REAL Research Units A new programme to develop a rich evidence base which will build consensus and develop the infrastructure and leadership needed to influence longer-term approaches to policy and funding decisions.

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  • New £7.45m programme will provide independent research that builds on and amplifies the work of the REAL Centre, who will provide evidence to support better long-term decision making in health and social care.
  • The REAL Research Units programme will offer £3.725m funding to experienced research teams based in the UK for the set-up of two research units over seven years.
  • Expressions of interest are now open and the deadline for applications is Tuesday 12.00 (midday), 17 May 2022.

The Health Foundation’s REAL Centre has launched an ambitious new programme, that will provide independent research that builds on and amplifies the work of the REAL Centre, developing evidence to support better long-term decision making in health and social care.

The REAL Research Units programme will develop leadership, advocacy and learning which will build consensus and develop the infrastructure needed to influence longer-term approaches to policy and funding decisions. 

Invitation to apply

The REAL Research Units programme is looking for qualified and experienced research teams based in the UK. Applicants will have a demonstrable track record in academic publication and significant experience in health economics research, as well as experience interacting with and communicating to policymakers.  

We are offering a total of £7.45m funding for the set-up of two research units. Each research unit will receive up to £3.725m of funding over seven years, with the research units expected to launch at the end of 2022. The 7-year programme will be split into two phases, with a mid-point review stage following phase one.  

The REAL Research Units will develop research programmes in the REAL Centre’s areas of interest: demand for and supply of health and social care. We will fund one research unit focusing on demand and one on supply. Applicants need to specify which area they are interested in and cannot submit applications for both supply and demand. We expect that both units will work together to maximise these synergies once the programme is underway.   

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The REAL Centre will support successful applicants in data access planning; however, we expect applicants to have suitable experience in accessing and managing data to deliver a programme of this scale. Applicants will also have experience of project and programme management of research programmes of a similar scale.   
 
The outputs from the REAL Research Units will be focused on England; however, we welcome applications which draw on expertise across the devolved nations.  
 
We encourage applications from teams who can draw upon multidisciplinary expertise including, but not limited to, public and population health, sociology, anthropology, geography and other social sciences.  
 
We strongly encourage applications with ambition to involve patients, public and those with lived experience.  

The REAL Research Units will be supported by a fellowship programme, aimed at economists who currently work on topics outside health. The fellows will provide knowledge-exchange and breadth of perspective beyond health economics, supporting the units to drive impact. 

 
How to apply

Important: All applicants must read the Call for applications and Frequently asked questions in full before submitting an expression of interest.  

There are three stages to the application process for this programme:

Stage 1 – Expressions of interest: 30 March–17 May 2022

The REAL Research Units programme opens for expressions of interest on Wednesday 30 March 2022 and closes at 12.00 (midday) on Tuesday 17 May 2022

We will host a live webinar on Tuesday 19 April 2022. The webinar will outline the Call for application and includes a Q&A with members of the REAL Centre. To register your interest in attending please email realcentre@health.org.uk.

Applications must be submitted via our applicant portal. To begin your expression of interest please visit the applicant portal. Expressions of interest must be submitted via the applicant portal by the deadline and late submissions will not be accepted. 

The REAL Research Units programme panel will review all expressions of interest. We will then invite successful applicants to take part in stage two. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer individual feedback to unsuccessful applicants at this stage.


Stage 2 – Deliberative dialogues: July–September 2022 

We will invite shortlisted applicants to participate in a series of three deliberative dialogues. We expect applicants to attend all three sessions. The deliberative dialogues reflect the collaborative nature of the REAL Research Units and are an opportunity for applicants to develop their thinking through a series of conversations drawing on diverse expertise. 

The dialogues do not form part of the assessment process; however, they may be used to provide further context and additional detail for the panel discussions during stage three. 

The dialogues will either take place online or at the Health Foundation offices at 8 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8AP.  We will provide further information on the dialogue process to the shortlisted candidates at the end of stage one.


Stage 3 – Written application and panel presentation: October–November 2022

Following the deliberative dialogue process, we will invite applicants to submit a written proposal summarising their thinking and expanding on programme ideas discussed during the deliberative dialogue phase. We will also require applicants to present their programme plans to the REAL Research Units panel: composed of Health Foundation staff and external assessors, including members of the public and health care professionals. 

As part of the presentation the panel will have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss plans in more detail. Panel presentations will either take place online or in person at our offices at 8 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8AP.  

Shortlisted applicants must submit their written application by 12.00 (midday) on Wednesday 26 October 2022. The full application must be submitted on our online portal by the same applicant who submitted the expression of interest.

The Health Foundation will notify teams of the final decisions on their applications in November 2022. After this stage, we will offer unsuccessful applicants feedback on their applications.

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