UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences


Health minister visits UCL-led partnership to announce £135 million research fund

11 July 2019

Baroness Nicola Blackwood visited a UCL-led research collaboration today as the Government awarded £135 million investment to 15 pioneering teams to tackle the challenges the health and care system faces over the next five years.


The UCL-led National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) ARC North Thames is one of 15 new Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) to have been awarded funding for groundbreaking research that will address the increasing demands on the NHS, public health and social care, improve outcomes and services and reduce inequalities.

Through the 15 partnerships, the NHS joins forces with leading universities, innovators and local authorities in England. The NIHR ARC North Thames is a partnership of six universities (UCL, Queen Mary University of London, LSE, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, City and University of East London), the NHS, councils (across central and east London, Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire), patients, communities, charities and industry.

The partnership seeks to identify the health and care problems that most concern everyone, design innovative research in response and then rapidly put findings into practice across the region and beyond.

Its focus is on mental health, multimorbidity, population health and social care, innovation and implementation, and health economics and data. The partnership has been designated the national ARC lead for population health.

Professor Rosalind Raine (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care), Director of NIHR ARC North Thames, said: “The key to achieving the holy grail of delivering world-leading research and rapid impact is to work hand in glove with our partners. We are designed to be agile enough to tackle major emerging issues that come from the ground up, from frontline staff, patients and the public. So our results will be of direct value and can be readily spread across the country in partnership with our Applied Health Science Network, UCLPartners.

“We are also passionate about reducing inequalities. We must achieve benefits for all those in our region, which encompasses a range of neighbourhoods including the third most deprived in England. We also serve ethnically diverse and highly mobile communities. By closely collaborating with ARCs across the country, we will ensure that our research is truly relevant to different social and demographic groups whether they live in urban or rural settings.”

Lady Blackwood, Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “As the population grows and demand on the NHS increases, it is paramount we develop the next generation of technologies and improve the way we work to ensure the NHS continues to offer world-leading care.

“The UK has a proud history of cutting edge health research and by supporting the great minds in health and social care, this funding has the potential to unlock solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and revolutionise the way patients access treatments in the future.”

Professor Chris Whitty, NIHR Lead and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, said: "The unique local collective approach at each NIHR Applied Research Collaboration will support applied health and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local patients, and local health and care systems. The network will also be able to tackle health priorities at a national level.

“The 15 new NIHR Applied Research Collaborations will ensure that we grow applied health and care research in every region in England. The additional funding announced today means we will ensure that our world-leading research is turned into real benefits for patients and ensure the NIHR Applied Research Collaborations work together to have national-level impact.”

Planned studies at NIHR ARC North Thames seek to tackle major health and care challenges, ranging from reducing urgent care admissions to improving management of frailty; developing and evaluating pathways linking primary, secondary, and social care; addressing fairness and quality in provision of mental health services for all ages; developing the potential of diverse data for examining variations in outcomes, and providing tools to drive implementation across diverse settings.

Research will examine persistent problems such as child health inequalities, the impacts of multiple disadvantage, pollution, polypharmacy (the concurrent use of multiple medicines) and sustainability of social care, as well as emerging issues including gambling, knife crime and built infrastructure for sustainability.

The partnership will also train frontline NHS and public health staff in applied research skills, supporting them to use the highest quality research in their work for patient and public benefit, helping them develop into research leaders and widening the area’s network of experts. This ensures that future research is grounded in health and care settings and in communities, so meeting people’s most pressing practical needs.

The new ARCs will build on the success of the NIHR Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRCs), replacing them from 1 October 2019.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research, established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care.



Sixth from left: Baroness Nicola Blackwood during her visit. Fifth from left: Professor Rosalind Raine.

Media contact

Rowan Walker

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 8515

Email: rowan.walker [at] ucl.ac.uk