The Health Foundation is leading the development and application of a sound knowledge base to improving health care quality, safety and value. Find out more about our work to develop the field of improvement research and our plans for a new institute.

What is improvement research?

Improvement research builds and utilises knowledge to improve the quality of health services directly providing patient care for the benefit of patients and populations who may use those services in future. This academic field draws on a range of disciplines in combination with the insights of those delivering and receiving health services. It aims to understand, help develop, and evaluate improvements to health care practices and policies.

It has a strong translational component – with those who research, deliver and receive health care working together to create impact.

Why improvement research?

Achieving high quality care at sustainable cost is a global aim and challenge. Health systems that are able to develop faster discovery and learning mechanisms will be in a better position to achieve that aim. Improvement research has huge potential to understand how sustainable and replicable improvements to health services can be made effectively and faster to benefit patients.

What have we achieved so far?

The Health Foundation’s early initiatives in this field were described as ‘improvement science’ – a term that successfully encouraged a wide range of academic disciplines to come together to pursue structured approaches to quality improvement. As the field has evolved, so has our thinking. We believe that this field of research needs to draw on the sciences and other forms of generating knowledge and understanding, hence our move to the term improvement research.

The Health Foundation’s investment in and promotion of improvement science has improved care and altered national policy. Our work has included:

Since their appointment in 2011, the first cohort of Improvement Science Fellows have secured £23 million in additional funding for their organisations, produced 54 academic papers, published four books and won six awards. You can read more about the achievements of two of our fellows from this cohort, Tim Draycott and Davina Allen.

Developing the field

The Health Foundation wants to build on its investment in the field over the past five years by creating a thriving academic centre that, with partners, develops knowledge about how to improve services and translates this into demonstrable improvements in practice.

The Health Foundation is seeking a leading UK university to establish and run a research institute to grow and apply credible academic knowledge that has a direct and positive impact on health services and patient care. Launching in 2017, we want the institute to become a world leader that works productively with others in developing the academic field of improvement research.

The call for expressions of interest from universities is now closed. For further information, visit