Early contact and engagement

We can help you achieve the greatest impact through the delivery of your study if you engage with us as early as possible - even if you haven’t secured funding for your research yet.

Early Contact and Engagement is one component of the free support provided through the Study Support Service. By accessing support from your local Early Contact and Engagement Team, you will benefit from a bespoke service to meet the needs of your study. A member of the team will be allocated to support your study and to look at ways where we can help to optimise its set up and delivery. For non-commercial studies, this can include support in any of the following areas:

Contact us

 This service is designed to complement the support already provided by individual R&D offices and can be accessed by liaising with our local Clinical Research Networks (CRNs). Contact details for your local Network.

If you require any further assistance, or are unsure where to start, please email the Study Support Service Helpdesk: supportmystudy@nihr.ac.uk.

What next in terms of support?

We don’t stop supporting your study once it’s up and running. Early Contact and Engagement support continues through to study set up. Following this, other support will be provided through the Study Support Service (contact details for your local Network).

Once open to recruitment, we will stay in contact until the study is closed to recruitment and continue to support optimisation of recruitment to your study. This will be facilitated through continued Performance Monitoring in order to help identify delivery challenges and opportunities. This may include working with Chief Investigators and Study teams to help develop action plans for challenges to delivery or help to identify additional sites through provision of our Site Identification service.

We will also help maintain the Central Portfolio Management System (CPMS) study record by processing study amendments such as recruitment extensions and ensure accurate recruitment activity. Finally, on recruitment closure, we will ensure that the correct information is reflected in the CPMS study record in relation to the final recruitment and achievement in answering the study research question.

Attributing the costs of health and social care Research and Development (AcoRD)

The AcoRD guidance provides a framework for the NHS and its partners to identify, recover and attribute the costs of health and social care Research and Development, in a transparent, and consistent way.

To ensure researchers have all the support they need around the attribution of study activities, we’ve pulled together a number of resources which will help you understand the principles of AcoRD, including the attribution e-learning tool.

For answers to commonly asked questions on AcoRD, see DHSC's Annex B - AcoRD FAQs.

Find your AcoRD Specialist

NIHR has established a network of AcoRD Specialists based across all of our local CRNs to:

  • Signpost researchers to resources and training to understand the principles of AcoRD and the differences between a Research Cost, a Treatment Cost and an NHS Service Support Cost.
  • Provide specialist advice and support for activity attribution.
  • Support resolution of attribution queries.
  • Assist with understanding the requirements for a SoECAT for studies that include Service Support or Excess Treatment Costs (ETCs)
  • Authorise the SoECAT for submission to the funder.
  • Facilitate the Triage process to confirm the majority commissioner responsible for funding the ETCs.

If you need support from an AcoRD Specialist in your region on how to correctly identify and attribute relevant activities and to authorise your completed SoECAT, please contact your local CRN. Please allow a minimum of 20 working days for authorisation of a SoECAT by an AcoRD Specialist. 

Further information about SoECAT can be found on our SoECAT guidance and How to complete a SoECAT pages.

Funders often request completion of a SoECAT as part of their application processes. Applicants for such grants may request support or advice from their local AcoRD Specialist in completing the SoECAT if required. Although please note that it is the role of the AcoRD Specialist to authorise completed SoECATs, not complete them on behalf of Sponsors. Non-NHS Sponsors may also request support or advice from their lead NHS R&D Office.


Testimonials from the Research Community

Your Study Delivery Officer was a model of patience, help and support. He explained the SoECAT process very clearly and did not mind when I needed points repeated (often on more than one occasion!)

The CRN was wonderfully helpful. The team provided support throughout the entire application process and supported my research team by introducing us to important contacts.

It is no exaggeration to state that the CRN has been critical for the success of our studies. They have helped identify suitable sites that we would not otherwise have found, including GP centres, keeping in mind also the interests of the sites and suitable matches. They have advised on the budget processing using the iCT and study set-up, and they have had discussions with sites during the studies to actively encourage enrollment. They have gone to great lengths to support the studies and are always a pleasure to work with.

The West Midlands CRN staff have been exceptionally supportive, helpful and responsive in supporting the studies I’m working on.

Fast to respond, very helpful, provided clear answers and practical support with completing the SoECAT and understanding the Portfolio. 


Please, share your thoughts on this page, so that we can continually optimise our information on the Study Support Service.

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