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How to optimise NIHR support for early-phase research delivery

On this page, you can grow your understanding of how the NIHR can help life sciences companies to access free support, services and connections to design and deliver their early-phase research in the UK.

If you’re seeking support for a different type of research, visit our NIHR support for the life sciences industry page to discover our full range of services, or contact us to discuss your needs.

Contact the Industry team

Top destination for early-phase commercial research

The UK is one of the top 3 destinations in the world for commercial early-phase trials. Our NIHR-funded early-phase infrastructure and expertise are a key contributor to this success.

We are funded by the UK government to work in partnership with the life science industry to help you conduct your research in the UK.

Whether you're a multinational pharmaceutical company running an early-phase oncology study or an international SME, we can help you to navigate the UK's research ecosystem.

Our support is organised into 3 areas:

  • Optimising your research for the UK market
  • Preparing to deliver your trial
  • Trial delivery and next steps

Optimise your research for the UK market

I’m not familiar with the UK or the NIHR - where do I start?

Begin by talking to someone who understands the UK’s research landscape. Our Life Sciences Industry Information Service is a free, personalised consultation. We can explain the UK research ecosystem and advise you about the extensive range services, expertise, and facilities provided by the NIHR.

I need input from UK clinical experts to help plan my research

It is important to understand if your proposed research is feasible in the UK research ecosystem early in your research journey. This will require expert insight.

Our free Expertise Partnering Service is a matchmaking service, connecting you with clinical, care, and research expertise in the UK to help translate your innovation from the laboratory into the clinic.

This service can support you to understand the UK health and care environment in a specific therapy area, secure collaborators, develop your innovation, and identify potential co-applicants for funding.

Working collaboratively with research active individuals from academia and the NHS will also mean you are eligible for a wider range of UK health research funding programmes.

This service can also support you at later stages of your research journey, as and when required.

I need feedback on my study design

Your next step will then be to develop or optimise your study design to ensure your study is inclusive, patient-centric and fit for purpose in the UK. Academic and clinical experts in our networks of expertise are part-funded by NIHR to work with innovators like you. Our Biomedical Research Centres, Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres, or Translational Research Collaborations can provide specialised support across your research journey, beginning with study design and writing your protocol.

Preparing to deliver your trial

I need funding to take my research to the next stage

Some life science organisations, such as SMEs, may be eligible to apply for research funding in the UK. Our Industry team can advise on eligibility.
Once you have finalised your study design and written your protocol, we can help you find the right funding programme. This could be through an NIHR funding programme, or via UK funders such as SBRI Healthcare, UKRI, and Innovate UK.

Your eligibility for NIHR funding programmes may require collaboration with an NHS or academic partner. You can identify potential collaborators through our Expertise Partnering Service.

If you choose to apply to an NIHR funding programme, you can access our Research Support Service, which provides advice and guidance to help you prepare your funding application.

Trial delivery and next steps

I need access to health data or patient samples to conduct my research

Depending on your study type and design, you may be able to conduct your research using existing data and patient samples. The NHS serves a population of 67 million, making the UK a source of rich health data, presenting an expanding opportunity of health and care research. We can help you to access a range of pre-consented health data services, patient samples, and real-time research activity data.

I need sites to conduct my research

If your research requires dedicated facilities or participants to generate evidence, you must identify and engage investigators and sites to conduct your research.

The NIHR funds different types of research facilities. To deliver early-phase research, you might need specialist facilities such as our Clinical Research Facilities. These are closely linked to our networks of expertise in our Biomedical Research Centres,Translational Research Collaborations and Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres. Experts from those networks could also help deliver your trial, at additional locations in the NHS.

Depending on how many sites you need, we can also help you identify sites and investigators to deliver your early-phase trial throughout the wider NHS. We can quickly gather expressions for you to consider from primary, secondary and tertiary care. Often larger, late-phase trials engage multiple sites this way.

I need to identify volunteers to take part in my research

NIHR-funded facilities and experts are embedded in the NHS. Once you have selected your sites, the site teams will begin to identify and engage volunteers who are suitable for your study, and who could benefit from taking part. If you have a specific recruitment strategy, they will explore how to implement it locally and may even suggest how to improve it.

My trial was successful - I want to help to take my next step

Once you have generated evidence in an appropriate health or care setting, you may have your sights set on accessing the UK market. We can connect you with the relevant organisation to obtain marketing authorisation and health technology assessment in the UK, such as MHRA or NICE , through platforms such as the NHS Innovation Service.

If you are an SME and are not yet market-ready, you may be seeking further funding to take your innovation to the next stage.

Larger life science organisations may now be planning a larger, late-phase trial.

I’m ready to get started

Our Industry team is waiting to hear from you.  Get in touch early to understand how NIHR support can be tailored to your specific needs. 

Contact the Industry team