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New funding announced to support next generation of dementia researchers

Published: 07 July 2022

NIHR has introduced £11.8 million of funding for promising early career researchers to pursue dementia research and to build up their number and skills across the NIHR family.

NIHR, working in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society, has announced new funding to strengthen capacity and capability in dementia health and care research across the NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs).

In addition, the three NIHR research schools - in primary care, public health and social care - have also funded a number of dementia career development awards and projects to encourage new and developing dementia researchers to lead studies.

NIHR is committed to building capacity and capability in preventative, public health and social care research, with increasing funding for dementia research a key plank of this ambition.

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR, said: “We want to improve the lives of people with dementia, and those caring for them, through innovative research that tackles a range of challenges around this disease.

“This new funding taps into the up-and-coming talent in the NIHR ecosystem, supporting fledgling dementia researchers from a range of disciplines to become the chief investigators of the future and building a solid foundation for the next decades of dementia research.”

Developing post-doctoral dementia researchers

All 15 NIHR ARCs have received £7.5 million of funding to support up to three career development awards for early career researchers in dementia, to build strength in dementia-related applied health and care research.

The funding, provided in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, will support a cohort of post-doctoral health and care researchers toward independence, developing their skills to establish their own research projects, programmes and ultimately groups.

Dr Richard Oakley, Associate Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: "Dementia can be devastating for many, and we estimate that 1 million people in the UK will have the condition by 2025. Research provides hope by helping us better understand the causes of dementia as well as developing effective treatments and improved diagnostic techniques, so people with the condition can access the support they need to live well.

“Early career researchers represent the lifeblood of dementia research, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives. We’re investing in the careers of the future leaders in dementia research in partnership with the NIHR on this training programme so we can unlock the dementia breakthroughs of the future.”

The funding will support researchers from a wide range of disciplines, such as healthcare, primary care, public health, social care, neuroscience, social sciences, methodology and the creative arts.

For example, NIHR ARC Kent, Surrey and Sussex will be offering post-doctoral research posts to investigate how to support wellbeing for people with dementia living alone or in hard-to-reach areas and to integrate healthcare, social care and voluntary sector services, to provide a seamless ‘patient journey’ for dementia patients.

The posts NIHR ARC South London will focus on telehealth for family carers of people with dementia and on supporting care homes to better meet the spiritual needs of residents.

More information about the posts will be available in the coming weeks on the website of NIHR ARC Wessex.

Building multidisciplinary dementia researchers

A total of £4.3 million of funding is being injected into supporting researchers in dementia via the NIHR Schools for Primary Care Research (SPCR), Public Health Research (SPHR) and Social Care Research (SSCR). The three schools have joined forces to collaboratively commission and conduct high quality cross-cutting and community-orientated dementia research to address key gaps in the evidence base.

The NIHR Three Schools’ Dementia Research Programme, led by SSCR, has announced £2.8 million of funding for 16 career development awards and nine research projects through its first two funding calls.

One project is developing a sustainable platform to understand the primary care, public health and social care needs for dementia, with a focus on underserved populations. Another is tailoring carers assessments to the needs of carers of those with dementia.

The career development awards are likewise supporting research on a range of topics in dementia, such as an initiative co-producing self-management resources with people with dementia.

The research projects and career development awards are supporting a range of early career researchers, to build capacity in dementia research.

The schools have now launched a third £1.5 million call for research projects to improve the lives of people living with or at risk of dementia, and their family and other carers.

Professor Martin Knapp, Director of NIHR SSCR, said: “Every one of these research projects and career development awards spans at least two of the NIHR research school ‘territories’ - social care, primary care and public health – and address NIHR priorities in the dementia area. These are areas where research could have real impact on the health and wellbeing of people living with, or at risk of dementia and of carers.

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