with a strong inherited component. We will develop screening strategies and biomarkers to identify cancer sooner, match an individual to the prevention treatment most likely to work for them and, in some cases, our work will even help to prevent conditions progressing into cancer in the first place.

Expertise & strengths for placements opportunities:

  • Developing and improving models for risk stratification
  • Obesity-related cancers
  • Developing new imaging and molecular biomarkers
  • Early detection

Our themes training leads are Prof Andrew Renehan ( and Dr Emma Crosbie.


Research is truly translational and reflects the bedside-to-bench approach; we use qualitative and quantitative methodologies to advance our understanding, and treatment of, human skin disease.

Expertise & strengths for placement opportunities:

  • Psoriasis and inflammatory skin disease
  • The photodermatoses (disease mediated via the skin’s interactions with sunlight)
  • Hair biology including alopecia
  • Wound healing

For more information, contact the Dermatology theme training lead Professor Rachel Watson.

Cancer Precision Medicine:

The Manchester NIHR BRC Cancer Precision Medicine theme focusses on playing to our international strengths and includes developing biomarkers to support the use of novel treatments aimed at awakening the patient’s immune system to fight their cancer, so we know which patients to treat and minimise risk of treatment toxicities.

Expertise & strengths for placement opportunities:

  • Treatment selection and monitoring of treatment response
  • Optimising immunotherapies
  • Monitoring residual disease

For more information, contact the Cancer Precision Medicine theme training lead Dr Robert Clarke

Hearing Health:

The Manchester NIHR BRC Hearing Health theme research programme spans prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It will improve the lives of children and adults by preventing potentially devastating congenital deafness, diagnosing acquired age-related deficits and developing new treatments.

Expertise & strengths for placement opportunities:

  • Developing genetic and genomic solutions
  • Optimised assessment and diagnosis
  • Diagnosing paediatric auditory deficit
  • Developing engineering solutions and optimising outcomes

For more information, contact the Hearing Health theme training lead Dr Piers Dawes


The Manchester NIHR BRC Musculoskeletal theme has a strong track record of musculoskeletal research having had one of only three musculoskeletal NIHR Biomedical Research Units (BRU) previously, which undertook translational clinical research in musculoskeletal disorders. The BRU work forms the basis from which the research described in the BRC musculoskeletal theme is built.

Expertise & strengths for placements opportunities:

  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Childhood arthritis
  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Degenerative joint disease

For more information, contact the Musculoskeletal theme training lead Dr Ben Parker


The Manchester NIHR BRC Respiratory theme research will build a better understanding of the underlying causes of these conditions, develop blood and sputum tests, as well as biomarkers in breath, which detect and more accurately characterise respiratory disease and infection. This will enable an earlier and more personalised approach to treatment and test new drug compounds aimed at novel targets to cure or improve serious lung diseases and minimise symptoms.

Expertise & strengths for placements opportunities:

  • COPD
  • Improving respiratory symptoms
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory infections

For more information, contact theme training lead Dr Riina Richardson

These research themes are underpinned by cross-cutting themes:

Informatics and Data Sciences:

The Manchester NIHR BRC Informatics and Data Sciences theme research involves patient-driven data from mobile and wearable technologies and using such technologies enable frequent measurement of disease and lifestyle patterns. Computerised connections between patients, clinicians and researchers also provide smarter ways to run experiments.

Expertise & strengths for placement opportunities:

  • Drives of change – inefficient silos of discovery and experimentation
  • Target position – research strengths borrowed across themes
  • Disruptive advance – integrative system-wide methodology

For more information, contact the BRC Training Coordinator Jane Crosbie

Biomarker Platforms:

The Manchester NIHR BRC Biomarker Platforms research will use biomarkers to develop tests and techniques (including imaging, genomic, DNA or blood protein measurements) that can be used to aid clinical decisions/stratify patients into specific groups so they can receive the most appropriate care.

Expertise and strengths for placement opportunities:

  • Biomarker discovery and development with the Research Themes;
  • Accelerating the biomarker discovery to clinical use through our closely aligned infrastructure.

For more information, contact the BRC Training Coordinator Jane Crosbie

Rapid Translation Incubator:

The Manchester NIHR BRC Rapid Translational Incubator is responsible for signposting researchers to operational support and providing oversight to ensure that research is rapidly translated into clinical practice. The RTI brings together key infrastructure essential to the design and delivery of clinical studies, as well as the commercialisation of new healthcare products.

For more information, contact the BRC Training Coordinator Jane Crosbie.

We would be delighted to host early stage researchers who would be interested in coming to Manchester.

1.17 NIHR Cambridge BRC

A partnership between Cambridge University Hospitals and the University of Cambridge.  Based on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, it combines on a single site scientific research in world-class institutes, patient care in NHS hospitals and drug discovery in pharmaceutical companies.

Research Themes

Research at the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre is divided into a number of therapeutic areas described as themes with several cross cutting research themes. The core priority for the NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre is translational medicine, delivering science from the bench to the bedside.

Antimicrobial resistance - Theme lead: Professor Gordon Dougan

Cancer - Theme lead: Professor Richard Gilbertson

Cardiovascular and respiratory disease - Theme lead: Professor Nick Morrell

Dementia and neurodegenerative disorders - Theme lead: Professor Roger A Barker

Gastrointestinal disease - Theme lead: Professor Arthur Kaser

Integrative genomics - Theme lead: Professor Lucy Raymond

Mental health - Theme lead: Professor Ed Bullmore

Metabolism, endocrinology and bone - Theme lead: Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly

Neuroscience - Theme lead: Professor Patrick Chinnery FMedSci

Nutrition diet and lifestyle - Theme lead: Professor Nick Wareham

Population and quantitative science - Theme lead: Professor John Danesh

Transplantation and regenerative medicine - Theme lead: Professor Ludovic Vallier

Women’s health and paediatrics - Theme lead: Professor Gordon Smith and Theme lead: Professor David Rowitch

Cross-cutting research themes

The cross cutting themes provide specialist knowledge and expertise across the whole of the Biomedical Research Centre helping them to undertake and deliver the best research possible.

Capacity building - Theme lead: Dr Menna Clatworthy

Clinical Research Facilities - Theme lead: Professor Krishna Chatterjee

Imaging - Theme lead: Professor Fiona Gilbert

Inflammation, infection and immunotherapeutics - Theme lead: Professor Ken Smith

1.18 BRC Birmingham University hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Birmingham BRC would be pleased to host SPARC research trainees.  We have an excellent clinical environment and research infrastructure at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham.

We have research themes covering a number of inflammatory conditions (arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, inflammatory liver diseases and sarcopaenia) underpinned by three cross-cutting themes in trial design & delivery, diagnostics & biomarkers, and entrepreneurship & commercialisation.

Diseases of the immune system, which can lead to persistent inflammation, are a group of common and highly disabling conditions which share underlying disease processes. They affect up to 10% of the UK population and this figure is likely to increase with our ageing population. Unfortunately treatment is expensive, rarely curative and often associated with disabling side-effects such as infection.

We are carrying out studies in patients with inflammatory disease in which we are:

1)   Exploring the disease processes that drive these conditions

2)   Focusing on mechanisms that are shared between different conditions allowing us to design rational treatments that will benefit many more patients;

3)   Developing new biomarkers that allow us to select the best new treatment for each patient

4)   Testing new treatments that switch off or re-calibrate the overactive immune system that underpins these diseases.

Please contact  for more information about SPARC placements in Birmingham


2) Collaborations for Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRCs)

2.1 CLAHRC South London

We would be keen to host SPARC candidates at S London CLAHRC, where our work encompasses:

Implementation science and research through NIHR CLAHRC South London which includes Kings Improvement Science and Centre for Implementation Science, and an active Implementation and Improvement Science research group based at St George’s, University of London

Design of trials of complex interventions and process evaluation.

The Health Informatics team can offer the following training:

  • Decision aid methods and tooling
  • Expertise in developing auditable and reproducible solutions
  • GP EHR integration environment
  • Technologies for semantic mapping
  • Links to Digital Catapult London and their SMEs

For further information visit:

2.2 CLAHRC West Midlands

  • Range of themes (Maternity, Mental Health, Prevention and Detection, Chronic diseases, Organisational studies and Research Methods)
  • Practical implementation and evaluation of research combined with expertise in trial design and complex evaluations
  • Expertise in organisational development and change
  • Focus on youth mental health

2.3 CLAHRC Wessex

The CLAHRC Wessex - implementation science and healthcare data analytics

  • Operational Research applied to health and social care
  • Computer and mathematical modelling of urgent and emergency care
  • Computer and mathematical modelling of community services
  • Machine learning and forecasting
  • Computer simulation
  • Mathematical optimisation

2.4 CLAHRC East of England

CLAHRC EoE has six research themes: Innovation and evaluation of population health interventions; Patient and Public involvement research; Health Economics; Patient safety; Enduring disabilities and disadvantage; Dementia, frailty and end-of-life care. Our researchers are based across the region at the University of Cambridge, University of Hertfordshire and University of East Anglia.

We would welcome SPARC placements in a specific research theme, with the possibility to combine it across three different HEIs. We would also welcome placements across themes, e.g. specific aspects of dementia research with PPI and health economics.

Please contact Prof Eneida Mioshi as a first point of contact for the SPARC call:

2.5 CLAHRC Northwest London

Our vision is for researchers, healthcare staff, patients, carers and the community to work in partnership on real world problems. Over the last 10 years we have produced and developed methods in areas such as patient, public and community engagement and involvement (PPCEI), capacity and capability building, measurement for improvement, eLearning and a systematic and transferable approach to support the translation of evidence into practice and achieve improvements in health and social care for patients and the population in NWL and the UK.

CLAHRC NWL would be keen to host SPARC candidates who are keen to share learning and improve their knowledge in the areas of our expertise which include:

  • Understanding and applying the tools and techniques of improvement and implementation science. We have expert researchers who have published on the quality improvement tools and techniques, their uses, fidelity of use and have developed and adapted techniques such as the Driver Diagram (the new Action Effect Diagram and method), process mapping, Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) or small cycle change, sustainability tool (Long Term Success) and stakeholder engagement. Contact Julie Reed
  • Patient, public and community engagement and involvement is a priority within our work and we have academic and practical expertise. We have an exchange network where we meet regularly with a network of patient, public and community members who advise us and our programme, we also are conducting research on this and the best ways in which to engage and build relationships with stakeholders. Contact Rachel Matthews
  • The measurement of improvement is key within our programme and we have both practical and academic expertise in understanding the processes of identifying and collecting data for improvement, engaging with frontline staff to enable and encourage their data collection (both process and outcome measures) and building their capacity in using run charts, SPC charts and enabling routine data review to drive improvement. Contact Tom Woodcock
  • Emergency care and urgent care is a specialism within our work, we work in close contact with the Urgent Care Collaborative and have experience in ambulatory care projects, virtual wards and other innovations that can help facilitate the challenges currently faced by emergency medicine. Contact Mila Marinova
  • Capacity building is a priority for our programme and we have extensive experience and learning to share on using Collaborative Learning Theory, Action Learning Theory and a range of interactive pedagogies to build capacity and skill in using improvement science on the frontline, we have both practical and academic research experience in understanding the best ways to facilitate and support improvement science. Contact Rowan Myron
  • Clinical specialities – Heart Failure, child population health, breathlessness, multi-morbidities and frailty. Contact Liz Evans

2.6 CLAHRC South West Peninsula

PenCLAHRC has 5 broad themes: Person-centred care, Mental health and dementia, Diagnostics and stratified medicine, Healthy people, healthy environments, Evidence for policy and practice.  Within these areas we have particular expertise in child health and ageing and rehabilitation

In addition we have methodological expertise in the following areas:
(a) Operational research and modelling
(b) Evidence synthesis
(c) Implementation science

Please contact Vicki Goodwin as a first point of contact

2.7 CLAHRC West

Our applied health research aims to provide equitable, appropriate, and sustainable health and care across the West. The programme focuses on projects that improve the management of chronic health conditions, mental health, public health interventions and population health. Our researchers are based in five teams, focused on their expertise in research methodologies: effectiveness, efficiency, epidemiology / health services research, ethnography and evidence. All our research projects have the cross-cutting themes of evaluation, patient and public involvement, and training and capacity building, running through them. Research projects are carefully selected from ideas and projects submitted from our health and care community.

Examples of research projects in the above areas are shown below:

Effectiveness  -Understanding self-harm using Bristol Self-Harm Surveillance Register data

Efficiency:    Optimal testing in GP practices; evaluating of an integrated respiratory service

Epidemiology / health services research: Preventing post-operative urinary retention

Ethnography: an evaluation of the implementation of the National Early Warning System in pre-hospital settings; evaluating an emergency department checklist to improve patient safety and care;

Evidence- Avoidable hospital admissions in people with dementia

There is particular expertise in the following methodological areas:

  • Evidence reviewing and/or synthesis
  • Analysis of routine NHS data
  • Qualitative implementation research
  • Improving recruitment to randomised controlled trials (Quintet)

For a full list of current research projects see the website.

Initial Contact: Professor Selena Gray, Capacity Development Lead .

2.8 CLAHRC North West Coast


  • CLAHRC NWC aims to make sure that all of our activities have the potential to contribute to reducing inequalities in health.  We have a body of expertise in all aspects of addressing health inequalities including development of a Health Inequalities Assessment Tool.
  • The Partner Priority Programme (PPP) has been developed with CLAHRC NWC partners to address the challenges we face in delivering safe and cost effective services which meet our population’s needs.  The overall programme focus is on new models of integrated care which address the PPP objective of “identifying which out of hospital treatments and care are most cost effective in reducing health inequalities, improving population health and wellbeing and reducing emergency admission”.  We have developed strengths in working collaboratively with our partners to embed evaluation of service transformation and new models of treatment and care at the local level (project evaluation) and to form an overall view across the CLAHRC NWC of the best approaches to address the PPP objective (Programme Evaluation).
  • The Partner Priority Programme has now developed to include the implementation of previously evaluated projects. We are developing strengths in implementation science, including the writing of implementation plans, guides and evaluations in collaboration with our CLAHRC NWC partners.
  • We have areas of expertise in all of our research themes: Improving Public Health, Improving Mental Health, Managing Complex Needs, Delivering Personalised Health and Care, Knowledge Exchange, Engagement and Effective Implementation and Evidence Synthesis.
  • Public participation is a key part of CLAHRC NWC research.  We have lots of experience embedding the involvement of public members/patients within research projects and engage with and involve the public in all activities.
  • We also have information on our work as CLAHRC Bites here:

2.9 CLAHRC East Midlands

Expertise / strengths that might be of interest to applicants:

  • Centre for Black and Minority Ethnic Health (specialising in community engagement / research in traditionally seldom heard populations)
  • Operational implementation – actually working to get innovation into practice (more like commercial marketing than implementation research)
  • East Midlands Research into Ageing Network (EMRAN)
  • Chronic disease, mental health, stroke, frailty subject areas, plus e-health / digital health and implementation science.

2.10 CLAHRC Yorkshire and Humber

 The CLAHRC YH warmly invites early career researchers to visit us. We have nine themes in the CLAHRC covering a range of clinical areas.

  • Translating knowledge into action.
  • Evidence based transformation with the NHS.
  • Health economics and outcome measurements.
  • Telehealth and care technologies.
  • Public health and inequalities
  • Primary care based management of frailty in older people.
  • Avoiding attendance and admissions in LTC.
  • Mental health co-morbidities.
  • Healthy children. Healthy families.

Our unique strengths include working with industry, health inequalities research, work with designers to support co-production in research, the development of research derived actionable outputs, and Trials within Cohort (TwiCs) methodologies. We have an interest in supporting Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals in developing clinical academic careers. Please contact the relevant theme manager to discuss a placement with us; or Jo Cooke for more generic questions on placements.

2.11 CLAHRC North Thames

CLAHRC North Thames would be delighted to host a researcher on a SPARC award. Our website has details about the work we do, and please feel free to get in touch for more information or to discuss potential placements.

About us: CLAHRC North Thames works with academics, NHS and local authority partners, industry partners, patients and the public to conduct innovative applied health research and to support its implementation for the direct benefit of patients, the wider population and the NHS in our region and nationally.

Our work is grouped into five broad Themes (details of the individual projects within each Theme can be found on our website):

  • Child and adolescent health
  • Empowering mental health service users and families
  • Innovations in systems and models of health and health care
  • Methodological innovation
  • Optimising behaviour and engagement with care

We also have expertise in a range of areas that run through all of our Themes including:

  • Health economics
  • Qualitative research
  • Using research evidence effectively
  • Digital health
  • Analysing healthcare data / Big data
  • Operational research


3) Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs)

3.1 NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centre at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Leeds

The Yorkshire and Humber PSTRC would like to extend a warm invitation to NIHR trainees to apply for SPARC placements in a number of areas of quality and safety research. Based across the University of Leeds and the Bradford Institute for Health Research, we are a multi-disciplinary group of researchers, clinicians and patient representatives, whose aim it is to develop innovative solutions to patient safety problems.  We would be happy to support SPARC applications in the following research areas:

  • Patient and family involvement in patient safety
  • Positive deviance approaches and methods
  • Digital and novel technological solutions to improve patient safety
  • Experience-based co-design as applied to healthcare improvement
  • Medicines management and reconciliation
  • Supporting transitions across care boundaries for older people
  • Personal resilience and quality and safety

Should you be interested in applying for a SPARC placement with us, please contact Dr Beth Fylan, Programme Manager or Dr Jane O'Hara, Theme Lead and Training Lead to discuss your ideas.

3.2 NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre

The NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (Greater Manchester PSTRC) is a partnership between The University of Manchester and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. The Greater Manchester PSTRC conducts research studies within four themes: Safety informatics, medication safety, safer care systems and transitions, and safety in marginalised groups. We work with NIHR CLAHRCs, AHSNs and Patient Safety Collaboratives, as well as NHS, local authority and industry partners within an Academic Health Science System - HInM (Health Innovation Manchester).

NIHR Trainees are encouraged to apply for SPARC awards within the following topics or methodological fields:


  • Safety systems in clinical pharmacy and mental health
  • Healthcare quality and safety in vulnerable or marginalised groups
  • Legal, ethical and governance issues at transitions of care
  • Safety in primary and community care


  • Use of large primary care and other databases for epidemiological studies
  • Co-producing interventions with service stakeholders (including patients and carers)
  • Mixed-method evaluations of interventions or service delivery

Please contact the Centre Director, Professor Stephen Campbell or the Centre Training Lead, Dr. Gavin Daker-White to discuss your proposals for a SPARC award / placement.

4) Medtech and In-vitro diagnostics Cooperatives (MICs)

The NIHR Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs) launched on 1 January 2018. The NIHR MICs replace the NIHR Healthcare Technology Co-operatives (HTCs) and NIHR Diagnostic Evidence Co-operatives (DECs), incorporating and retaining the remits of both.

NIHR MICs build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop new medical technologies and provide evidence on commercially-supplied in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests. Leading NHS organisations act as centres of expertise, bringing together patients, clinicians, researchers, commissioners and industry.

More than £14 million over 5 years has been awarded across 11 NIHR MICs.

If you are interested in working with the NIHR MICs or would like more information, please contact the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure:

5) Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs)

 Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) are research partnerships between universities and Public Health England (PHE) and act as centres of excellence in multidisciplinary health protection research in England. Each Unit focuses on one of twelve different topic areas.

The aims of the HPRUs are to assist Public Health England in delivering its objectives and functions for the protection of the public’s health by:

  • creating an environment where world class health protection research, focused on the needs of the public, can thrive;
  • translating advances in health protection research into benefits for patients and the public;
  • focusing on priority areas which will have the greatest impact on public health;
  • providing high quality research evidence to inform decision-making by public health professionals;
  • increasing the volume and quality of multi-disciplinary health protection research in England;
  • providing a flexible staff capacity in the event of a major health protection incident;
  • retaining a level of responsive research capacity to address emerging health protection research requirements.

6) Clinical Research Facilities (CRFs)

Whilst CRFs vary due to local need, all will include the following:

  • Outpatient and usually inpatient facilities;
  • Support for high intensity studies;
  • Highly trained dedicated research support and management personnel;
  • Specialist equipment and laboratories to conduct a variety of research studies;
  • Standard Operating Procedures to ensure studies are conducted to GCP/ Research;
  • Governance Framework (and its successor) requirements.


B) NIHR Research

1.1 School for Primary Care Research

From the SPCR perspective we have significant expertise in the design and conduct of pragmatic clinical trials, patient and public involvement and engagement, using big data (e.g. CPRD), qualitative research methods, e-interventions and systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Our work is firmly rooted in primary care, so we work with populations with the full spectrum of disease. We have specific clinical areas of expertise (musculoskeletal, mental health, antibiotic prescribing, dementia, anxiety and depression,  behaviour change, patient safety and multi-morbidity - to name just a few!)

 1.2 School for Public Health Research

The NIHR School for Public Health Research is a partnership between eight leading academic centres with excellence in applied public health research in England*.  The School aims to build the evidence base for effective public health practice. Our research looks at what works practically to improve population health and reduce health inequalities, can be applied across the country and better meets the needs of policymakers, practitioners and the public.  The NIHR School for Public Health Research has three research programmes in development alongside three cross-cutting themes.

Research programmes;

  • Children, young people & families
  • Public mental health
  • Places and communities

Cross-cutting themes;

  • Health inequalities
  • Changing behaviour at population level
  • Equitable and efficient public health systems

Please contact for further information.

* The NIHR School for Public Health Research is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Bristol, Cambridge, Imperial and University College London; The London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); the LiLaC collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster and Fuse; The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, a collaboration between Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside Universities.

 1.3 School for Social Care Research

 The NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) is in its second 5-year phase and is a partnership between five leading academic centres of excellence in social care research in England (namely LSE, and the Universities of Bristol, Kent, Manchester and York).  The School’s remit is to contribute to building the evidence base for adult social care practice in England. Our research spans all aspects of adult social care, including different client groups and needs (for example, older people, people with living with dementia, or with learning disabilities, or with physical disabilities, or with mental health problems) and in different care settings (e.g. care homes, people’s homes and communities).  Members of the School bring a very wide range of theoretical (e.g. intersectionality, economics) and methodological (e.g. qualitative methods, discourse analysis, trials experience, modelling) expertise to all aspects of adult social care.