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NIHR awards £2m funding for communities and researchers to work together to tackle health and care challenges

A community group sitting at tables

Published: 28 September 2023

The NIHR has funded a new series of awards that embrace true partnerships between the public and researchers. These new projects place communities on an equal footing with researchers to lead research projects together. 16 projects were funded, with a total of £2m awarded from the first funding call in 2022. The second round is now open for applications.

NIHR recognises that research has to be shaped by the communities it serves to ensure research finds better solutions for health and social care problems they face.

In 2022, NIHR introduced a new funding call, focusing especially on public partnerships. ‘Developing Innovative, Inclusive and Diverse Public Partnerships’ is a 3-year pilot programme. It encourages new ways of working together and forming more equitable partnerships between communities and researchers.

Taking research closer to people

Zoe Gray, NIHR Deputy Director for Public Partnerships, said: ‘It’s the communities, service users, patients and the public that really know what makes a difference. They are well placed to help find solutions for health and care problems which affect their community or the people they support. This can only happen through genuine, equal partnerships with researchers. This requires NIHR to work differently, taking research closer to people in the communities where they live and work and building relationships of trust over time.’

Rajinder Flora, Assistant Director for NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research and NIHR Programme Development Grants, said: ‘The first round of funding was one of the most successful in our programme's history. We received 35 applications and we were really impressed with the quality of them. We were delighted to be able to fund 16 applications in this important area. In the second round, we haven't specified a cap on the funding, and subject to approval, all applications recommended for funding will be supported.’

Among the 16 projects funded are ideas such as: 

  • a partnership looking at the barriers facing people with learning disabilities and methods to support them becoming equal partners in research 
  • a collaboration to improve diet quality of vulnerable groups such as adults with severe mental illness
  • a series of conversations with under-served groups, co-designed by the community
  • a project supporting people to tell their story from a place of strength through participatory arts
  • a co-production and peer research network to create sustainable community research partnerships

See the full list of funded projects.

More funding for equitable partnerships

The second funding call is open until 25 October 2023. NIHR is looking to fund more research projects that are led by the community. Research projects should also explore a new and/or more inclusive way of working together with the researchers. More information can be found on the call’s page.

Anica Alvarez Nishio, Public Member who helped develop the funding call, said: ‘This funding fundamentally shifts the balance of established power structures. The public members of NIHR funding committees are proud and excited to be at the forefront of developing this initiative. We have determined the criteria and are now leading the funding committee, encouraging and sustaining new ways of partnership working.’

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