BHF awards £34m to top universities, helping to safeguard UK’s world-class research status

4 March 2019        

Category: Research

Today we announced £34 million of new funding across 12 universities, in a step that bolsters world-class, UK-led heart and circulatory disease research.

Blood vessels in the brain 

At a time when the impact of Brexit on UK-based researchers remains unclear, the funding boost sends a clear message that the UK remains committed to supporting world-leading research. The award empowers universities to attract and nurture the very best talent and enables the agility needed to exploit new ideas and technologies.

Research Excellence Awards

The awards come from two of our highly-competitive BHF funding schemes: the Research Excellence Awards, which were first launched in 2008, and new Accelerator Awards. The awards provide funding for the next five years and are aimed at empowering researchers to undertake innovative science, break down boundaries and spark new collaborations in heart and circulatory disease research.

Spark new collaborations

The Research Excellence Awards have been made to the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College London, King’s College London and Oxford. The Accelerator Awards have been made to the Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester, Manchester, Queen Mary University of London and University College London. Each institution will use the funding to foster research excellence in different areas of heart and circulatory diseases.

Unlike traditional research grants, which award funding to a specific project, these flexible awards give the power of choice to researchers. The innovative funding model is particularly designed to allow researchers to launch higher risk research and to attract talent by offering start-up fellowships. This enables the most innovative, dynamic and inspirational research to get rapidly off the ground, without the need for new funding applications.

The awards also encourage experts from diverse fields to come together to tackle the biggest questions in heart and circulatory disease research. From biologists to engineers, clinicians to mathematicians: the varied perspectives and knowledge foster innovative, high-quality thinking. The awards will support diverse fields of research, including vascular medicine, population studies, genetics, drug discovery, regenerative medicine, and using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to develop personalised healthcare. They also provide a strong foundation to enable researchers to leverage additional funding.

Varied perspectives and knowledge foster innovative, high-quality thinking

Past awards have led to a number of major successes. Last year, Professor David Newby and his team in Edinburgh discovered that a simple scan could save thousands of lives every year by improving the diagnosis of people coming to hospital with chest pain. Another team led by Professor Paul Riley from The University of Oxford discovered that the first heartbeat occurs earlier than previously thought; at just seven and a half days after conception in mice, equivalent to 16 days in humans. Scientists previously thought the first heartbeat occurred at around day 21 of a human pregnancy. By understanding how and when the heart develops, the researchers hope to better understand what causes heart defects that develop before birth.

Our Medical Director, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani commented on the awards:

“It usually takes more than a one-off project to answer the biggest questions in science. The flexible funding offered by these awards breaks down scientific barriers and injects creativity into the UK’s heart and circulatory disease research community.

“Our investment through these awards will bring together the best and brightest minds across medicine, tech and engineering to foster collaboration and encourage innovative thinking.

“We are very proud to have made these awards, which are only possible through the continued generosity of the public who support us. The awards not only recognise the world-leading research already being carried out in heart and circulatory diseases in the UK, but also help to safeguard our future as a global scientific leader in this area.”

Read more about the grants