The Impact Accelerator Unit (IAU)


What is an Impact Accelerator Unit?

There is a strong collaboration between BNSSG Integrated Care Board (ICB), University of Bristol and UWE Bristol. BNSSG ICB is ranked first among ICBs in England for our research activity. We excel at co-producing research and securing funding from NIHR to create evidence, but we want to do better at getting evidence adopted into health and care delivery. This is a national challenge that is critical to address.

Impact Accelerator Units (IAUs) are services dedicated to championing and disseminating evidence. They use evidence-informed approaches to knowledge mobilisation to increase the likelihood of getting evidence into practice in a way that generates long-lasting and meaningful change.


The answer is 17 years, what is the question : understanding time lags in translational research. Morris, Zoë Slote; Wooding, Steven; Grant, Jonathan.

In: the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol. 104, No. 12, 12.2011, p. 510-520.


BNSSG Impact Accelerator Unit: a partnership approach

The BNSSG IAU is a novel approach to accelerating the impact of evidence. Firstly, rather than being owned by a single organisation, the IAU is a collaboration between the University of Bristol, UWE Bristol and the NHS. Secondly, rather than being located within a university, it is located within the ICB, which is an integral part of the local NHS Integrated Care System. Situating the IAU within the NHS enables easier and more effective use of the tacit knowledge, networks and trusted relationships that can be leveraged to get evidence into practice.

In line with the principle that evidence must meet the needs of the health and care system to be useful, all our activities are in collaboration with the evidence users. Whilst we cannot guarantee uptake, the IAU ensures that evidence is reviewed by appropriate ICB colleagues to determine its suitability for implementation. Where it is deemed suitable, ICB colleagues then assist with the implementation process.

In cases where evidence is not considered appropriate to implement at the current time, the IAU feeds back the rationale to the academic team. The evidence is kept ‘on the books’ for review at a later date.

All IAU-hosted projects benefit from access to experienced knowledge brokers, insights from evidence users and opportunities to present work to health and care system groups.


Evaluation and reporting

The IAU embeds evaluation into its process. It produces reports that can help our partner universities with their Research Excellent Framework impact case studies and support Researchfish submissions to demonstrate their positive impact on the local health and care sector.



The core BNSSG IAU team comprises:

  • ICB Head of Clinical Effectiveness and Research to advise and guide on who to engage with within the health and care system.
  • A Professor of Knowledge Mobilisation to advise and guide on how to work with evidence users.
  • A manager and administrator to maintain oversight of all IAU activities and organise meetings, presentations and evaluations.
  • Project managers who take the lead on getting specific research findings into practice. They liaise with the researcher to do this.

The IAU work with People in Health West of England to ensure that patients and members of the public are involved in the use and dissemination of research findings, and how the findings may be useful in different ways for different communities.

From the ICB the IAU work with a wide range of colleagues including:

  • Medicines Optimisation team
  • Nursing and Quality Directorate
  • Transformation Hub
  • Digital leads
  • Primary Care commissioners
  • Commissioning Policy Development team
  • Referral Support Service

Funding sources

The IAU is funded through a combination of sources in a similar way to the funding of other core functions that benefit research projects:

  • University of Bristol: five years of funding committed
  • UWE Bristol: five years of funding committed
  • BNSSG ICB: funding for staff resource
  • NIHR grant income from BNSSG-hosted research:
    • £0-£150k = unlikely to need/use the IAU. However, if findings from this work are of benefit to the system, they will be considered by the IAU for in-kind support.
    • £150k-£350k = include IAU within the dissemination budget with the costs to be confirmed with the ICB Research Team in advance of any submission.
    • £350k+ = 5%FTE NHS Band 8a throughout lifetime of project


Why do research grants need to contribute to IAU running costs?

BNSSG ICB is committed to improving the health of our population using evidence. ICBs have a statutory duty to use locally-generated evidence and therefore BNSGG ICB provides core funding for the work of our IAU. Funding from research grants can enable the IAU to do even more, with a particular focus on locally-generated evidence. All parties benefit from the work of the IAU:

  • Researchers have a greater likelihood of timely impact.
  • Universities can demonstrate evidence of their impact and commitment to improving the health of their region.
  • Funders can demonstrate impact and value from their investment.


How to justify IAU costs on NIHR grants

The following summary can be used in NIHR grant applications:

“Dissemination will be supported by the BNSSG Impact Accelerator Unit (IAU). The IAU is recognised by the NIHR Engagement and Dissemination Centre as a case study in how an Integrated Care Board (ICB) can support evidence use.

BNSSG’s IAU is a partnership between BNSSG ICB, the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol. It pools existing technology transfer expertise in the universities with clinical leadership, transformation and service improvement specialists within the Integrated Care System.

BNSSG IAU is overseen by a Professor of Knowledge Mobilisation and uses evidence-based methods for creating lasting change in health and care systems. It convenes colleagues from within the health and care system to work with the Chief Investigator to co-design and deliver a bespoke dissemination and evaluation plan to provide evidence of impact.”


Can BNSSG IAU help get evidence into practice beyond BNSSG?

The BNSSG IAU is for the population of BNSSG, and we do not have dedicated resource for supporting the uptake of evidence in other areas.

Where possible we will:

  • Share our resources, know-how and methods (open source) with other health and care systems
  • Work with the Academic Health Science Network (soon to be known as a Health Innovation Network), NIHR Engagement and Dissemination Centre and Applied Research Collaborative to help raise awareness and share learning
  • Champion use of evidence through health and care forums as well as national Research and Development forums
  • Develop a national network of units supporting knowledge mobilisation and contribute to existing knowledge mobilisation networks to share and disseminate effective evidence.


Contact the ICB Research team if you have any queries at