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Research Design Service

Got a research idea and not sure how to turn it into a funding application? Talk to our Research Design Service (RDS).

The RDS provides support to health and social care researchers across England on all aspects of developing and writing a funding application, including research design, research methods, identifying funding sources and involving patients and the public. Advice is confidential and free of charge.

In an increasingly competitive research environment, securing funding to conduct health and social care research can be difficult and time consuming. The Research Design Service (RDS) supports researchers to design high quality research proposals for submission to NIHR research programmes and other open, national, peer reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research.

RDS advisers in regional centres across England offer a unique breadth of experience and have a proven track record in improving funding applications.

We advise you to contact your local RDS at an early stage in developing your proposal to discuss your research ideas. 

The RDS can also support requests relating to COVID-19 research and related public involvement. Find out more.

The RDS offers high quality, responsive, specialist advice and support on research design and methodology, to researchers making funding applications for submission to NIHR research programmes and national, peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research.

The RDS could help your team with:

  • designing a study
  • research methods (qualitative and quantitative)
  • identifying suitable sources of funding
  • involving patients and public in research design
  • identifying potential academic, clinical, small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME) and public collaborators
  • identifying and refining the research question
  • medical statistics
  • health economics
  • advice on common pitfalls
  • interpreting feedback from funding panels.

Find out more about working with the Research Design Service.

The RDS can help you if you are:

  • developing funding applications for applied health or social care research
  • applying for personal fellowships
  • writing applications to national, open, peer-reviewed funding competitions.

The RDS supports a broad range of people, including:

  • doctors, nurses and allied health professionals
  • patients and service users
  • academics and NHS and social care managers.

RDS priority is to support applications to NIHR research programmes. They also support applications to research councils and other open, national, peer-reviewed funding programmes.


RDS research advisers offer a unique breadth of expertise and have a proven track record in improving research applications.


The RDS can help you to identify possible gaps in your research team and collaborators who can add value to your research, including health and social care clinicians, policy makers, academic researchers, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and patients and the public.

Tailored support

The RDS can offer support tailored to the needs of your research team. Advice is available at face-to-face meetings, by telephone or email, at research clinics or as feedback from panel review meetings.

The national RDS network operates from 10 regional centres across England.

 East Midlands  East of England
Leicester: 0116 252 3276
Nottingham: 0115 970 9310
01206 874856
London North East and North Cumbria
020 7848 6782
0191 208 7000
North West South Central
 01524 593 209
 02381 204778
South East South West
01227 824281
01392 726 724
West Midlands Yorkshire and the Humber
01214 148533
0114 222 0828


Q.  Can I still apply for funding via calls that are currently open and will there be new calls in the coming months?

A.  Yes.  All NIHR funding schemes and calls are open for applications. Deadlines for all stages of application processes remain as previously advertised.


We are continually updating our COVID-19 funding  and resources page


Find out more:

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