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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in Bristol

29 November 2019

The NIHR is the nation’s largest funder of health research. Bristol punches well above its weight in terms of attracting NIHR funding outside the ‘golden triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London. The city, through its universities and hospitals, hosts key NIHR infrastructure, as well as attracting millions in NIHR grant funding every year.

The University of Bristol is the only university to host centres for all three NIHR schools – the School for Primary Care Research, the School for Public Health Research and the School for Social Care Research. It also hosts one of only a handful of NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Units (BTRUs) – the BTRU in Red Blood Cell Products, which is growing red blood cells in the laboratory to treat rare diseases.

The NIHR is a complex, devolved organisation and can be confusing to those who aren’t familiar with its intricacies. Here we explain what each part of the local NIHR does, and who it’s designed to help.

It’s worth being aware that there is some overlap between the different parts at each stage of the research process. For example, the Research Design Service and Bristol Trials Centre both offer support for grant applications. The different parts also collaborate and work together.

If in doubt, get in touch with the part you feel is most relevant and they will be happy to help.

Designing and managing research

NIHR South West Research Design Service (RDS)

A bespoke service to help you design studies and successfully apply for grants
The RDS South West, which in Bristol is hosted by University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol), supports researchers to develop applications to the NIHR and other applied health and social care research funders. Whether you’re at the beginning of your research design journey or you’re one click away from submitting your funding application, the RDS is here to support you, free of charge. The RDS can help you: develop a research question and start your public involvement consultation; consider the funding programme, build the team and alert organisations; decide on study design, develop methods; write the research proposal; submit the research application; and provide post-award support. RDS advisers can even get involved as full collaborators on projects.

Bristol Trials Centre (BTC)

Supporting set up and management of studies, from grant application to publishing results
The Bristol Trials Centre works with collaborators to design studies, starting with the research idea and grant application, through to the successful delivery of the research if funded. Staff within the centre have extensive expertise in trials methodology, study design, study management, statistical analysis and data management, including bespoke database design. There are also experts in health economics and social science. BTC is part-funded by NIHR.

  • Who’s it for? Researchers and clinicians who are developing a research study (including randomised trials) and would like to collaborate with an established team to deliver it
  • Geography: Bristol-based but successfully collaborating with centres of excellence and lead researchers nationally and internationally
  • Find out more about the Bristol Trials Centre (BTC)

NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) West of England

Helping you run clinical research in the NHS and social care settings
The CRN West of England, hosted at UH Bristol, facilitates research in NHS and social care settings, supporting portfolio studies in 30 specialties in universities, schools, care homes, prisons and clinical settings. To be eligible for portfolio inclusion your study must meet the definition of research, have ethical approval and full funding from open national competition. The CRN has an infrastructure of 250 trained research support staff that you can draw on. Their Study Support Service offers advice at every stage, from whether a study is feasible to help with permissions in settings to delivery. They also offer help with recruiting study participants, free training for research teams and encourage healthcare staff and the public to Be Part of Research.

Conducting research

NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)

Bridging the gap between fundamental research and new treatments
Bristol BRC’s innovative biomedical research takes science from the laboratory bench or computer and develops it into new drugs, treatments or health advice. Its world-leading scientists work on many aspects of health, from the role played by individual genes and proteins to analysing large collections of data on hundreds of thousands of people. Bristol BRC is unique among the NIHR’s 20 BRCs across England, thanks to its expertise in ground-breaking population health research. It is hosted by UH Bristol.

NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West (ARC West)

Applied health research to address the issues facing the health and social care system
ARC West conducts applied health research with its partners and others in the health and care sector, alongside patients and members of the public. Applied health research aims to address the immediate issues facing the health and social care system. They also help bring research evidence into practice and provide training for the local workforce. The ARC is hosted by UH Bristol.

NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions

Applied research to protect the public’s health and support Public Health England
The Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) for Evaluation of Interventions conducts applied research on the development and evaluation of interventions to protect the public’s health. They aim to support Public Health England (PHE) in delivering its objectives and functions, focusing on PHE’s priority area of infection.

NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR)

Driving forward primary care research to influence policy and practice
The NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR) is a partnership between nine leading academic centres for primary care research in England, with the University of Bristol hosting the Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC). CAPC is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK. It sits within the Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching.

NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR)

Driving forward public health research to influence policy and practice
The NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) is a partnership between eight leading academic centres of excellence in public health research, with the University of Bristol hosting a centre.

NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR)

Driving forward adult social care research to influence policy and practice
The NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) is a partnership between seven leading academic centres of excellence in adult social care research. In Bristol, the SSCR team is based in the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies (Social Sciences & Law).


The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) in Bristol
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