More than £70 million has been granted to Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) by some of the largest government and charity research funders in the UK.
The Medical Research Council (MRC) led the first scientific review of the health data institute. MRC along with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) make up three of the nine funders.
The funding is aligned to UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) strategic theme of ‘Securing better health, ageing and wellbeing’. It will support HDR UK’s core work to accelerate trustworthy access to health data and improve treatments, deliver better healthcare and save lives. It will help to tackle some of the biggest global health crises, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and could speed up and reshape approaches to research.
The UK is in a unique position to realise the potential of health data, thanks to the NHS and its cradle-to-grave records for a population of over 65 million people. However, safe and secure access to this data for researchers is often a lengthy, fragmented process, meaning the potential for improving healthcare is not being realised in full.
HDR UK is the national institute for health data science. It works with the NHS and partners in universities, charities, industry and regulators in bringing the UK’s health data together to make discoveries that improve people’s lives. HDR UK was established five years ago with core funding of £52.7 million. Following an in-depth review by an international panel, the funding for 2023 to 2028 has been increased to £72.3 million over five years.
Dr Rob Buckle, Chief Science Officer at MRC, part of UKRI, said: “MRC’s commitment to supporting HDR UK recognises the unique role of health data research in transforming healthcare in the UK. In the last five years, the Institute has proved itself as a national leader and global player in bringing together world-leading expertise in data science to better understand disease, identify health risks and find new treatments that will change people’s lives. Many of our own MRC and UKRI-led initiatives have been boosted by HDR UK’s support and we are confident the Institute and its partners will together unlock the full potential of health data research.”
The additional six funding partners are:
- National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)
- British Heart Foundation
- Cancer Research UK
- Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates
- Health and Care Research Wales
- Health and Social Care Research and Development in Northern Ireland.
The next five years of funding will see HDR UK follow a plan to increase the speed, scale and quality of health data science and so enable new discoveries. This plan includes:
- UK-wide, collaborative research programmes driving forward the use of large datasets in different areas. From cancer and heart disease to respiratory disease, from the use of medicines to looking at social and environmental impacts on health
- Tackling the current fragmentation and lack of standardisation in the data, by working with many different organisations, building capabilities and supporting real team science
- Continuing to involve patients and the public throughout the institute’s work, ensuring that access to data for research is enabled by trustworthy, safe and secure systems and generates public benefit.