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Research Units

research units header


NIHR research units are university-based collaborations that fund and undertake research in priority areas in health, health protection, and health and social care policy.


We have three research unit schemes and each scheme contains individual research units.

The overarching schemes are:

  • Health Protection Research Units
  • Blood and Transplant Research Units
  • Policy Research Units.

Some schemes are run in partnership with other government bodies, such as the UK Health Security Agency and NHS Blood and Transplant.

Within each scheme, each unit focuses on a priority topic such as blood donation, healthcare associated infections or adult social care. The units receive five year funding awards, and then fund projects in partner institutions on research themes relating to their priority topic.

Health Protection Research Units

There are 14 NIHR Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) across England. Each HPRU is a research partnership between a university and the UK Health Security Agency.

The units fund high quality research that aims to protect the public’s health and minimise the health impact of emergencies. 

They undertake research on predefined themes such as antimicrobial resistance, air pollution and infectious diseases.

COVID-19 response

The HPRUs were highly responsive to the pandemic, tailoring their work programmes to carry out COVID research. The HPRUs undertook 48 COVID projects during 2020, leading to 56 papers and 2 letters to journals. 

Projects included the largest detailed COVID-19 household contact and transmission study.

Directors and senior staff from HPRUs advised on how to manage the pandemic, sitting on groups such as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.


Our HPRUs are:

The NIHR HPRU Development Award in Environmental Exposures and Health at University of Leicester focuses on health effects from exposures in the built environment.

Blood and Transplant Research Units

There are currently six NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Units (BTRUs) in operation across England. The units are partnerships between universities and NHS Blood and Transplant. They undertake research to improve the supply of blood, blood products, stem cells, tissues, and organs for transplantation. 

The BTRUs have developed many scientific advances leading to patient benefits,for example: 


Our BTRUs are:

Policy Research Units

NIHR Policy Research Units (PRUs) undertake research to inform policy decisions about health and social care. The units bring together experts for research in priority areas of health and social care policy.

The 15 current PRUs provide both a long-term resource for policy research and a rapid-response service to provide evidence for emerging policy needs. In January 2024, 20 new Policy Research Units will begin work, with a total investment of £100m over 5 years. 

A number of PRUs have been undertaking COVID-19 research, either through new funding awards or adapting existing projects. 

Find out more about PRUs.