New £2m funding call for advanced analytics into COVID-19

Health Data Research UK and The Alan Turing Institute launch a new joint funding call as part of the National Core Studies into COVID-19

The new £2 million joint funding call to enhance understanding of COVID-19 through the application of new statistical, data science and advanced analytics approaches forms part of “Data and Connectivity”, one of the six National Core Studies into COVID-19.

The National Core Studies were established in June 2020 to respond to the most critical research questions into COVID-19 to inform policy making. Funded by UKRI and led by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) in partnership with the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Data and Connectivity is the “cross-cutting” study that makes UK-wide health and administrative data available to support and accelerate the research across the five other studies, by enabling streamlined data access and analysis.

The objective of this funding call is to amplify the impact of the Data and Connectivity study by supporting research projects and analyses that create new knowledge and insights to inform the national COVID-19 response, policy, and future pandemic preparedness by:

  • Utilising the data infrastructure and capabilities that have been assembled by the study
  • Using the Trusted Research Environment (“TRE”) to apply novel analytical, statistical and mathematical modelling and machine learning expertise
  • Enhancing the data assets being made available, for example by introducing new datasets, linkages, improvements or tools, that can then also be made accessible for other researchers to use.

The priority areas and themes for this call have been guided by the Data and Connectivity Public Advisory Group. The call is seeking to support policy-relevant COVID-19 research projects that augment and enhance the work of the National Core Studies; and projects that have direct policy relevance and a commitment to involving patients and the public in the full lifecycle of their research in a meaningful way.

In line with these objectives, projects that will be prioritised are those that seek to utilise multiple datasets currently linked and available in TREs to conduct analyses, including:

  • Viral variant summary and genomic sequencing data from COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK)
  • Linked outbreak-relevant data from clinical records, research studies and audit from key initiatives (e.g., CO-CIN)  
  • The linked national electronic health record data asset of over 55M people in England (BHF Data Science Centre)
  • The linked COVID vaccination data including vaccine status and adverse events across the UK
  • The linked Public Health Research dataset, including census, mortality, hospital episode statistics and primary care data

The assessment panel to determine the chosen research projects for this call will include two lay members.

Andrew Morris, Director, Health Data Research UK and Lead for Data and Connectivity:

“The projects supported by this exciting funding call will enable insights that continue to improve our understanding of COVID-19 and therefore inform how we can best support patients in the next phase of the pandemic response. Working in partnership with ONS and The Alan Turing Institute provides a further demonstration of how our collaboration is driving innovation and that, together, we will deliver even greater positive impact to society through the application of health data science”.

Professor Sir Adrian Smith, Institute Director and Chief Executive, The Alan Turing Institute:

“This call builds on the strength of the existing partnership between Turing, ONS and HDR UK, which combines expertise in advanced analytics, with data collection and curation in and beyond the health domain. We’re delighted to support progression of the National Core Studies and its success to date.”

Call specification:

More information on this funding call, including the full call specification containing detailed criteria and eligibility is available on the Health Data Research UK website.

Data availability and access (webinar 10:00 BST, Monday 6 September 2021)

Investigators interested in finding out more about data availability and access are invited to register for and attend the dedicated webinar on Monday 6 September 2021. Investigators interested in making an application are encouraged to review the datasets available and where possible make data access requests in advance.

NB As part of its partnership with NHS Digital creating the linked national electronic health record data asset of over 55m people in England, access requests for datasets currently held by NHS Digital will be processed by the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre (the joint venture between BHF and HDR UK).


3 September 2021

Funding call launched

6 September 2021 (10:00 BST)

Webinar for applicants on data availability and access

22 September 2021 (17:00 BST)

Clarification questions from potential applicants submitted

1 October 2021 (17:00 BST)

Applications submitted

w/c 18 October 2021

Successful applications announced

End October 2021

Projects commence

30 September 2022

Projects complete


For further information, please contact:

Lara Edwards, Senior Programme Manager, Data and Connectivity

[email protected]


Joel Beckman, Head of Communications, Health Data Research UK

[email protected]


Additional information:

Joint funding call specification

The National Core Studies

Data and Connectivity

Webinar on data availability and access

HDR Innovation Gateway

Further information about Health Data Research UK

Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) is the national institute for health data science and a registered charity (charity number 1194431).

Our mission is to unite the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that improve people’s lives. HDR UK is funded by UK Research and Innovation, the Department of Health and Social Care in England and equivalents in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and leading medical research charities. 

HDR UK was set up in 2018 to support research on health data at scale to advance our understanding of disease and enable new discoveries that will ultimately improve health and care. We have established national research programmes that use data at scale, and we are building an infrastructure to enable the responsible access and analysis of this data. Our work is structured around three themes: 

  • Uniting health data – which includes the UK Health Data Research Alliance and the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway. 
  • Improving health data – which includes tools, methods, Health Data Research Hubs and the BHF Data Science Centre. 
  • Using health data – which includes research discoveries and skills development across four national priority areas: Understanding the Causes of Disease, Clinical Trials, Public Health and Better Care. 

We are delivering this strategy through our inclusive, team-oriented One Institute ethos - bringing together NHS, universities, research institutes and charities - built on our values.