The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has launched the NIHR Academy to ensure the nation’s research workforce has the capacity and capability needed to address growing challenges ranging from multimorbidity in the elderly to the mental health needs of the young.
The new NIHR Academy will work to attract professional groups where research capacity is low, including nurses, pharmacists and social scientists, and to break down barriers to career progression, especially for women. It will build capacity in under-represented sectors such as primary care, public health and social care, and upskill the research workforce in disciplines such as bioinformatics and data science.
The NIHR is already the largest funder of health research training in the UK. It invests over £130 million a year in training and career development, providing opportunities from pre-doctoral level to Research Professorships and Senior Investigator awards, including access to leadership and mentorship support.
Speaking at the launch event at the Barbican Centre in London, Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, said: “The government is committed to unlocking the next wave of treatments and innovations – that’s why we invest £1 billion a year into health and social care research.
“The NIHR Academy will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of research by bringing together more than 4,000 academics to find lifesaving solutions to key emerging health problems.”
Professor Chris Whitty, who is Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and responsible for the department’s research and development, said: “Academic training has been a key priority for NIHR since its establishment. It has a history of training partnerships, notably with Health Education England, and I’m excited by the potential for the NIHR Academy to forge new and stronger partnerships with other research funders.”
Professor David Jones, Dean for the NIHR Academy, announced six new ‘incubators’ to build research capacity in primary care, public health, social care, health data science, nursing and emergency care. He said: “Our new incubator programme will be transformational in building stronger research in areas of need. Each will be co-produced and tailored to the need. For example, our partnership with Health Data Research UK will bring together new communities to advance training and career development in health data science.”