Making a difference: Impact Report 2021

Medical research charities are an integral part of the UK’s health research system. They respond to the priorities of people living in the UK and ensure that research into diseases and medical conditions is relevant, necessary and impactful. They fund research at all stages of the pathway from the lab to the clinic and support the people and infrastructure behind the research. In this way, they enable breakthroughs that would not otherwise have been possible.

Tracking and demonstrating impact is not easy or straightforward. Transformative breakthroughs involve many different players working collaboratively and in sequence, often in non-linear paths and involving dead-ends or unexpected turns. And most of all, impact takes time. For charities to map their contribution to these breakthroughs, they must routinely collect research outputs and outcomes – steps along the way to impact - from their researchers.

Some AMRC members use an online tool called Researchfish that allows them to collect the outputs and outcomes of their research funding from researchers over time. Collecting data in this consistent way allows us to pool data together from many different charities and perform a cross-sector analysis of the outcomes of the research funded by our members. In addition, because other major funders in the UK use the platform, it allows us to look at AMRC data in a wider context of public funding.

We are proud to share this new report that shows what research funded by AMRC members can achieve, highlights examples of excellence, and puts charities’ role into the context of the wider research system. It follows on from our 2017 and 2019 impact reports, incorporating three more years of Researchfish data and new stories of how charity-funded research has impacted patients and society. The report is structured around three important ways in which charities add immense value:

  • Meeting the needs of patients
  • Boosting researchers’ careers
  • Supporting the research system

You can download a PDF version of this report and there is also an accompanying infographic.

If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected]

We would like to thank the Medical Research Council, Interfolio UK, and all participating organisations for making this report possible.

This report was published on 15 November 2021.

Medical research charities fund research with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of people living with and affected by health and medical conditions. This includes patients, but also families, carers, and the general public.

There are many different pathways that can lead to an impact for people living with health conditions and their loved ones. We explore several in this section.

  • New products and treatments
    Sometimes research can lead to the creation of new or improved medical products and treatments, which alleviate symptoms, stop or slow disease progression, increase life expectancy, prevent or cure conditions, or improve quality of life.
  • Influence on policy and practice
    Research can also produce evidence that helps to inform and influence policy and practice, which can change how care is delivered or how diseases are diagnosed or prevented, to name just a few examples.
  • Engagement with the wider community
    Another way that research can impact patients and the public is through engagement activities. Charity-funded researchers help to raise awareness of the importance of research, encourage more people to be involved or participate in research, and share their findings widely.

Research funded by charities can lead to the creation of new medical products and treatments that help to prevent, diagnose, treat, cure and improve quality of life for people.

Medical research into diagnosis and treatment can sometimes lead to the creation of new medical products and interventions. These products are crucial for progress to be made so that patients can get earlier and more accurate diagnosis, effective treatments or cures, and improved care and quality of life.

Research funded by AMRC member charities and tracked in Researchfish has so far led to 922 unique medical products and interventions, associated with 7% of grants.*

Most medical products and interventions in this dataset are drugs and diagnostic tools (64%). Others include psychological/behavioural therapeutic interventions, cellular and gene therapies and medical devices. Vaccines are also included but only account for 2% of these outputs.

Other includes: other types of therapeutic interventions, support tools, preventative interventions, and more.

While most of these medical products and interventions were reported to be in an early or mid-development stage (ranging from early clinical assessment to refinement), 64 medical products were reported to be already in small- or wide-scale adoption.


Medical research funded by charities can also lead to the development of new software and technical products that help research progress or directly impact on patients’ lives.

Software and technical products are another possible outcome of medical research, which may help research move to the next stage and that may impact patients’ lives directly.

Research funded by AMRC member charities and tracked in Researchfish has so far led to 538 unique software and technical products. The creation of these products is associated with 3% of grants.*

Most of these products are software or webtools and apps. Importantly, of the products that indicated open status, over half (56%) are open source. This maximises the potential for reuse, adaptation, and improvement over time.

Other includes: Physical Model/Kit; Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering; New Material/Compound; Detection Devices; Grid Application


Research findings from charity-funded research can be used to inform and influence policy and practice.

Research can be used to advise and shape policy and practice through the provision of expert advice to government committees, citations in clinical guidelines or other policy documents, or by influencing the training of health professionals. This ensures that decisions that impact patients are based on evidence.

Research funded by AMRC member charities and tracked in Researchfish has so far led to 4,178 unique influences on policy, practice, patients and the public. These influences are linked to 16% of grants.*

The most common instances in this dataset include influencing the training of health practitioners or researchers, participation in an advisory committee, and membership of a guidelines committee. These are all crucial ways that research results can achieve real world impact on people and society.

In terms of geographic reach, 89% of these influences went beyond the local/municipal/regional level – 45% having a national reach and 44% an international reach. Even small charities can achieve a global impact from the research they’ve funded within the UK.

Researchers funded by medical research charities engage with the wider community, helping to raise awareness about the importance of research and how it affects peoples’ everyday lives.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of explaining research to wider audiences. The public’s understanding of how viruses spread and the development of vaccines has been key to a return to a more normal life and prevention of further deaths.

Charities often have direct links to patients and the public through direct work in the communities and providing support such as information and advice to patients and advocating on their behalf to relevant policymakers. In turn, people affected by health conditions often support charities by providing their expertise throughout the funding cycle, raising funds for research and helping to raise awareness of conditions.

Because of this, charity-funded researchers often have a strong grasp of how their research can impact people and may seek out or encounter many opportunities for engagement with the public.

Research funded by AMRC member charities and tracked in Researchfish has so far led to 32,932 unique engagements. These influences are linked to over half (55%) of grants.*

The most common engagement activities in this dataset are talks and participation in workshops, which are often used to share and disseminate research to other academics as well as other audiences. Other activities that are less frequently reported include broadcasts (TV/radio/film/podcast), participation in expert panels, and interviews or press conferences.

These activities engage a variety of different audiences who range from professionals (E.g. researchers, practitioners, students), to patients and carers, to the general public. Where a significant outcome of the activity was noted, the most frequent were a change in views, opinions or behaviours (28%) and an increase in requests for more information or further engagement and involvement (41%).


* These stats are based on a dataset of researcher-reported outcomes on 10,579 grants funded by 49 charities over the past two decades. Charities included in this dataset have not tracked all grants in Researchfish and have used the system for varying periods of time. This should be viewed as a subset of research outcomes from AMRC member charities