Ten Years of the NIHR: Achievements and Challenges for the Next Decade

Davies, Sally C.

June 2017

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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), created in April 2006, is a “virtual” organisation often referred to as the research arm of the NHS. It funds health and care research in the UK, translating discoveries into practical products, treatments, devices and procedures, involving patients and the public in all its work. The NIHR also ensures that the NHS is able to support the research of other funders, thereby encouraging broader investment in, and economic growth from, health research. The NIHR works with charities and the life sciences industry to help patients gain earlier access to breakthrough treatments and it trains and develops researchers to keep the nation at the forefront of international research (NIHR, 2016). Dame Sally Davies and Dr Russell Hamilton were the driving forces behind creation of the NIHR.

This year’s OHE Annual Lecture traces the development and impact of the NIHR, including the challenges in establishing it; describes how the NIHR has helped create what the US Institute of Medicine has termed a “learning health care system,” (IOM, 2013) including the use of “Big Data” and gathering “real world evidence”; discusses how to demonstrate the value, in terms of both health and wealth, of major NHS investment in R&D; explores how to keep the UK punching aboveits weight in both public and private biomedical research expenditure and output; discusses NIHR’sefforts to increase the number and appreciation of women in science using the Athena SWAN initiative; outlines lessons for both high income and middle income countries about organising health system R&D; and, finally, examines the development of UK research capability in sequencing the human genome and translating the results into clinical practice.