Funding boost to better connect research to North East communities – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

The Insights North East (INE) project has been established through an existing partnership between Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, North of Tyne Combined Authority and Newcastle City Council, and over time may expand to include other partners including private-sector companies and voluntary and community organisations.

The Newcastle University-led project has received £5.5 million, including £2.8 million from Research England’s Development Fund. The remaining funding has been provided by the INE partners.

INE aims to build a shared understanding of the knowledge and data within each partner organisation and develop new ways of connecting and interrogating that knowledge base so that regional policymakers can better address the needs of local communities.

The project is structured around three policy challenges that align with the expertise in the two universities and the priorities of policymakers in the region:

  • Improving health and wellbeing
  • A just transition to net zero
  • Delivering inclusive growth

By bringing this knowledge together, INE will create better links between academics and policymakers to close the gap between publicly funded research and policy design and implementation and ensure that policies that address these three key challenges meet the needs of communities in the region.

INE will be led by Dr Louise Kempton, from Newcastle University’s Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, who said: “This is a strategically significant initiative for the region that takes our partnerships to a new level.  INE has been designed and developed in collaboration with partners who operate at the heart of our communities to ensure it delivers actionable outcomes that will make a difference to the lives of people in our region. With this funding, INE will build a bridge between the worlds of research and policymaking.”

One of the first objectives of the project will be to map and analyse the many areas in which effective research and policy collaboration between INE partners is already taking place. INE will also gather national and international evidence on best-practice regional research and policy engagement activities to better understand ‘what works’ for effective research to policy translation.

Additionally, against each policy challenge area INE will build and curate a web-based directory of researchers, policymakers and practitioners and host a comprehensive programme of events and workshops for academics and policymakers to share information about existing data, develop links around common themes of interest and build relationships that will shape future research agendas.

As a result, INE will directly help to leverage investment for the region by providing local, place-based evidence for future funding opportunities, and ensure that future policies are based on an understanding of the needs of end-users in the region.

The three policy challenges were identified following work by Urban Foresight that showed there was a demand among regional policymakers to have better information with which they could make locally-relevant decisions in these areas.

It is hoped that INE will become an exemplar for how – by working collaboratively with their public and health sector partners – universities can collaborate to maximise the potential for university research to inform place-based policymaking and ensure future research agendas are demand-led, shaped by the needs of the place.

It will share learnings and successes with the higher education, health and public sectors across the UK and internationally, providing a blueprint for how other places can establish their own place-based initiative for the design and delivery of local initiatives.

Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are increasingly using local data and shared insights from our clinical teams and public health practitioners from our local authority partners to guide our work on health inequalities. Having an increased and more targeted evidence base from INE, coupled with specific policy outputs, will help us to better achieve our programme objectives and benefit our patients and population.”

Longer term, the vision is for INE to become a National Innovation Centre for Policy, with INE leading to the establishment of a new policy research hub in the North East that will harness the knowledge and expertise of each partner, maximise the opportunities for knowledge transfer and place an evidence-based approach at the centre of policymaking across multiple sectors.

For more information about Insights North East, visit www.insightsnortheast.co.uk

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