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The National Institute of Health and Social Care Research (NIHR) has announced that researchers from the University of Birmingham led by Professor Neil Thomas and Professor Katie Morris, have won the prestigious contract to deliver the NIHR National Support Office.

The Research Support Service was launched last year and provides free advice, both pre and post award, to enable researchers to develop their ideas through the funding process and delivery of that work.

Birmingham has run one of eight hubs since they were launched in October 2023, providing support from methodologists, statisticians, qualitative researchers, health economists, social scientists, behavioural scientists and clinical trialists amongst others. Advice is also available for patient and public involvement, approaches to addressing research inclusion and signposting to other support available from the NIHR. Since launching, the service has received more than 840 requests for support from researchers through its 8 hubs. The specialist centres in social care and public health have received a combined total of 171 requests for support.

Now, the University of Birmingham will provide strategic and operational leadership across the 8 individual NIHR RSS hubs. The University has demonstrated commitment to collaboration across the hubs and will identify, develop and share standards of good practice, as well as encouraging a coordinated national approach to inclusion and involvement.

I am looking forward to leading this exciting collaboration alongside Professor Katie Morris, Director of the Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit, who is our Academic and Clinical Lead. We look forward to working with all 8 RSS Hubs and Specialist Centres, the NIHR and the wider research community in developing and delivering health and care research. Our vision of collaboration is wide ranging and we have ambitious plans to build capacity in our workforce and public contributors, contribute to the development of inclusive and innovative research methodologies, as well as harmonise systems across our service.

Professor Neil Thomas, University of Birmingham, Operations Director of the RSS National Collaborative.

“The National Collaborative is critical to the successful delivery of the new Research Support Service, which since October has been providing expert advice and support to researchers across England. By leading the Collaborative, the University of Birmingham will work with the other RSS Hubs to ensure all researchers across England are provided with the tailored support they need and to develop an environment of continuous improvement across the service,” commented Professor Marian Knight, NIHR Scientific Director for Research Infrastructure.