I was recently asked to apply for the post of lead for colorectal cancer research in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) has recently created this post and is an organisation about which I knew very little. After some Internet searching and asking around I discovered that it was set up in 2005/6 in response to a number of concerns about the way in which health care research was being undertaken in England. These included, money for R&D in the NHS not being focused where it was needed and locked into historical allocations to Trusts. The NHS R&D programme did not appear to have sufficient capacity or flexibility to generate all the evidence needed to deliver high-quality health services.