This article discusses a research partnership framework based on a collaborative relationship that was initially established between a carers’ organisation and a university with the aim of maximising the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of health and social care research in an era of public spending cuts. As each partner gradually formed several similar partnerships, it was developed into a framework for research partnerships between third sector organisations and academic institutions. The framework is contextualised within the concepts of collaboration and partnership working more generally and then within the development of third sector and university partnerships specifically. This is followed by a description and discussion of the framework together with a critical reflection on how it operated in practice. The ways in which it enhances research conducted by third sector organisations and universities and facilitates the best use of more limited research funds are also explored. Suggestions are then made as to how it can be used and adapted to generate new thinking about other similar partnerships at both a national and international level during the next few years of considerably reduced public sector expenditure.