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Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration Round 7 Guidance Notes

 

Contents

Introduction 

The NIHR Academy is responsible for development and coordination of NIHR academic training, career development and research capacity development. It plays a pivotal role in attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future and complements the additional NIHR investment in world-class research facilities and a skilled research workforce. The purpose of the NIHR Academy is to develop a highly-skilled academic research workforce capable of advancing the best research which improves health and care, and benefits society and the economy as well as to further build and strengthen capacity by creating training opportunities to develop appropriate research skills.
 
On behalf of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the NIHR Academy is launching the seventh round of the NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC).
 
The NIHR’s vision is to open up its world class facilities, training and career development opportunities to early career researchers funded in NIHR Infrastructure and NIHR Schools with a remit to build research capacity and make the most of being part of such a vast network of NIHR funded centres and initiatives during their research training.
 
The NIHR SPARC scheme offers NIHR Academy Members (PhD or early career post-doctoral researchers) supported by NIHR Infrastructure and NIHR Schools an opportunity to spend time in other parts of the NIHR; to network, train in a specific skill or collaborate with other researchers/specialists. The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals’ experience as well as their CVs and careers.  Expected outcomes include collaborations, publications, presentations and posters, as well as the development of new skills.  

Expansion of the NIHR SPARC Scheme for Round 7

Parts of the NIHR with links to Industry/Commercial Sector

One of the aims of the NIHR is to increase the number of researchers equipped with the skills to work at the interfaces between academia, the NHS, and wider health, public health and social care, and industry.
 
As part of the Round 7 SPARC Scheme competition, we are encouraging potential applicants to consider planning and undertaking placements in other parts of the NIHR that have developed partnerships and collaborations with industry partners. In embedding themselves within already established NIHR-Industry partnerships the aim would be to develop skills and gain experience of what is needed to have a successful working relationship with industry (including the life-sciences, med-tech, SMEs and food industry). We aim to develop research leaders with the skills and experiences to navigate and work across multiple sectors, seizing opportunities with industry/commercial sector in order to help tackle some of the most complex health and care challenges of the future.
   
Further details regarding parts of the NIHR that have developed partnerships and collaborations with industry partners and potential advice/sign-posting support can be found in the ‘SPARC-Where can I go’ guide and ‘Scope of Award’ section of the Guidance Notes. 

Possibility of undertaking virtual SPARC placements 

In light of the current situation and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraging prospective applicants to explore the possibility of undertaking some or all of their placement virtually, as well as the possibility of undertaking suitable available training online that meets the applicant’s individual training, personal and professional needs.
 
As such, we are asking potential applicants to consider a virtual alternative placement as part of their overall application and detail this within the application form for consideration by the NIHR SPARC Selection Committee.

These guidance notes are intended to help completion of an application for the NIHR SPARC, Round 7 (2020). 

Eligibility 

The NIHR SPARC is open to all NIHR Academy Members who meet all of the criteria detailed below:
  • are early career researchers (PhD or early career post-doctoral researcher) undertaking a formal training/career development award, which should meet all of the following criteria:
    • be competitive, 
    • include a formal training plan
    • have a defined end point (this may be an application for further funding)
  • are directly funded by an NIHR award to a part of the NIHR Infrastructure or NIHR Schools with a remit to build capacity. That is, the Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs), Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs), NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR), NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR), or NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR);
  • receive at least 25% funding from the NIHR Infrastructure or NIHR School for their salary/stipend/fees over the lifetime of the award;
  • do not already hold an NIHR Academy Fellowship or NIHR Clinical Lectureship, and;
  • can complete the award between April 2021 and February 2022.

Scope of Award

The NIHR SPARC allows eligible individuals (who meet the eligibility criteria detailed above) within one part of the NIHR Infrastructure or NIHR School to spend a short period of time training in another part of the NIHR.

Awardees will remain registered at their ‘home’ institution (employing institution) and the ‘host’ institution (placement location) will provide supervision and training in collaboration with the ‘home institution’ (employer) supervision team.

The period of training/experience (undertaking a placement) in another part of the NIHR is flexible; there is no minimum or maximum duration for the placement (however placements often range from 2/3 weeks to 6 months and this period is often broken up to allow flexibility for both the awardee and placement host institution/supervisor). The applicant must be able to demonstrate the impact and benefit the placement and training will have on their studies, CV and overall career development.

Applicants are responsible for liaising with their Home Institution (employer) NIHR Academic Career Development Lead (formally known as Training Lead - see NIHR Academic Career Development Leads) as well as the potential Host Institution (where they wish to undertake the placement), and agreeing the scope of the placement and placement supervisor prior to submitting an application.

Applicants are encouraged to fully explore and maximise the wide range of facilities, expertise and opportunities available to them across the NIHR for their personal and professional development, and develop a placement that is bespoke to their individual training needs, background, skills/experiences, as well as their proposed career trajectory.

The SPARC award (placement) must be completed and the financial report must be submitted by February the 12th 2022. Awardees will remain registered at their ‘home’ institution and the ‘host’ institution will provide supervision and training in collaboration with the ‘home institution’ (employer) supervision team.

The following types of activities could be supported:
 
  • moving to other parts of the NIHR with similar specialisms to their home institution (although noting that the placement should offer something that is not available at the home institution);
  • seeking placements in a specific NIHR institution that offers training experiences not available at their home institution (including cross-discipline training, such as regulatory aspects, clinical trials etc.)
  • seeking placements in other parts of the NIHR that have developed partnerships and collaborations with industry partners. In embedding themselves within already established NIHR-Industry partnerships, applicants would be able to develop skills and gain experience of what is needed to have a successful working relationship with industry (including the life-sciences, med-tech, SMEs and food industry).  See ‘Parts of NIHR with links to Industry’ below for further information. 
  • seeking placements within a part of the wider NIHR (e.g NIHR Clinical Research Facility, NIHR Statistics Group or NIHR Infrastructure /NIHR School with a different remit than an applicant’s home institution (e.g. BRC to an HPRU or an NIHR School) are also encouraged.
The placements, however, are not limited to these types of activities. Applicants are encouraged to fully explore and maximise the wide range of facilities, expertise and opportunities available to them across the NIHR for their personal and professional development, and develop a placement that is bespoke to their individual training needs, background, skills/experiences, as well as their proposed career trajectory.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate the impact and benefit the placement and training will have on their studies, CV and overall academic career development.

Expansion to the NIHR SPARC Scheme – Parts of the NIHR with links to Industry/commercial sector

NIHR works with a diverse range of industry sectors, including diagnostics, medical technology and biopharmaceutical, the food industry, as well as with associated industries such as digital, design and artificial intelligence. The NIHR also supports small and medium-sized enterprises, enabling them to design and carry out high-quality research to provide evidence of the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of their innovative interventions.
 
In addition, the NIHR also supports and delivers life sciences industry research across the innovation pathway, from early translational through to applied health research, giving patients and the public faster access to new diagnostics, therapies and medical devices.
 
If potential applicants are interested in exploring the possibility of undertaking a SPARC placement in other parts of the NIHR that have developed partnerships and collaborations with industry partners, applicants may find the following information and advice and support helpful:- 

NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI)

The NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) helps charities, industry and other research funders work in partnership with NIHR and the experts and clinicians it supports. It also ensures that NIHR-supported centres, units, facilities and networks can work together to help drive the flow of innovative research to improve patient benefit. NOCRI is a unique resource for the global life sciences industry - improving the quality, efficiency and success of translational research.
 
NOCRI provides a sign-posting service; helping researchers and industry identify and connect with the right experts; helping to build and strengthen partnerships with industry/commercial sectors; ensuring collaboration across the research ecosystem is maximised to the benefit of patients, the public and the UK economy.
 
We would encourage potential SPARC applicants, who are considering planning and undertaking placements in other parts of the NIHR that have developed partnerships with industry, and who are looking to develop skills and gain experience of what is needed to have a successful working relationship with industry, to contact NOCRI for further advice and sign-posting support.
 
NOCRI will need to be able to understand and appreciate the type of placement you may wish to undertake; to ensure their signposting support will guide you towards placement opportunities relevant to your research/background, and that will enable you to gain experience and skills of what is needed to have a successful working relationship with industry. NOCRI will also need to understand which part of the NIHR you may wish to approach for your optimal career development.
 
Therefore, can we please ask that you clearly and concisely include the following information in your e-mail:-
  • Current NIHR Infrastructure (e.g BRC, ARC, PSTRC, HPRU) or NIHR School where you are based/employed
  • Professional background
  • Current career level
  • Research area of interest (this can be clinical/ methodological area)
  • Brief outline of your skill set and areas of expertise
  • Brief outline of the potential skills/experience you would like to gain from a potential SPARC placement
  • Any experience of working/collaborating with industry to date
NOCRI Contact - Please e-mail the above information to nocri@nihr.ac.uk , who will be in touch with you directly to initiate discussions.  Please note in order for NOCRI to review your e-mail and provide the necessary support/sign-posting advice, as well as allowing time to make the appropriate introductions, you will need to provide this information to NOCRI via e-mail at least 4 weeks prior to the SPARC Round 7 Competition Closing Date
 
Wider parts of the NIHR with links to Industry/Commercial Sector applicants may wish to consider for potential SPARC placements
 
1. NIHR Medtech and in-vitro Co-operatives (NIHR MICs)
 
There are 11 Medtech and In vitro diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs) funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
 
The MICs aim to build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop and evaluate new medical technologies and in vitro diagnostic tests. Based in leading NHS organisations, the MICs act as centres of expertise and bring together patients, clinicians, researchers, commissioners and industry. Each MIC has a different focus and is hosted by a different NHS trust.
 
2. Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMC’s)
 
The NIHR funds Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) across England, in close partnership with Cancer Research UK.
 
The ECMCs act as an efficient and effective UK-wide network for delivering pioneering, early-phase cancer trials, bringing together world-leading laboratory and clinical researchers to test new treatments for adults and children with cancer. The network of centres speeds up the process of cancer drug development and the search for biomarkers to diagnose cancer, predict the aggressiveness of the disease, or show whether a drug will be effective. Industry partnerships are vital in driving the development of innovative treatments for patient benefit.
 
Please note; those NIHR MIC and ECMC centres who are participating in the Round 7 SPARC competition and potentially able to ‘host’ SPARC placements are detailed in the ‘SPARC- Where can I go Guide’. Further details regarding these centres and their research areas of interest/expertise; as well as their industry partnerships are detailed in the guide; along with relevant contact details for whom to contact in each centre if wishing to explore potential placements at one of these centres.
 

Applicants may find the following documents helpful:

  1. SPARC – Where Can I Go? This details the types of activities taking place within the NIHR Infrastructure and NIHR Schools (nb this is not an exhaustive list, and does not detail wider NIHR opportunities); as well as highlighting any links/networks/collaborations with the Life Sciences/Med-tech/SME’s/Food Industry an NIHR site has, that may be of interest/benefit to SPARC applicants looking to develop skills/expertise/experience within this sector.  All applicants must liaise with their named Academic Career Development Lead prior to developing an application.
  2. SPARC – Advice from Previous Awardees. This document includes advice that may be helpful in planning a placement.
  3. SPARC – Case Studies. This document provides examples of some of the types of placements previous award holders have undertaken and the impacts the placement has had on their personal and professional development. 

Scope of Funding

The placement will be funded by awards of up to £5,000 per individual through a centrally run competition. The aim of the award is to cover the incidental expenses (training course fees, accommodation, travel, subsistence and other reasonable expenses) of working from another institution for a short period of time. Travel and subsistence rates should be in accordance with the rates approved by the home institution.

The awardee’s home institution will continue to support their salary/stipend/fees.

Research costs, open access fees, conference fees, and supervisory fees will not be covered by this award and would be expected to be funded by the home institution. 

Application and Selection Process

  • Applicants are responsible for liaising with their NIHR Academic Career Development Lead (formally known as NIHR Training Leads) to ensure that they are eligible to apply for an NIHR SPARC award prior to submitting an application. We would also encourage Academic Career Development Leads to contact the NIHR Academy office (via icbs@nihr.ac.uk) with any eligibility queries.
  • Applicants are responsible for liaising with their Home Institution Academic Career Development Lead (see NIHR Academic Career Development Leads) and Host Institution/potential placement institution and agreeing the scope of the placement prior to submitting an application.
  • The application form is available from the NIHR SPARC webpage at www.nihr.ac.uk/SPARC.
  • To submit the application, the NIHR Academic Career Development Lead representing the NIHR Home Institution (as listed here) must email a completed application form and the applicant's CV to icbs@nihr.ac.uk before 1pm on Thursday 26th November 2020.
  • The applicant’s CV should detail their qualifications, awards, publications and experience (maximum of 3 pages). Both documents should be suitably protected to meet UK personal data protection standards.  
  • Any changes to the formatting of text within the application form may impact the rest of the form and what is visible to the SPARC Selection Committee when reviewing the application. Such issues usually resolve when the form is saved and re-opened, but the applicant needs to ensure that all required text is visible in an electronic and printed copy of this application form prior to submission.
  • Incomplete, faxed, posted or late applications will not be accepted under any circumstances.
  • The NIHR Academy is responsible for the selection process and subsequent management of the award.
  • Applications will be reviewed by an expert Selection Committee, and scored during a NIHR SPARC Selection Committee Meeting.
    The NIHR SPARC Selection Committee, via the NIHR Academy, will make recommendations for funding to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Timeline

NIHR SPARC Round 7 Competition launchTuesday 6th October 2020
Deadline for applications Thursday 26th November 2020 at 1pm
NIHR SPARC Selection Committee Funding Recommendations Meeting February 2021
Inform applicants of outcome End of March 2021
SPARC Placements to take place Between 1st April 2021 – 28th February 2022

 

Acknowledgement

We will acknowledge receipt of your application within 2 working days of it being received. Applicants should not phone or email the NIHR Academy with enquiries prior to receiving this email.

Assessment Criteria 

Applications for the NIHR SPARC will be assessed using the following criteria; all of which will have equal weighting:
  • the potential for the applicant to enhance their current research studies;
  • the impact the placement will have on the applicant’s career development and trajectory;
  • the extent to which the placement will provide a high-quality and stimulating research training experience;
  • the provision of academic supervision and support in both the home and the host institutions, and;
  • the extent to which the placement will support the professional and personal development of the applicant.

Award Management

A Letter of Contract will be put in place between the awardee and ‘authorised signatory’ at the awardees home institution (employing institution) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Successful applicants will:
  • notify the NIHR Academy when the placement has come to an end;
  • submit a written report within 2 months of the completion of the placement or by the 1st of March 2022 (whichever is soonest), in a form provided by the NIHR Academy, detailing the placement, achievements, impacts and outputs. This will also need to outline any underspends and reasons for these.
 
The home institution (employer) will:
  • within 2 months of the completion of the placement or by the 12th of February 2022 (whichever is soonest) submit an invoice to the NIHR Academy for incidental expenses incurred during the placement, up to the limit of the amount awarded.
  • The Authorised signatory at the Home Institution (employer) will confirm sight and approval of all supporting documentation (i.e. receipts) for expenses incurred and that the costs incurred are as described in the Award application and approved by the Selection Committee. The NIHR Academy reserves the right to request copies of supporting documentation.

NIHR Privacy Notice

Our purpose for collecting information is so we have the necessary information to evaluate your application for a placement and can communicate with you about your application. The data we collect is collected in the public interest. Information provided here may be subject to Freedom of Information requests. 
 
The NIHR Academy is part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The contracting agent for the NIHR Academy is the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT). The DHSC is the Data Controller and LTHT is the Data Processor under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) EC 2016/679. DHSC NIHR respects the privacy of individuals who share their data and processes it in a manner that meets the requirements of GDPR. The DHSC Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at:  data_protection@dh.gsi.gov.uk      
 
The NIHR privacy policy includes further information including ways we may use your data, our contact details and details on your individual rights regarding how your data is used. Your data may be shared across the NIHR, including with other NIHR centres, to allow the application to be managed and for statistical analysis, and with external award reviewers as part of the process for managing the allocation of an award. Information collected from you will not be shared outside the EEA without your consent.

This notice is under constant review and will be updated and / or revised based on that review as appropriate.  

Statement of Acknowledgement 

Data processing relating to applications and awards of NIHR grants by the DHSC is done under the legal basis of public interest. As these are publicly funded awards, there is a requirement to be publicly transparent. The information provided in award applications may be subject to Freedom of Information requests. To meet the requirement of transparency the NIHR Academy publishes details of the awards and awardees, and this may include photographs and email addresses, on our website. You have the right to object, and objections will be considered on a case by case basis so that the balance between public transparency and privacy rights are maintained.

Equal Opportunities and Diversity 

NIHR and DHSC have a duty as a public body to promote equality of opportunity. All applicants will be contacted shortly after the closure date by NIHR Equality Monitoring.

Monitoring ensures that all applications to NIHR Programmes are treated equally in terms of gender, ethnicity and/or disability.

The information you share with the monitoring system:
  • will be stored separately from your application,
  • only be used for the purpose of monitoring equal opportunities,
  • be kept securely and in confidence. 

Completing the application form

Submitting the Application

Please ensure that you read this advice carefully.

Application Summary

Please ensure that your name, email address, NIHR Academic Career Development Lead/Training Lead (at your Home Institution Organisation) name and email address, Home Institution Infrastructure/School Organisation and Proposed Host Institution Infrastructure/School Organisation (or named part of the wider NIHR) are detailed here. 

Section A – Applicant Details

Ai. Applicant Details

Please enter your full name, including title, job title, highest level of qualification and current level of study.
 
Professional background. For doctors and dentists, please enter the GMC/GDC recognised specialty.  For all other applicants, please enter your discipline or professional background from the drop down menu.
 
Please add a professional body/council registration membership(s) and registration number(s) where appropriate.

Aii. Applicant Home Institution Details

Please give details of your home institution (where you are based), and include the name and contact details of your Primary Supervisor. Please also provide a correspondence address and contact details if they are different to those you have already provided. Note: your home institution must be an NIHR BRC, ARC, PSTRC or HPRU or an NIHR School (SPCR, SPHR or SSCR). Please refer to the ‘Eligibility’ section above for more information. 

Section B – Applicant Experience

Overview of experience to date
Please give an overview of your research experience to date in no more than 150 words. 

Section C – Proposed Placement: Contact Details

Please provide the name, job title and contact details of the person who will supervise you during the placement at the host institution.

Section D – Proposed Placement: Plans

Please provide a title for your placement and your preferred start date (from the drop-down list). Please also state the proposed length/duration of your placement and whether your placement includes an ‘industry component/focus’.
 

Di. Please provide a clear outline of the plan for your proposed placement. Include a justification of the length of placement and the order of activities planned and explain why it is important for your career at this stage. It is also important to explain why you have chosen the particular NIHR host that you wish to work with during the placement (for example, due to particular experts, expertise, equipment or teams). 

If you are planning to undertake a face-to-face placement that involves travel; please also outline your plan for a virtual alternative, if travel is not permitted at the time of your award/placement.
 
(350 words max)
 
The placement programme should provide training/research/mentoring or other experiences that are not currently available in your home training environment. This may include being part of a research study that enhances your own work, collaborating with a new team of researchers who specialise in your field or working in a different field where you have career aspirations.  The placement, however, is not limited to these types of activities.

The period of experience in another part of the NIHR is flexible as long as benefit to the applicant can be demonstrated.

The training placement period can be broken up to allow flexibility but must be completed by 26th of February 2022.

Dii. Please outline a) the likely benefits and impact of the placement on your research, training and career, and b) how you will know whether it has been a successful placement from a personal perspective (350 words max)

Diii. This section must provide a clear breakdown and full justification of all funds requested, including a total. Please note the award is for a maximum of £5,000. 
  • Funding is provided to cover the incidental expenses (training course fees, accommodation, travel, subsistence and other reasonable expenses) of undertaking a placement for a short period of time. Travel and subsistence rates should be in accordance with the rates approved by the home institution.
  • Research costs, open access fees, conference fees, and supervisory fees will not be covered by this award and would be expected to be funded by the home institution.
  • Costs should be based on current prices.
  • All applicants are expected to seek appropriate input from their Home Employing Institution into the finance section of the application form.
  • Within 2 months of the completion of the award, or by the 12th of February 2022 (whichever is soonest), the home institution will be expected to submit an invoice to the NIHR Academy. The invoice will be checked in line with the proposed placement plans and justification of funds requested, and when approved, the NIHR Academy will reimburse the awardee’s home institution.
  • The NIHR Academy reserve the right to request copies of supporting documentation.

Div. THIS SECTION IS TO BE COMPLETED BY THE PROPOSED HOST SUPERVISOR

Please outline how you as a Supervisor and the Host Institution will support the applicant during this placement (250 words max).

Section E – Declarations and Signatures

The following parties must carefully read the declarations and signatures section and insert their name, an electronic signature and date on to the application form:

Applicant
 
Home Institution - Primary Supervisor
 
Host Institution – Proposed Placement Supervisor

Section F – NIHR Infrastructure/NIHR School Home Institution Academic Career Development Lead/Training Lead Statement of Support

All applications should be signed by the NIHR Academic Career Development Lead/Training Lead. In signing, he/she is indicating:
  • their approval of the application;
  • their willingness of the home institution to support the applicant (if successful) during the placement;
  • their commitment to providing the support necessary to make the award a success;
  • their approval of the costs sought; and
  • their acceptance of the terms and conditions associated with a NIHR SPARC award.

Section G – Monitoring Information

Please use the drop-down list to state how you became aware of the scheme.

Contacting us

If you have any queries about the SPARC award please contact us at:
 
Address: 
 
NIHR Academy
21 Queen Street
Leeds
LS1 2TW
 
Telephone:  0113 532 8430
 
Email:  icbs@nihr.ac.uk quoting ‘SPARC Round 7’ in the subject heading.