A total of 40 researchers and supporters from across Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS) came together, in March, for a three-day residential grant writing and development retreat, jointly organised by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)'s Applied Research Collaboration Kent Surrey Sussex (ARC KSS), Research Design Service South East (RDS SE) and Clinical Research Network Kent, Surrey and Sussex (CRN KSS).
The aim of the retreat was to give researchers, from across the region, the dedicated time to progress and develop their NIHR grant applications - with hands-on support and advice from a number of different experts. In addition, six mini training sessions were held, including: best practice in patient and public involvement; analysing skills gaps; costing applications and choosing a clinical trials unit, stakeholder engagement and voluntary, community and social enterprise sector links; and supporting your grant.
Across the three days, researchers listened to a range of different speakers including:
- Jim Reeder, Children’s Physiotherapist at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, on his experience of being successful at interview for a Doctoral Clinical Academic Fellowship award.
- Dr Ferhana Hashem, Kent Lead RDS SE and Reader in Health Services Research, on the focus on funding schemes and writing style.
- Professor Carrie Llewellyn, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, on her experience of being the Chair of the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme.
- Professor Jorg Huber, RDS SE Director, on his experience of being an NIHR fellowship panel member.
Everyone who took part in the retreat was invited to discuss their Public and Community Involvement and Engagement plans and plain English summaries with ARC KSS Public Advisors, Paul Burchett and Karin Webb.
Initial feedback from the sessions highlighted how researchers enjoyed the protected time to work together on a grant application and the opportunity to step away from everyday life to focus. They appreciated the availability of experts to help when needed, the focussed time to deep dive into project development and the opportunity to network and receive support from other researchers. In addition, they felt inspired and empowered to continue their clinical academic ambitions.
Professor Jorg Huber, RDS SE Director, said:
"It was a very successful collaborative Grant Writing Retreat between ARC KSS, CRN KSS and RDS SE. People made substantive progress with their research plans - some actually reached the 'submission button' stage. We had nine teams looking to secure project funding and six individuals applying for a training award. The retreat setting creates an intensive and stimulating environment where teams and individuals feel able to develop their ideas at pace."
Professor Sally Kendall, ARC KSS Research Capacity Lead, said:
"The grant writing retreat organised by the ARC KSS academy with the RDS provided an ideal opportunity for our ARC researchers from early fellowship to full grant applications to come together and share experiences, seek advice and support and, critically, to find time to write!
"It presented a really stimulating chance for people to be in person, motivating themselves and each other to write their applications in an atmosphere of support and guidance. Everyone achieved something by the end of the three days, two people actually submitted! It was a worthwhile and important opportunity that really demonstrated the nature of collaboration and experience across the ARC."
Becky Dilley, CRN KSS Research Delivery Manager, said:
“I was really pleased to be able to attend day three and talk about the ways in which the Clinical Research Network Kent, Surrey and Sussex can support researchers with the development of their grant application, and the delivery of studies. It was an excellent opportunity to share our message with a diverse group of people, and I had some really fruitful conversations during the day.
"The people attending the retreat seemed to have really benefited from having the time to dedicate to their project development, and all commented that it had been really productive.”
To find out more about future, joint research events in the future, visit our websites: