The Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC) is a scheme offered by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to support early career researchers to spend time in other parts of the NIHR.

The scheme, which is open to all NIHR Academy members, offers individuals the opportunity to apply for up to £5,000, to spend time in another part the NIHR, to network, train in a specific skill or collaborate with other research specialists. The scheme is designed to optimise and enhance the individuals' research training, as well as their CV and academic career.

Daniel Huggins, an Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) PhD student at the University of Kent, has just been awarded a NIHR Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC).  

Daniel, who will be working with ARC North East and North Cumbria on a project that will look at the use of ARC research within NHS commissioning, said:

The SPARC awards are almost unique in my field and will give me the opportunity to engage with both research themes and academics that I would have otherwise been unable to. 

"As my research to date has focused exclusively on specialised commissioning, which occurs at the national level, I hadn’t, so far, had a chance to engage with the commissioning system at a more localised level. This award is going to enable me to do exactly that - to work alongside commissioners at the Clinical Commissioning Groups and Integrated Care Systems level, which will enable me to gain experience of a system that I would otherwise not have been able to. The learning opportunities and potential this award offers will be immensely helpful to both my current and future research”. 

Last September, the NIHR also launched a pilot scheme for a new award. The Local Authority Short Placement Award for Collaboration (LA SPARC) was developed to help the next generation of researchers to address the 21st Century public health and social care challenges. This pilot scheme supports individuals working in local authority settings and the NIHR Academy members to design and apply for funds to undertake short placements.

The main aim of the award is to allow individuals to develop skills and capabilities to co-create research that is more meaningful and better connected with practice; with the intention that this will lead to enhanced partnerships and collaborations between the NIHR and local authority settings.

Fay Blyth, a headteacher at the Virtual School for Looked After Children in Waltham Forest, London, has been placed with ARC KSS, to work on her research project:  What do we know about the impact of The Personal Education Plan?’. 

And, Teresa Salami-Oru, Consultant in Public Health at East Sussex County Council, has also been placed with ARC KSS on her research project that will look at the impact of digital creativity on young people’s emotional wellbeing. whilst on her placement with ARC KSS. 

Commenting on her receiving the award, Teresa said:

“I’m delighted to be one of the first recipients of this award. The placement will provide me with the opportunity to be part of a new active, supportive and vibrant research community, with access to webinars, conferences and further research opportunity. This is particularly important to me as I prepare for undertaking a PHD”.

ARC KSS are keen to support anyone interested in these placements. The next round will be opening in the Autumn, visit the NIHR website to find out more.

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