This site is optimised for modern browsers. For the best experience, please use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.


We welcome your feedback, which will help improve this site.

Feedback form

Starting a Clinical Academic Career with the HEE/NIHR ICA Programme



Benefits of clinical academic careers

  • NHS core business
  • Research active trusts have better patient outcomes
  • Patients want access to latest treatments
  • Clinical academics bridge the NHS and academia
    • Ideally placed to recognise and answer important research questions
    • Research that will benefit patients
  • Future clinical academic leaders central to NIHR’s vision for improving health and wealth of the nation

National Institute for Health Research

National Institute for Health ResearchEstablished 2006 as a vehicle for implementing Government’s strategy for applied health research£1b annual spend


To improve the health and wealth of the nation through research

NIHR Remit

  • People and patient based applied health research
  • Research capacity to improve health/healthcare
  • Patients, samples or data from patients, people who are not patients, populations, health technology assessment and health services research
  • Clearly demonstrate the potential to have an impact on the needs of patients and the public within 5 years of its completion
  • No basic research or work involving animals and/or animal tissue
  • NIHR is also prepared to support research into medical education

HEE Research and Innovation Strategy


  • To create an education and training system that is evidence based and underpinned by research and innovation; and
  • To build the capacity and capability of our current and future workforce to embrace and actively engage with research and innovation.

Clinical Academic Careers Framework

HEE/NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic (ICA) Programme (non-medical healthcare professionals)

  1. Internships (HEE funded and managed)
  2. Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship
  3. Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship
  4. Clinical Lectureships
  5. Senior Clinical Lectureships

Award holders will be provided with informal or formal mentorship opportunities and supervised to specific quality standards.

NIHR Integrated Academic Training (IAT) Programme(doctors and dentists)

  1. Academic Clinical Fellows including In-Practice Fellows
  2. Clinical Lecturers
  3. Clinician Scientists

Externally funded fellowships are available outside of the IAT Programme (Funded by NIHR, MRC, Wellcome Trust etc) to provide research career development at doctoral and post-doctoral level.

Clinical Academic Careers Stakeholder Group (ICAP), ICA Oversight Group (ICAP)

HEE Executive Team(ICAP)

HEE Priorities

Research funded by Health Education England (HEE) must fulfil one of the following priorities:

  • Improving out of hospital care
  • Creating the safest, highest quality health and care services*
  • Improving efficiency and productivity of the health and care system
  • Preventing ill health and supporting people to live healthier lives
  • Enabling people and communities to make decisions about their own health and care
  • Improving services through the use of digital technology, information and transparency
  • Delivering the right workforce with the right skills, values and competencies
  • Driving improvements in education & training that will have a real impact on the quality of care delivered to patients and service users

*This includes the development and evaluation of medical treatments, interventions or processes.

HEE/NIHR Internships

For people new to research

  • Provides protected time for you to undertake a small research project
  • Provides training on research methods and how research is undertaken in the NHS
  • Each local scheme is slightly different, see details of your local scheme

Internship feedback

97% of cohort 3 believe that the internship has increased their understanding of how research can contribute toward healthcare innovation.

100% of interns would recommend the internship to others - for the third year running!

97% believe their project has allowed them to improve patient care, now or in the future.

98% of interns would consider applying for further research, with many seeing the internship as a stepping stone -the next step for many being an MResor a PhD.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to extend your research knowledge, enhance study skills, establish academic relationships and strengthen your MResapplication.” Wendy Pope, Occupational Therapist at Sussex Community NHS FT.

“My internship research journey has highlighted the importance of improving patient outcomes and proving accountability. I want this to be an integral part of the service that I drive forward –patient centred and truly evidence based.” Mandeep Bhabra, Clinical Lead SALT at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

North of England scheme

  • Run by Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of HEE & NIHR
  • Funds 30 days to undertake your research project
  • Includes 4 face-to-face study days and online research methods training package and action learning sets
  • We can help you find a suitable mentor
  • You need to produce a 5-7000 word report and reflective e-portfolio
  • You have the option to submit your report for academic scrutiny which attracts 15 Masters level credits if passed (additional fee, currently £150

North of England scheme (cont.)

  • Next intake September 2018

  • Programme runs for 9 months

  • Applications open from 1 March 2018

  • Full details at from tomorrow

  • Follow us on Twitter @ICAINorth

My internship experience

  • What I gained -insights into research in practice, an opportunity to do new things, networking, a support network
  • Patient benefit
  • Workforce benefit
  • How can you make it work?

HEE/NIHR Pre-doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowships (PCAF)

“Undertake Masters level academic training whilst preparing an application for a doctoral level research training Fellowship and maintaining clinical practice”

ICA PCAF Structure

  • 2 year award (part time over 30 or 40 months)
  • Time is split equally between clinical service and academic training

An ICA PCAF funds:

  • Up to 50% of the award holder’s salary
  • Training and development programme (as detailed in the application):

-£5,000 towards Masters level training-£1,000 bursary for conference/meeting expenses; travel, subsistence and registration fees and

-£1,000 towards Mentorship and Supervision expenses

Launch: 1st February 2018

Close: 11th April 2018

Fellowships start from: 1st Sep 2018


  • Little formal academic training at the point of application
  • Demonstrable potential for development as a clinician academic

Academic Training

  • Trainee-centred
  • Provides the opportunity to explore academic research interests
  • Includes completion of a formal academic qualification ( MRes) if appropriate to the applicant
  • Includes the preparation of an application for a doctoral level research training fellowship (e.g. the HEE/NIHR CDRF).

Host Organisation

  • Structured supervision to ensure the attainment of academic goals
  • Career mentorship from a senior clinical academic
  • Environment that has a strong academic research record

Application process

  • Online at
  • 1 stage process
  • Review by Panel of experts

Things to consider...

  • Start early!
  • Finding the right support
  • Your future career as a clinical academic
  • How this fellowship can support you
  • Tailor the application to your needs

HEE/NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship

  • PhD research whilst developing clinical skills
  • Based at English NHS trust, other health care organisation or HEI
  • Min 1 yr clinical experience and current statutory registration
  • Need for both a good academic and clinical supervisor
  • Salary, PhD tuition fees, research, training & development costs (100% NHS, 80% HEI except training & development @100%)
  • 3 years FT (4 or 5 years PT)
  • Next launch –March 2018

Which Award?

Internship –

  • New to research
  • Gain experience
  • Informal
  • ‘Taster’


  • Interest in research
  • Formal training
  • Not yet ready to apply for PhD
  • Future PhD applicant


  • Future clinical academic
  • Ready to undertake PhD
  • Some previous research experience and training