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Imaging is a cross-cutting, multi-disciplinary field, of critical importance to the entire health and care system, and plays a key role in many patient pathways. The UK plays a leading role globally in developing new imaging techniques and much clinical research is crucially dependent on high quality imaging, with industry partnerships playing an important part.

The NIHR recognises the importance of imaging and is working towards building research capacity and capability in this area. The NIHR is working with patients, health and care professionals, researchers and industry to accelerate the development, evaluation and clinical translation of novel imaging science and ensure that the significant innovations in imaging bring benefits to patients.

On this page you can learn about some of the initiatives that the NIHR is leading and supporting and find support and resources that could help you and your research.

What we do

What do we mean by imaging research?

Imaging research covers two broad classes of activity: studies in which the primary question is related to imaging (for example, assessing the accuracy of a new ultrasound technique) and those studies in which imaging plays an important role in supporting clinical research (for example, computerised tomography (CT) imaging to assess lung tumour volume in a trial of a novel drug for lung cancer).

How we support imaging research

We lead and support imaging research on a significant scale across all elements of NIHR, including the Biomedical Research Centres, the Clinical Research Facilities, the Clinical Research Network and the Medical Technology and In-vitro diagnostic Co-operatives.

The fellowship and training programmes run by the NIHR Academy support the academic development of imaging researchers from all disciplines and the NIHR research programmes fund cutting edge imaging research.

The NIHR Imaging Group has been established to support and coordinate this activity by:

  • collaborating with key national partners, including UKRI, the major medical research charities and patient groups
  • working with NIHR-funded imaging researchers, patients and key stakeholders to develop a strong NIHR multidisciplinary community of practice for imaging research
  • ensuring that NIHR makes a visible, coordinated and effective contribution to scientific advances in imaging, including the development, application and evaluation of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • supporting the development of the imaging research workforce, with a particular focus on those working in the NHS
  • improving the delivery of primary imaging research in the NHS
  • strengthening partnerships with industry.

Facts and Figures

  • Between 2017 and 2018 over 250 studies involving imaging were supported by NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and Clinical Research Facilities.
  • The NIHR Clinical Research Network typically supports more than 2000 studies in which imaging is an important element each year
  • Since 2016, NIHR Academy has awarded 54 fellowships involving imaging research from a range of disciplines across the various fellowship programmes. In the same period, NIHR Programmes funded or managed over 90 primary imaging research studies or studies where imaging was a component of the design, with research grants awarded across multiple funding workstreams (£17.5m through EME, £9.3m through i4i, £41.8m through HTA and £2m through Research for Patient Benefit).

Support and Resources

Supporting your imaging research

NIHR Support for Imaging Research 

The NIHR working group work with imaging researchers, patients and key stakeholders to develop a strong NIHR multidisciplinary community of practice for imaging research. Find out more about the support available to you

Speak to a local imaging expert

If you need help or advice with delivering your imaging study you can contact one of our Local Imaging Champions who work within the Local Clinical Research Networks. Local Imaging Champions provide leadership for imaging research alongside imaging experts from across the NIHR. They form part of the NIHR Imaging Group and work to strengthen local imaging research portfolios by finding and encouraging collaborative ways of working with Academic Health Science Networks and the SME imaging sector.

Visit the NIHR Local website to find your nearest Local Clinical Research Network who can put you in touch with their Local Imaging Champion.

Enhance your understanding of statistical issues that arise in imaging studies

Imaging research can present some specific design and statistical challenges. The NIHR statistics imaging group organises small group discussion meetings about ongoing research projects including both statisticians and clinicians, where we discuss aspects of study design and analysis. Clinicians attending these events find them valuable and an enjoyable opportunity to learn more about statistical aspects of imaging research.

Visit the NIHR Statistics Group website to find out more and join the mailing list.

Involving patients and the public in imaging research

The NIHR exists to support research that is centred on patient benefit. To this end, our Imaging Group sponsored a one-day workshop to identify issues and opportunities for patients when encountering the new imaging technologies in the context of applied research in medical care environments. Key areas for consideration were identified, including:

  • Involving patients at the outset in terms of concept, technology design and research design
  • Ensuring appropriate communication, access and inclusivity
  • Reporting of results and incidental findings

A brief guidance report has been created which is available for interested audiences who may include:

  • Medical imaging researchers
  • Organisations and individuals whose role it is to support and help facilitate imaging research
  • Patients and the public interested in, or who encounter, medical imaging

Read more about what is important to patients and the public in respect to participation in imaging research.

For those new to research

Radiology Academic Network for Trainees (RADIANT)

The NIHR Imaging Group has strong links with Radiology Academic Network for Trainees (RADIANT). RADIANT is a national trainee-led consortium, supported by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), aiming to:

  • Increase trainee engagement in audit and research, including recruitment to imaging studies on the NIHR CRN portfolio
  • Increase trainee engagement in national and international scientific meetings
  • Involve trainees in publications
  • Improve research training for trainees

Visit the Radiology Academic Network for Trainees (RADIANT) website for more information including details on how to get involved in the consortium.

Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme

We have developed an Associate Principal Investigator Scheme which aims to support health and care professionals to become the Principal Investigators of the future. The RCR have joined a number of Royal Colleges in endorsing this scheme. The scheme provides opportunities for junior doctors and health and care professionals interested in clinical oncology and clinical radiology to develop their skills as a researcher and get involved in some of our cancer portfolio studies involving radiotherapy.

Find out more about the Associate PI Scheme.

Celebrating research excellence

We celebrate the successes of inspirational health and care professionals who have supported NIHR Portfolio research through our Research Excellence Awards jointly sponsored by a number of Royal Colleges and other stakeholder organisations. The NIHR RCR Outstanding Clinical Radiology Researcher Award runs every two years and accepts applications for contributions to CRN-supported imaging research in two categories: Consultant and Trainee. 

Find out more about NIHR Clinical Research Network research awards.


NIHR Imaging Group

The NIHR Imaging Group is led by a Steering Committee, and has three operational Working Groups and two cross cutting workstreams.

We have representatives from the 15 CRN Local Imaging Champions, CRN Cancer Radiotherapy and Imaging Research Leadership and BRC Imaging Leadership. The Committee also includes representatives from three key professional bodies – the Royal College of Radiologists, the Society of Radiographers and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, whilst patients and other external bodies (including UKRI) are also represented.

Find out more about Steering Group and Working Group Members

To request support or to contact any of these working groups, email

NIHR Imaging Working Groups and Workstreams

The Imaging Group has three working groups. The working groups are supported by cross-cutting workstreams in the areas of industry, and patient and the public involvement, which are overseen by the Steering Group.

Imaging Science Working Group

The imaging science group focuses on supporting the development of cutting edge imaging research across the NIHR, including identifying the gaps in imaging research infrastructure and proposing solutions to help investigators undertake high quality imaging research in the NHS. This has included collating information of UK Clinical Trail Units (CTUs) with imaging capacity and developing a large imaging dataset.

Our partners include University of Oxford, Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), National Cancer Imaging Translational Accelerator (NCITA), NHSX, University of Dundee, University of Cambridge and University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, RCR, and Imperial College London.

Research Delivery Working Group

The Research Delivery Working Group aims to improve the imaging research delivery infrastructure within the NIHR and across its partners and stakeholders – NHS, academic and commercial.

Working partners UK Research & Development (UKRD), NCITA, NHS England (NHSE) and NHS Improvement (NHSI), and supported by key imaging experts including our CRN Local Imaging Champions, they are working on developing guidance frameworks to facilitate imaging research and the use of imaging data.

Workforce Working Group

Over 35 million imaging tests are performed each year in the NHS. The aim of the workforce working group is to develop and maintain the NHS and academic imaging workforce. The group has undertaken research into the capacity and capability issues of the imaging workforce in the UK, resulting in two papers published in Clinical Radiology: Current pressure on the UK imaging workforce deters imaging research in the NHS and requires urgent attention, and Academic clinical fellows in radiology: how can we improve success?  

Our partners include key professional bodies such as the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, Society of Radiographers

International Radiology Day

On International Day of Radiology, we celebrate the breadth and diversity that a career in imaging research can bring. We've showcased radiologists, radiographers, physicists, and all kinds of imaging scientists, telling their research story and hearing how the NIHR has helped them use and develop imaging for the benefit of patients everywhere.

Find out more

Case Studies