François Lamontagne MD MSc, Kathryn M. Rowan PhD, Gordon Guyatt MD OC
Despite Canada’s investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into researching coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), contributions from other countries have greatly exceeded Canada’s research productivity. In contrast, the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), with its Clinical Research Network infrastructure, has engendered global envy by enabling rapid research production and knowledge dissemination within months of the start of the pandemic, which prompted calls for Canada to emulate the UK’s system. Additional research funds in Canada have been leveraged during the pandemic, and more may be needed. However, it will take more than just funding to fulfill Canada’s health research potential; a culture change is required, along with the will to forge a partnership among the provincial and territorial health systems and the various research institutes and organizations.
We discuss the limitations of the existing clinical research infrastructure in Canada, describe the mechanisms implemented to successfully embed clinical research in the UK health system and — while identifying the traps that Canadian stakeholders must avoid — provide a roadmap to a Canadian version of the UK system.