Accreditation process for trusted research environments open for applications

News – 5 January 2023
Our Future Health’s accreditation process for trusted research environments (TREs) is now open for applications.

This means that eligible research organisations that wish to host consented, de-identified Our Future Health data in their own trusted research environment can now apply for accreditation. The accreditation process will ensure that their TRE meets the necessary standards of data governance, cyber security, operational, privacy and technical requirements.  

How we make data available securely for research

We previously announced that we will make data available to registered researchers within trusted research environments. This is because trusted research environments offer a highly secure computing environment, where researchers can access and work with deidentified data, and they have very strict controls on export of results. This is in line with the NHS’s Data Saves Lives strategy and the recommendations of the Goldacre review.  

The Our Future Health TRE will be the default route for most researchers accessing our data. Our TRE aims to both speed up research, and to maximise the value and potential impact of discoveries on prevention, early detection and treatment of major diseases. We will publish more information about the features and capability of our TRE in the coming weeks. 

There could be scenarios where the Our Future Health TRE may not be able to meet certain specific research requirements. For example, where organisations have developed complex software or analytical tools that would be hard, or even impossible, to recreate in our research environment.  So, in limited scenarios, and where external trusted research environments are able to meet the same strict standards as the Our Future Health TRE, we will allow other trusted research environments to host consented, de-identified Our Future Health data to run approved research projects. 

Before any data is made available, researchers will also need to successfully complete our registration process and apply to our Access Board to seek approval for their project. More information on our access process will be published in early 2023. 

The accreditation process

The Our Future Health accreditation process has been developed over the last 12 months with legal, data governance and security experts and in close consultation with others in the wider health research community, including our charity and industry partners; research organisations; government leads in all UK nations; the NHS; the Information Commissioner’s Office; our own Public Advisory Board and members of the public. Our Future Health’s Technology, Scientific and Ethics Advisory Boards, and a specific Technology Task Force made up of experts from across the life sciences sector, have provided input throughout. 

The final process is based on well-established and well-regarded standards and frameworks, such as the Office for National Statistics Five Safes framework, the UK GDPR, and international cyber security standard ISO 27001. You can read more about our approach, how it was developed and how it is designed to protect Our Future Health data here.   

We have now appointed a third-party, Dionach Ltd, to assess applications and supporting evidence. They are an independent global provider of information security solutions, are ISO 27001 certified, a PCI-Certified security assessor, and are approved by the Council for Registered Ethical Security Testers.  

How to apply

We are now accepting applications to the trusted research environment accreditation process. Accreditation is open to all research organisations, except large commercial organisations that are not Our Future Health founding members. You can read more about our agreements with founding members here.   

Examples of organisations that are eligible to apply include: academic institutions; charities; and NHS organisations; small and medium size enterprises (companies with fewer than 250 employees and either a turnover of less than €50m and/or a balance sheet of less than €43m); and our founding members. To be eligible, the organisation must conduct research projects. 

To begin the application process, please send your completed declaration of interest form (available below) to Our Future Health will assess your eligibility to apply as above, and once this is confirmed you will receive the full suite of application documents (also available below), and instructions on how to submit the self-assessment questionnaire and evidence.   

Core application documents:

Additional documents: