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Round 10 of the NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC) and Round 3 of the NIHR Local Authority Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (LA SPARC) scheme have now launched!

The application period for both competitions is Wednesday 27th September – Thursday 23rd November 2023 at 1pm. 


The awards are open to all NIHR Academy Members who:

  • are early career researchers (PhD or early career post-doc) undertaking a formal training/career development award, which is competitive, includes a training plan and has a defined end point (this may be an application for further funding);
  • are directly funded by an NIHR award that is a part of the NIHR Infrastructure with a remit to build capacity - Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs), Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs), and Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs) - or are part of one of the three NIHR Schools;
  • receive at least 25% funding from the NIHR Infrastructure or NIHR School for their salary/stipend/fees over the lifetime of the award;
  • do not already hold an NIHR Academy Fellowship or NIHR Clinical Lectureship.


The NIHR SPARC offers awards of up to £15,000 per individual and allows eligible NIHR Academy Members (formal pre-doctoral/Masters, PhD or early career post-doctoral researchers) supported by NIHR Infrastructure, a HPRU and NIHR Schools an opportunity to spend time in other parts of the NIHR; to network, train in a specific skill or collaborate with other researchers/specialists. The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals’ experience as well as their CVs and careers. 

Further information on the NIHR SPARC scheme; including the guidance notes and how to apply can be found  hereWe would encourage potential applicants to refer to the NIHR SPARC - Where can I go? document; which details some of the different centres and sites across the NIHR who have provided information to ourselves (note this is not an exhaustive list); including the research they are involved in, their facilities and expertise and details of some of the types of activities taking place within the NIHR.

Please also refer to a recent SPARC case study highlighting the type of placement a previous award holder has undertaken and the benefits and impacts the placement has had on their personal and professional development.


The NIHR Local Authority SPARC (LA SPARC) scheme will run alongside the existing NIHR SPARC scheme. This scheme will provide opportunities for both NIHR Academy Members and individuals working in Local Authority settings to undertake placements and move between NIHR and Local Authority settings in either direction.

What does the LA SPARC award include?

The NIHR LA SPARC offers awards of up to £15,000 per individual and allows eligible NIHR Academy members to design and undertake bespoke placements in local authority settings to enhance their careers by developing their skills, knowledge and expertise to work at the interface between local authorities and NIHR.

Opportunities for NIHR Academy members to undertake a placement in a local authority setting – This will offer an opportunity for NIHR Academy Members (Masters, PhD or early career Post-Doc based within NIHR Infrastructure, HPRUs and NIHR Schools (meeting the standard SPARC eligibility criteria) to apply to undertake placements in a local authority setting to gain first-hand experience of being actively embedded and connected within practice/policy.

We have developed a  LA SPARC - Which Local Authority Can I Go to? document for NIHR Academy members to help them find a local authority placement host. It contains a short summary of the local authority settings areas of interest (e.g active travel, air pollution and health, gambling and addiction, safeguarding and vulnerable adults etc.) as well as a key contact(s) for interested applicants to get in touch.

Please note, this list is not an exhaustive list and only includes those local authorities who have specifically contacted NIHR and expressed an interest in hosting placements. So please do encourage NIHR Academy members to reach out to any Local Authority setting and explore the possibility of undertaking a placement.

WEBINAR: Friday 20th October 2023 (10am-11am)

One of the options NIHR Academy members applying to the LA SPARC scheme may wish to consider are the new NIHR Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRCs); designed to boost Local Authorities’ capacity and capability to conduct high-quality research to tackle inequalities, working in partnership with a Higher Education Institution (HEI). HDRCs bring organisations together to enable and support research to happen within the council, embedding a culture of evidence-based decision making.

In wave one in 2022, a total of 13 HDRCs were funded – each worth up to £5 million over five years. These areas include: 

  • Tower Hamlets Council
  • Aberdeen City Council
  • Gateshead Council
  • Middlesbrough Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council
  • Islington Council
  •  Newcastle City Council
  • City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council
  • Blackpool Council
  • London Borough of Lambeth
  • Doncaster Council
  • Plymouth City Council
  •  Coventry City Council
  • Medway Council

Each HDRC has its own specific aims and objectives. Placements would be ‘hosted’ by a single local authority as part of a HDRC and co-created to meet both your research and training needs and that of the local authority. Placements would allow NIHR Academy members to hear the issues and challenges being faced in local government and learn about the practicalities of undertaking research in a new setting, as well discussing mutual areas of research interest. Whilst at the same time sharing your knowledge and experience and contributing to the development of the research infrastructure or culture in that local authority/HDRC by working together on a collaborative project or activity (e.g establishing resident involvement channels).

Find out more: If you’re interested in hearing more, a number of HDRC colleagues are running a webinar on Friday 20th October (10am-11am) – to register for this session, please email