The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network’s annual National Industry Event was held in October last year. Here, Lydia Christopher, Head of Industry Operations at the Network, discusses some of the lessons learnt following the event.

The NIHR Clinical Research Network invited pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology companies and Contract Research Organisations to its annual National Industry Event in London in Autumn 2014.

The theme for the event was “Growth” in support of expanding the Network’s offering in a global research market with a view to achieving its vision of positioning the NHS as the “go-to” place for successful and competitive delivery of commercial contract research.

In addition to Network presentations we were joined by Jo Cowler, Director of Clinical Operations Northern Europe, from Bristol Myers-Squibb. Jo gave an insightful presentation of her experiences of working with the Network.

It was also a great honour to be joined by George Freeman, the UK’s first Minister for life-sciences who gave attendees an overview of his plans as minister for this portfolio.

There were a number of lessons we learnt from this occasion. Here I have highlighted a few of these:

There is still a lack of awareness of what the Network offers, even from companies that we have worked with in the past and are currently working with.

In 2013 we launched a set of services for life-sciences companies, which can be tailored to the level of support required for a particular study, these include early feedback, site intelligence and a full site identification service. More details of our support can be found on our website.

Companies are still not utilising what is on offer – particularly early feedback. This really is missing a vital opportunity to flag any fundamental issues or barriers to the study at an early stage. It was frustrating to hear that issues being raised by project managers and CRAs could be so easily avoided by early engagement.

To help companies better understand our Network offering, we have trained a number of Network Experts (including specialist CRO experts) – volunteers from companies who have experience of working with us and can showcase their “expert” learning with colleagues.

Companies are under-utilising their expert and there is a lack of commitment shown, we need you to recognise your expert and capitalise on their role by finding out everything they have learnt from their Network experience.

Companies are interested in income distribution

At the event, a number of companies enquired about the income distribution of the commercial fees they pay the Trust when participating in a commercial study. They want to better understand how this money flows to the investigator and their team as well as the support departments involved.

Income distribution can be quite a tricky area as each NHS Trust manages this in its own way so there is no set practice. However, the Network has a recommended model that may help companies understand this process better and trusts to follow best practice.

Companies feel that working with the Network only benefits sites, not companies

In a workshop at the event, companies were asked to identify gaps in the current service offer from the Network. This was a real eye-opener as many of the items on the wish list were actually already offered and in place by both National and local teams.

This demonstrates the challenges faced by the Network in reaching more operational teams within companies to ensure they fully understand what is available, how it can be accessed, and what benefits it will bring.

There are many reasons why working with the Network is of benefit to a company. We recently created a handy postcard that gives a brief overview of these.

National Industry Event

These lessons show that there is still work to be done – not only by the Network in helping industry see what free support is available, but also by our life-sciences industry partners in ensuring they are equipping teams with the latest tools, skills and knowledge to work optimally. It seems odd to keep reminding people that this fantastic offering is not only globally unique but also free of charge!

Once again it was a pleasure to meet so many representatives from the life-sciences industry and I look forward to welcoming many more new contacts at future events.

If you are interested in attending any future national industry events, please fill out our expression of interest form and we will contact you in the Spring with further information.

If you would like to find out more about the support the NIHR Clinical Research Network can offer your company, please get in touch via their dedicated Industry Support Centre:

Web:         Tel: 0113 34 34 555         Email: