£70m funding for Health Data Research UK

The grant from nine of the largest UK government and charity research funders will accelerate trustworthy access to health data and improve treatments, deliver better health care and save lives. 

These are the core aims of Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), the national institute for health data science. Established in 2018 with core funding of £52.7m, it works with the NHS as well as universities, charities, industry and regulators to bring the UK’s health data together so that discoveries can be made that improve people’s lives.

Ambulance moving at speed on a road during daytime

This approach was notably demonstrated during the Covid pandemic, with government responses  informed by the swift linking and analysis of health data from the four devolved nations.  

Such work can also help to tackle some of the biggest global health crises, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can also help to speed up and reshape approaches to research.  

Of course, the UK has a unique advantage because of the NHS, which holds lifelong records for a population of 65m people.  

It’s obviously important that this data is maintained safely and securely. Yet researchers can find the process for accessing such data fragmented and slow – limiting the potential to improve healthcare.  

Now funding has been boosted to £72.3m over the next five years. With this, HDR UK will aim to increase the speed, scale and quality of health data science, enabling new discoveries. 

Professor Andrew Morris, Director of HDR UK, says: ‘The transformative potential of health data research is a long way from being realised in full. Only a small proportion of NHS, biomedical and health-relevant data is accessible for research. Our work is far from done if we are to benefit patients and improve lives – this significant funding award is a step change in ensuring we achieve this mission.’ 

More than 1,500 researchers in 39 organisations are members of HDR UK, which has also enabled collaborative research involving over 500 organisations.  

The nine funding partners are: the Medical Research Council (MRC), the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates, Health and Care Research Wales, and Health & Social Care R&D in Northern Ireland. 

In related news, a partnership between the NHS and the Scottish Techscaler support network will allow participating companies to test health products in clinical settings.

Photo by Ian Taylor


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