NIHR Funding: Tips from East Midlands Research Design Service

I attended a very useful meeting yesterday led by the NIHR-funded East Midlands Research Design Service (RDS). The local RDS is there to help researchers in the region increase the quality and success rates of bids to NIHR programmes. They specialise in bids to Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB), but are willing to comment and advise on bids to any of the other schemes, and – in some cases – to other funders.

The RDS offers the following support, delivered by their team of advisers, including Jane Dyas (qualitative research), Matthew Jones (health economist), George Bouliotis (statistician), Dawn-Marie Walker (mixed methods research), and Raksha Pandya (public and patient involvement):

  • Focusing ideas and refining the research question
  • Building an appropriate research team
  • Involving patients and carers in all stages of the research process
  • Overall research design
  • Choice and application of research methodologies for quantitative research e.g. statistical issues, health economics and qualitative research e.g. sampling, analytical strategies
  • How to undertake systematic reviews
  • Identifying the resources required for a successful project
  • How to conduct literature searches
  • How to secure funding
  • Signposting to other research support and advice services, where appropriate.

The presentation began with Matthew Jones giving an overview of the kinds of funding schemes available from NIHR, including examples of the kinds of projects eligible for each. The Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme, for example, focuses on the development of new healthcare technologies and funds applied research from one-year feasibility studies through to large-scale three-year collaborative research with industry. Research for Innovation, Speculation and Creativity (RISC) provides funding for new, radical proposals which could lead to a step change in the care and management of patients. Matthew mentioned that some proposals to this scheme had been criticised for not being radical and creative enough.

Jane Dyas then gave a detailed presentation focusing on the RfPB scheme, including tips for success. Bids which are well-written and easy for a lay-person to understand have a much higher chance of gaining funding, primarily because the lay members of the panels have a large say in allocating the funds. Proposed studies must also contribute to practice, not just knowledge, and benefits for patients must come in the lifetime of the project. Methods must be detailed (which is where support from the RDS is invaluable), and the composition of the research team should be clearly thought through.

If you have an NIHR bid in development, I’d recommend that you contact the East Midlands RDS at an early stage to ensure you are able to submit the highest quality bid possible.