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Major new funding opportunity for local government based public health research collaborations

Published: 01 September 2021

NIHR has today launched an exciting new initiative to fund public health research collaborations based in local authorities.

The new funding has been assigned for five new Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRC). The value of each HDRC contract is likely to be up to £5 million over five years, with five HDRCs expected to be commissioned in the first instance. This is the first time NIHR has provided funding for public health research infrastructure that will be based in local government. These first five HDRCs, established through the NIHR, will focus on how to address the wider determinants of population health and health inequalities, explicitly addressing the needs of local disadvantaged groups.

The purpose of each HDRC is to enable its host local authority to become more research-active. Each of the five collaborations will be expected to link with higher education institutions, capitalising on both the experience that exists within local government and the research skills of the public health academic community. This will support the development of expertise, and the generation of research evidence, creating a cycle of evidence-informed interventions and ultimately better outcomes for the public.

Work to understand the research and evidence challenges facing local authorities started before the COVID-19 pandemic, with external reports from sources such as NESTASOLACE and LACoR. In 2018/19 Professor Chris Whitty visited local authorities within England, to hear, first-hand, about the public health challenges local authorities face and how research can help address them.

This new funding is one of a number of initiatives that NIHR is putting in place to build capacity and capability in preventative, public health and social care research. These include the NIHR Local Authority Research Systems projects commissioned in the summer of 2020, which have helped to inform the HDRC concept, and the Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Teams, set up to evaluate public health activities already happening in local government.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty said: “During visits to local authorities I see first hand the major public health challenges many areas are facing and the need for more robust information. I am delighted to see the launch of the commissioning process for HDRCs. These collaborations will give local government an opportunity to build their research capacity and capability.’’

New Chief Executive of NIHR, Professor Lucy Chappell said: "I am excited to see the HDRC initiative begin. HDRCs promise to be an excellent addition to the way in which the NIHR continues to support Local Authorities. They enable us to address several areas of strategic focus for NIHR, particularly around tackling inequalities, growing research capability for the longer term in preventative and public health and bringing research to underserved regions and areas with major health needs. I will follow their progress closely."

Applications are invited from local government bodies from all four of the UK nations. NIHR is keen to see applications from a wide range of local authorities, from those with active collaborations and research agendas to those who wish to establish them. The deadline for applications is 23 November 2021 at 1pm.

For more information and to apply please visit the HDRC funding opportunity.

For information on other support for Local Authorities visit the Public Health Research (PHR) Programme page.

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