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NIHR ARC NWC – Beyond Health Research

By Dian Velkov

It`s raining (again) in Lancaster, around 5 to 6 degrees complemented by strong wind (as usual), and I am sitting at my “home office” looking for inspiration to write a blog on my latest experience at the Innovation Explorer conference in Sofia, Bulgaria I was wondering all morning the best way to structure the blog so I will begin with where and how it all started.

However, before I do that, I will quickly try to explain the title of this blog because I know how confusing acronyms can be – ARC stands for Applied Research Collaboration, which aims at supporting applied health, and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local populations and local health and care systems. There are 15 ARCs (local partnerships) between NHS providers, universities, charities, local authorities, Academic Health Science Networks, and other organisations that help increase the speed at which research findings are implemented into practice.

The 15 ARCs are divided by region, so ARC NWC stands for Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast. The ARCs are funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) to undertake research on a number of areas of need highlighted by the NIHR Futures of Health report, including the challenges of an ageing society, multimorbidity, and the increasing demands placed on our health and care system – you can read more on the official NIHR ARC website.

I will shortly explain why the second part of the title is “beyond health research” but let me first tell you how it all started. I joined the ARC NWC in November 2021 as part of the Lancaster University team (other staff are based at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the University of Liverpool) looking after the marketing and finance sides of the Equitable Place Based Health and Care Theme. This covers subjects such as strategic communications, budgeting, cost forecasting, etc.

It is a dynamic team consisting of six fantastic, hard-working, results-oriented people. – so now that I have joined expectations are high, for someone who has never even heard of “health research” and terms such as “social prescribing”! Imagine our team meetings – me who doesn`t really understand anything about 90% of the time and them who can`t wait to share their research progress (yes, we always overrun by at least 30 minutes). So back to the title of the blog and why “beyond health research” – because although the project is focused on health research, it goes way beyond by providing learning opportunities to its staff to develop, not only professionally but also personally.

Such an example is my attendance at the Innovation Explorer conference, which I mentioned earlier. This was the 8th event in the series and this year`s topic was “Think Further” focusing on what the future world would look like and teaching attendees critical skills for success such as strategic communications and finance. A whole day full of networking, debates, and presentations by speakers from world-leading companies such as Bosch Engineering, St Andrews School of Management, UniCredit Bulbank, and Euromonitor International. It was my first-ever conference and the experience was truly amazing as I had the opportunity to not only listen too, but also speak, to people who I have only watched on the TV giving interviews.

That`s why I’m talking here about “beyond health research” – because I am given the freedom to be myself, to work on and execute my own vision, to attend workshops and training courses, to manage my own time, and most importantly to feel valued. In addition, do you know what? It`s not just me – every Wednesday I am meeting with my colleagues from the University of Liverpool and UCLan, some of whom are still learning and as familiar with health research as me – a bunch of lovely people who are always there for me offering help and support If I need anything. Moreover, the best part is that we also discuss much more important modern-world topics such as the infamous and mighty English breakfast. I think this is a good end to my blog.

Stay tuned for more.


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