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Charities vital to UK life sciences sector and economy

Published: 22 June 2017

When it takes an average of 17 years to develop an idea into a publicly available medical product, how can medical research charities show the difference they make?

New data reveals the vital contribution medical research charities make to the UK life sciences sector and economy with almost a third of the Association of Medical Research Charities’ (AMRC) membership leveraging £2bn in further funding from UK and international companies and contributing to the creation of 39 spin out companies.

The data also shows the significance of the sector’s collaboration with European Union partners with over 1,379 partnerships formed with other EU countries, and a third of the £2bn in further funding provided by the EU. A separate independent analysis of this data by the Policy Institute at King’s provides further detail on the nature and scale of connectivity between AMRC member charities. In negotiating the UK's exit from the EU, it is essential that the UK government and EU achieve the best possible outcome for research and ultimately the patients. 

Today AMRC published its first report providing a snapshot of charity-funded research impact. The association analysed data from 5,287 research awards, funded by 40 member charities, across five research impact areas: generating new knowledge, translating ideas into new products and services, influencing government policy, developing researchers and stimulating further funding and partnerships.

Case studies featured in the report highlight the benefits charity-funded research brings to patients; from publishing work that gives researchers worldwide a new target for treatment development; to instigating new guidance that will improve the safety of patients.

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive at AMRC, commented: “Medical research charities play a unique role in UK research. This report demonstrates just how extensive the scope of our sector’s impact can be. It reflects the appetite of medical research charities to make a difference to people with serious or life limiting conditions.”

“We know that research is a long process with results coming many years down the line from initial, basic research. The majority of the outcomes reported were not generated until three or more years after the funding was awarded. The full impact may not be seen for years to come so it is vital that we continue to monitor progress so that we can show everyone especially those who most need new drugs and treatments the impact of money they have donated to research charities.

“Our members have told us that tracking the impact of medical research is notoriously difficult. Without the financial support of the MRC it would not have been possible for our members to provide this level of data over the last three years to give us this level of insight. We are extremely grateful for their support ”

Ian Viney, Director of Strategic Evaluation and Impact at MRC, commented: “This report summarises the results of a survey used by 40 AMRC member charities to examine the progress of the research they fund.  The collection of this data was made possible by a third of AMRC members agreeing to use the same approach to prospectively track impact, and working hard to encourage researchers to record this information systematically for the first time online.” 

“We value the collaboration with the AMRC to discover where research charities are making the most difference, which is part of a wider UK initiative that is providing a detailed view of the outcomes from public and charitable research.  By kick-starting the process the MRC has been able to give research charities the opportunity to explain the impact of the research they fund using information not available to them before, across thousands of projects with a total commitment of £1.6 billion.”

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Please contact Leonora Neale (l.neale@amrc.org.uk; 020 7685 2622) if you would like to request a quote or further information.

Notes to editors

  1.      The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) has been the national membership organisation for the health and medical research charity world for the last 30 years, influencing the policy and research environments by harnessing the collective strengths of our members, to demonstrate the sector’s positive impact on health and wellbeing.
  2.      AMRC has 140 members which include the largest health and medical charities in the UK: the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, and the Wellcome Trust. All members, large and small, work to the same high standards ensuring that every pound they spend on research is invested in lifesaving research of the very highest quality.
  3.      In 2016, health and medical research charities: Invested £1.6bn in research here in the UK, financed capital projects worth £89m, and funded the salaries of at least 17,000 researchers.
  4.      AMRC supports the use of patient data for medical research when applying the 4Cs (choice, care, competence and clarity) principles. The use of patient data is crucial in advancing medical research and in the care of patients helping to save and improve the lives of nearly half a million people each year.