In another gesture of support for the UK’s beleaguered health research base, the government has announced funding of up to £775 million for translational research conducted by NHS-university partnerships set up through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The money, which the government says is the most ever made available for translational research infrastructure geared to National Health Service patient benefits, will be allocated on a competitive basis to the NIHR’s Biomedical Research Centres and Units over five years from April 2012. It is part of the £4 billion being invested in research and development up to March 2015.

Applications for the NIHR funding are encouraged to focus on improving health outcomes for patients in high-priority disease areas such as dementia, cancer and heart disease. The NIHR put out a themed call for applied health research on dementia at the beginning of this month, with a deadline of 20 May for proposals.

According to the government, the new funds announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will help to “secure the UK as a world leader in life sciences”. They represent a 30% increase on the funding spent over the lifetime of the first round of NIHR Biomedical Research Centres and Units, it noted.

The announcement also reflects a commitment to modernising the NHS “to give patients the best care possible”, the government maintained. And it is a “key part” of the government’s growth strategy, aimed at supporting jobs and opportunities “to help return the UK economy to strong, sustainable and balanced growth”.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, director general of research and development at the Department of Health, said the successful NHS and university partnerships would “receive long-term funding to provide the best environment to support cutting-edge translational research”.