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What areas of research do we fund?



Download a pdf of HSC R&D Division funding structure (Aug 2016).


Also see our portfolio pages to view lists of funded research.




Health Research Analysis

The third report of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Health Research Analysis (2014) is now available to download.

This report builds on the basis of the previous analyses in 2004/05 and 2009/10 and has expanded to include 64 charitable and public funders of medical research in the UK, including HSC R&D Division.

As with previous reports, the data relates to a ‘snapshot’ of health research spend in 2014. However as the third in the series there is the opportunity to look at ongoing trends in research funding over the ten year reporting period.

Comparisons with expenditure on health research between 2009/10 and 2004/05 show how Northern Ireland has increased its spend on research that is closer to patients/service users. The greatest change in Northern Ireland’s spending profile is towards studies focused on evaluation of treatments.  This relates directly to strategically planned activity over the 5 years since the previous report, and reflects the growth in expenditure on Clinical Research Networks.

Over the same 5 year period, UK funding for prevention research was doubled. This was an area identified in the 2004/05 report to be in need of expanding. The four UK Health Departments now all show a similar profile of research expenditure due, in part, to well-coordinated activities and joint initiatives.

Many other important comparisons are possible using the data, and the report will be a useful reference point for comparison with future monitoring data as it is collected.

Further information on the HRCS reports can be found here


Setting Research Priorities

Identifying Local Research Priorities

From time to time HSC R&D Division works directly with users of research (policy-makers, practitioners and commissioners), generators of researchers, patients, clients, carers and others to determine priority research areas for HSC.

An example of this was the Delphi Study, funded by HSC R&D Division in 2011 to identify research priorities for the therapy professions in Northern Ireland.

The study by the University of Ulster, enabled members of six Allied Health Professions (AHPs) to express opinions on research needs within their areas of expertise.

The respondents to ‘A Delphi Study to Identify Research Priorities for the Therapy Professions in Northern Ireland’, were selected from professionals based in clinical and academic settings in the areas of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, podiatry, nutrition and dietetics and orthoptics.

The views of a group of key stakeholders in health and social care and a separate panel of service users were also gathered. A copy of this report, and an Executive Summary, can be downloaded below.

NI Delphi Study Report (July2011)      NI Delphi Study Executive Summary


Linking to National Research Priorities

We also draw on the work of other organisations who undertake research priority exercises.

The James Lind Alliance (JLA) is a non-profit making initiative established in 2004 and now managed by NIHR. It brings patientscarers and clinicians together to identify and prioritise the top 10 uncertainties, or 'unanswered questions', about the effects of treatments that they agree are most important. This information helps to ensure that those who fund health research are aware of what matters to both patients and clinicians.

The JLA work closely with The UK Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments (UK DUETs) to ensure that priorities identified through Priority Setting Partnerships are recorded.

DUETS publishes treatment uncertainties from patients, carers, clinicians, and from research recommendations, covering a wide variety of health problems and draws on three main sources to identify uncertainties about the effects of treatments:

  • patients', carers' and clinicians' questions about the effects of treatment
  • research recommendations in reports of systematic reviews of existing research and in clinical guidelines, in which knowledge gaps are revealed
  • ongoing research, both in the form of systematic reviews in progress and new 'primary' studies

Patients and the public have a right to expect that research funders, researchers and health professionals are aware of uncertainties about the effects of treatments. Knowing about uncertainties tells us where further research is needed. Ignoring treatment uncertainties puts patients at risk.