Professor Richard Baker, director of the Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland collaboration for leadership in applied health research and care (CLAHRC), said consortia making these links would have an opportunity to focus researchers on areas they needed to understand better.
The relationships could provide GP commissioners with alternatives to approaching private sector organisations to help them interpret data.
Professor Baker said nine CLAHRC pilots across England had helped commissioners generate and evaluate evidence about the effectiveness of health interventions, such as bowel screening and chronic kidney disease treatments.
Variations between practices were often thought to be related to poor practice, but the right type of research could highlight differences in patient populations and explain the variations, he said.
Professor Joe Kai, head of the primary care programme at the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire CLAHRC said audits by the group helped GP commissioners evaluate the benefits of services.