Back to top

The role of co-production in sustainability

Exploring the role of co-production in the sustainability of innovations in applied health and social care research

Why the research is needed? 

ARC East Midlands seeks to improve people’s health and wellbeing by working collaboratively with partners to tackle health and social care priorities through research and by translating research findings into products (often known as innovations) that change everyday practice. These products might be things like guidance and toolkits, for example. Improvements in health and wellbeing will only be achieved if such innovations are implemented in practice and their use sustained over time.

Involvement of different stakeholders in research brings important views, perspectives, and challenge that can improve our research and its outputs. When groups of people come together in this way to influence how research and services are designed, commissioned and delivered, it is known as co-production. This often includes Public and Patient Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) representatives, e.g. those with lived experience of health conditions, as well as healthcare professionals and other staff. What these involvement activities look like can vary between research projects and at the different stages of research, implementation and continued use of the innovation in practice. Therefore, it is important to understand how activities like co-production influence the sustainability of research findings in practice.

What is already known about the subject? 

A lot is known about co-production and sustainability as separate activities in health and social care research. However, very little is known about if and how co-production influences the sustainability of innovations in practice.

Who we are working with? 

We will be working with a range of people who have been involved in designing and doing research, those who translate research findings into innovations, and those who use the innovations in everyday practice.

How are patients and the public involved? 

The views of patients and the public are important to the study to help us to carry out research that has the right focus, and is useful when translated into innovations and used in practice. PPIE partners are a vital part of our study team and contribute at all stages, including shaping the study’s direction, commenting on study documents, and informing how we share our findings.

What we will do? 

First, to find out what is known about the role of co-production in sustainability we will search through and review research articles. Second, we will choose four local case study projects from the ARC East Midlands predecessor (CLARHC-EM) that included co-production and have translated innovations into practice. We will review documents such as research proposals, reports, presentations, and academic publications that are associated with each case study to learn more about how they used co-production and whether and how it influenced sustainability of the innovation in practice. Finally, we will interview people from each case study about their role and how they contributed in order to gain more detailed understanding of how co-production was used and whether and how it has influenced sustainability of the innovation in practice.

What the benefits will be? 

Understanding the role co-production has in the sustainability of innovations in practice will provide learning for research teams and practitioners to improve their practice. PPIE participants of the process will also benefit in terms of utilising their experience as a patient or member of the public to influence important research.

When the findings will be available? 

The findings will be available in August 2024.

How we are planning for implementation? 

We will develop up-to-date information for researchers, practitioners and PPIE partners on best practice in the use of co-production to support sustainability of innovations in practice. The ARC East Midlands Knowledge Mobilisation Support Unit and Health Innovation East Midlands will help us to share our findings with ARC and Health Innovation teams in England, and other partners, to help them to get the benefits of co-production in supporting sustainability. This will be through the production of an infographic which will be published on their website and social media.


Dr Charlotte Overton, Research Associate, University of Leicester,