The NIHR Incubators are being developed to support capacity building and multidisciplinary career development in priority areas where critical mass is low.

Incubators will be virtual, managed across multiple sites and organised by discipline. They will provide targeted high level career development support, led by experts in the field and supported by the NIHR Academy.

The Strategic Review of Training report highlighted a number of challenges and set out a series of recommendations which included the creation of the Incubators, as well as plans for new training programmes that could address NIHR priorities and new initiatives that would develop research capacity in strategically important areas.

This initiative aims to encourage early career interest in target disciplines to build identifiable communities through networking and provision of bespoke training and development support.

NIHR Incubators are being piloted and make the most of existing opportunities - by building on structures that already exist (the NIHR Schools), by working in partnership to support new and emerging disciplines or by being community led in areas where capacity is particularly low. The intention is for the incubators to be bespoke to meet the needs of each area and will all therefore develop at different paces.

Incubators in development include:

In addition to the NIHR Incubators, the NIHR is piloting one regional approach called the WESSEX REACH Initiative. REACH was created to facilitate the development of the future generation of health and care-related researchers across a range of disciplines and specialties in the Wessex region.

How do I set up an Incubator?

Currently NIHR Academy has reached maximum capacity in terms of the number of incubators we can support. Details of any future competitions will be announced on the NIHR website.

However, we are happy to discuss potential future incubator proposals at any time to assist issues or needs for research capacity development in a certain area. If you wish to discuss a potential future incubator proposal, please contact

What happens after I submit a proposal?

Your proposal will be referred on to the NIHR Research Capacity Development Group (RCDG). If it is within our remit then you will be asked to complete a short scoping form to provide further details which will be considered by the RCDG for review and further development. This group is chaired by the Dean for the NIHR Academy and includes representation from NIHR Academy members and wider NIHR.

The process for development will be light touch and iterative. Successful incubator proposals will go on to establish a working group of identified stakeholders (including NIHR Academy representation) to further develop the ideas and plans for capacity development.

The  NIHR Academy is happy to contribute small amounts of funding to support a limited number of events, but a key feature for each NIHR incubator is to build on and add value to infrastructure, organisations and networking structures that already exist.

How will you manage differing development needs?

Development needs are likely to be different in different areas. For example, some areas are new and emerging with small numbers of early career researchers who would benefit from networking, peer support and mentorship, whilst other areas struggle to attract people into academic pathways and mechanisms that raise awareness and promote the benefits of research would work well here. The intention is for the incubators to be “bespoke” to meet the needs for each area, which should be reflected in the development approach. What will be common to all incubators is the desire to attract and support the brightest people in the field, which  is likely to include the development of national networks.

Will you be precluded from creating an Incubator if you're already working with a Royal College on capacity development?

We anticipate that most, if not all, Incubators will be developed in collaboration with relevant area partners. The NIHR Academy does not aspire to run Incubators, we are there to facilitate and nurture them. This approach will really benefit from partnership working. How we work with partners will vary and we therefore will remain flexible in our approach to incubator development.

If we have an incubator will we get more PhD fellowships?

NIHR and other funders already have plenty of fellowship and other opportunities. The challenge we face is where there are low numbers of competitive applications in priority areas. Incubators are principally designed to encourage people into areas to access existing funding opportunities, and to support the development of project applications. There will be potential to increase award numbers in incubator areas if incubators are highly successful.

Will this service  help us overcome problems associated with lack of awareness in certain fields at an undergraduate level?

Incubators will be encouraged to work proactively with university bodies to increase awareness of, and exposure to research in the relevant areas. 

Further Information