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NIHR one of 9 research funders providing £multi-million HDR UK funding

Published: 10 May 2023

NIHR is 1 of 9 UK research funders awarding more than £70 million in funding to Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) over the next 5 years.

The funding will support HDR UK’s core work to accelerate trustworthy access to health data and improve treatments, deliver better health care and save lives. It will help to tackle some of the biggest global health crises, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and could speed up and reshape approaches to research. The share of funding provided by NIHR is £15 million.

HDR UK is the national institute for health data science. It works with the NHS and partners in universities, charities, industry and regulators in bringing the UK’s health data together to make discoveries that improve people’s lives.

HDR UK was established 5 years ago with core funding of £52.7 million. Following an in-depth review by an international panel, the funding for 2023 to 2028 has been increased to £72.3 million over 5 years. This will see HDR UK follow a plan to increase the speed, scale and quality of health data science, enabling new discoveries.

  • UK-wide, collaborative research programmes will drive forward the use of large datasets in different areas: from cancer and heart disease to respiratory disease, from the use of medicines to looking at social and environmental impacts on health
  • The current fragmentation and lack of standardisation in the data will be tackled by working with many different organisations, building capabilities and supporting real team science
  • Patients and the public will continue to be involved throughout HDR UK's work – ensuring that access to data for research is enabled by trustworthy, safe and secure systems and generates public benefit

This work builds on the successes of the first 5 years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when the rapid linking and analysis of health data in the four devolved nations informed government responses at many stages.

Will Quince, Minister of State for Health, said: “Data is key to better understanding the health of individuals and the population as a whole. With increased use of data we can speed up diagnoses and even predict outcomes and prevent conditions from developing. 

“Health Data Research UK is leading the way in progressing safe, secure access to information, backed by £15 million of government funding through NIHR, to accelerate trustworthy access to large data sets. 

“This will help improve treatments by identifying individual risk factors to how diseases are passed on from one person to another, deliver better care and ensure a better quality of life for patients both now and in the future."

Professor Andrew Morris, HDR UK director, said: “The transformative potential of health data research is a long way from being realised in full. Only a small proportion of NHS, biomedical and health-relevant data is accessible for research. Our work is far from done if we are to benefit patients and improve lives – this significant funding award is a step change in ensuring we achieve this mission.”

Angela Coulter, former Chair of HDR UK’s Public Advisory Board, said: “Using health data to produce knowledge that will benefit all of us is crucially dependent on public trust. That’s why HDR UK aims to involve people from all social groups in determining priorities, shaping research questions, monitoring outputs and ensuring transparency throughout the research process. This will continue to be a key feature of the next phase of the work programme.”

Alongside NIHR, the other 8 funding partners are:

  • the Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • the British Heart Foundation
  • Cancer Research UK
  • the Economic and Social Research Council
  • the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates 
  • Health and Care Research Wales 
  • Health & Social Care R&D in Northern Ireland

For more information, please visit the HDR UK website.

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