British Heart Foundation Clinical Research Collaborative

Alice Sullivan



The BHF Clinical Research Collaborative (BHF CRC), launched in June 2019. The collaborative aims to support the planning and delivery of clinical research in heart and circulatory diseases in the UK. The BHF CRC will provide the infrastructure to facilitate, enhance and coordinate the research planning of existing cardiovascular and surgical societies.  

The initiative is funded through a generous program grant from UK’s leading heart disease charity, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and is led by a full–time Chief Operating Officer, a Coordinator and an appointed senior Clinical Lead. 

There is a need to improve both the quantity and quality of cardiovascular research as this disease area remains the leading cause of premature mortality in the UK and many key questions remain unanswered.


With a mixture of individuals and different organizations, the cardiovascular community found themselves working in silos with no easy means of collaboration to better develop ongoing research initiatives. There was a lack of physical and virtual workspaces to collaborate, communicate, and to store and share information securely. With traditional approaches, it was common to travel for several hours to attend one short meeting; a poor use of valuable time for busy professionals.

The BHFCRC team had initially considered using basic cloud-based file sharing services but were concerned about the security and confidentiality controls underpinning these types of services. The concept of working from anywhere seemed difficult and problems were compounded the need to identify and implement a secure and practical collaboration tools; this meant that researchers were having to work on numerous copies of the same documents at the same time, requiring significant additional effort for review and manual consolidation into a final output.

All these factors were wasting time in research development and increasing the administrative overhead for researchers who are already “time poor”. Additionally, these historical ways of working limit the pace of research development and present an unnecessary barrier for the seamless development of new research initiatives and/or researchers to the community.

The BHFCRC chose Cognizant Microsoft Business Group as their partner because of their deep understanding and expansive knowledge of enabling intelligent collaboration within a modern workplace. Cognizant Microsoft Business Group supported the BHFCRC in the definition and delivery of a solution that was intuitive and accessible to the research community, whilst also striking a balance between security and ease of use; avoiding what had previously seemed like a difficult compromise.


Initially, through a series of interactive workshops with the core BHFCRC team, stakeholders and the bodies that funded the research initiative, the experts at Cognizant Microsoft Business Group took time to understand how clinical research is undertaken and coordinated in the UK and the challenges faced by the research communities.

From this understanding of the overarching cardiovascular clinical research pipeline, Cognizant MBG were able to prescribe an IT solution based on Microsoft 365 and centred around Microsoft Teams to facilitate the communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing across a diverse cardiovascular research community. A solution which also addressed the challenges and needs of the research communities and the way they work.

Microsoft 365 provided a phenomenally rich platform, predominantly through Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, which enabled anywhere, anytime and on any device access to:

  • Common collaboration: through simple co-authoring and sharing of information.
  • Smarter meetings: meeting anywhere, anytime with tools to simplify ways to minute and record decisions, actions, and updates, such as meeting transcription services.
  • Secure storage: provide document repositories that are accessible securely.
  • Community: allowing researchers to find each other and knowledge intuitively. 

Beyond the technology, the Cognizant MBG experts embedded themselves within the BHFCRC core team, not only accelerating their own understanding of the platform, but also empowering them to articulate a program of change focused on driving adoption throughout the broader research community, as and when they were onboarded.

"Guided by Cognizant Microsoft Business Group, we rapidly appreciated the elegance, security and practical functionality of this solution." -Rod Stables, BHFCRC Clinical Lead


This intelligent workplace solution enabled BHFCRC to progress at a pace that felt previously unattainable. For example, onboarding five critical disease areas in cardiovascular medicine and integrating them into the initiative in a quick and efficient manner.

“The Cognizant Microsoft Business Group were great at pre-empting issues even before they happened, especially in the onboarding process” Rani Buskell, BHFCRC Coordinator

Microsoft Forms enabled the BHFCRC to create a simple and user-friendly process to canvass their membership for feedback and to promote faster decision making, thus removing the dependency on time consuming asynchronous email. Through Microsoft Teams, the BHFCRC were able to collaborate and connect at the “click of a button”, which previously had taken some a three-hour train journey, each way. Saving time and resources. The key to modern research is collaboration. In order to gain conclusive and accurate research results, national and international partnership is required, which involves recruiting many teams, experts and individuals to all collaborate coherently. The BHFCRC have found the implementation of Microsoft Teams to be the most notable transformation in this collaboration as the evolution of what could have taken years to perfect was an easy and logical process with Cognizant MBG.

“We have been able to maintain the momentum of the project and on track to reach the goals we are trying to achieve”. Allyson Arnold


“I have been completely overjoyed and impressed in our journey with Cognizant Microsoft Business Group” Rod Stables, BHFCRC Clincal Lead

Cognizant MBG were recommended to the BHFCRC by the British Heart Foundation, following which the New Signature experts invested time to understand the true nature of the project. The partnership with the BHFCRC expanded through a number of visits to clinicians, hospitals and research facilities where they gained a first-hand understanding of the positive societal impact successful research has on tackling cardiovascular disease. By combining the expertise and knowledge of Cognizant MBG with the incredible field experts in lifesaving research, this partnership has led to a truly modern collaborative way of working for the research community.

“I felt that the Cognizant Microsoft Business team have been honorary members of the BHFCRC team” Allyson Arnold, BHFCRC Chief Operating Officer
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