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NIHR announces Research Support Service to establish new pre- and post-application support for researchers

Published: 29 June 2023

The NIHR has announced a newly-established Research Support Service from 1 October 2023. The scheme replaces the NIHR Research Design Service (RDS) and NIHR Clinical Trial Units (CTU) Support Funding, which both end on 30 September 2023.

The NIHR Research Support Service (RSS) will provide researchers, especially those applying for and in receipt of NIHR funding, with free access to support, advice and expertise. It will help them develop and deliver clinical and applied health and care research.

The service has been established following an open and competitive process assessed by research experts and public contributors.

The NIHR RSS will operate nationally and will allow researchers to access the most appropriate support independent of their location. It will provide seamless support for all researchers in England working across the remit of the NIHR, from pre-application through to post-application phases. It will connect with the NIHR Clinical Research Network to support the development of studies designed to ensure they are optimised for delivery at study sites.

Significant Drivers

There are significant drivers for the new NIHR RSS. One is the vision to increase the use of innovative research designs as outlined in The Future of UK Clinical Research Delivery. Another is the growth in those areas of health, public health and social care research that take place outside the NHS, and where studies do not involve clinical trials.

The service will be delivered collaboratively through eight hubs, which will individually bring together a variety of partners. Three hubs will provide specialist support in Public Health or Social Care. This will ensure that all parts of the research ecosystem are consistently well-served.

The NIHR RSS will be managed by the following host organisations with their partners:

  • University of Birmingham
  • Imperial College London
  • King's College London
  • University of Lancaster
  • University of Leicester
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Southampton
  • University of York

Each hub will be able to respond or direct researchers to the most appropriate methodological expertise within the NIHR RSS that supports their study requirements. This will include:

  • advice and assistance with study development, design and delivery
  • advice on patient and public involvement
  • approaches to addressing research inclusion
  • signposting to other support available from the NIHR

The NIHR RSS will function as an integrated research design, development, collaboration and implementation system. It will support training and career opportunities for everyone working in health and care research design. It will also help develop capacity in areas of current and future need. This will ensure that research design and methodology keep up with new technologies and ways of conducting research.

Further details about the new NIHR RSS, including how to access it, will be announced before the start of the scheme.

The creation of the new scheme was also informed and influenced by:

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