Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

NIHR launches £50m ‘Challenge’ funding to tackle inequalities in maternity care

Newborn baby and mother

Published: 13 March 2024

The NIHR has launched its first ‘Challenge’ funding call. The new call will invest £50m into research to tackle inequalities in maternity care. The funding call will establish a diverse research consortium to deliver research and capacity building over five years. 

The call was announced as part of the Department for Health and Social Care’s women’s health priorities for 2024. NIHR Challenge will target research funding to where it is needed most. 

Recent evidence suggests that black women in the UK are almost three times more likely to die during pregnancy or up to six weeks after pregnancy compared to white women. Asian women are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or shortly after, compared to white women.

A new consortium

The new consortium will bring together experts across the UK to help change numbers like these. The consortium will be made up of leading academic institutions and other partners with expertise in research, capacity building and engaging with diverse groups of people.

The research carried out by the consortium will focus on inequalities before, during and after pregnancy. A key aim is to identify specific areas where measurable improvements can be made. Relevant charities, patient groups, community groups and the life sciences industry will also be involved in the research, where appropriate.

Professor Marian Knight, Scientific Director for NIHR Infrastructure, said: "I’m hugely excited about what this research can achieve - funding truly innovative approaches to tackle maternity inequalities will save women’s and babies’ lives - this is a challenge the NIHR is ideally placed to deliver."

Ongoing Challenge funding calls

The Challenge funding call will be the first in a series of focused funding calls, with future topics being announced in due course. The targeted investment means research in DHSC’s priority areas can be accelerated. 

The first stage of the new funding call opens on 13 March and closes on 22 May. Suitably qualified organisations can apply to be part of the consortium. Once the consortium is established, specific research projects will be identified. 

Improving women’s health

The Department for Health and Social Care recently announced its women’s health priorities for 2024. Top priorities include menstrual problems and menopause, maternity care and birth trauma support.

The NIHR also recently published a statement of intent for improving research through inclusive design. This will ensure that women are better represented in health research. Inclusive design will improve women’s health and reduce inequalities based on sex and gender. 

Find out more about the NIHR Challenge: Maternity Inequalities call

Latest news