Making a difference: Impact Report 2019

Medical research charities are committed to funding research that positively impacts people living with health conditions or diseases. For many charities, this is only made possible through public donations and so charities must let the public know how their money is being spent and what impact it is having.

The pathway to impact is rarely linear. Instead, it often involves many different funders and research teams over a long period of time. This cumulative nature of impact makes it challenging to track in an effective way.

AMRC is helping a number of our members use an online tool called Researchfish that allows them to collect data on the outcomes of their research funding over time. Collecting data in this consistent way allows us to pool data together from many different charities and perform an in-depth cross-sector analysis of the outcomes of the research funded by our members.

This report follows on from our initial 2017 impact report, incorporating two more years of data and new stories of how charity-funded research has impacted patients and society. The report is structured around the five areas of impact shown below.

For a PDF version of this report please contact our Communications Officer, Leo.

If you have any questions please contact our Research, Data and Impact Manager, Jocelyn.

With thanks to the Medical Research Council, Researchfish, and participating charities.


For research to progress, new ideas need to be translated into new products, protocols or treatments that can benefit patients.

This can be split into four types of outputs generated throughout the translation process:

   Key stats

  • 6% of the awards generated 568 unique medical products and interventions
  • 2% of the awards generated 185 unique software and technical products
  • 4% of the awards generated 354 unique registered, protected and licensed intellectual properties
  • 1% of the awards generated 61 unique spin out companies

Medical products and interventions

Translating research can lead to the creation of medical products and interventions which can be tested in clinical trials.

6% of awards generated 568 unique developed and tested medical products and interventions.

The majority were drugs, followed by non-imaging and imaging diagnostic tools.

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

Software and technical products

Medical research can result in the creation of software and technical products that have the potential to help patients.

136 awards (2%) generated 185 unique software and technical products.

Types of software and technical products generated:

  • Most were software or webtools/applications.
  • At least one third of the products were verified as open source – meaning the product source codes were made freely available.

Other includes: Physical Model/Kit; Detection Devices; Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering

Protecting and licensing intellectual property

Translating research can lead to the creation of intellectual property - an idea, design or invention owned by the person who created it. Researchers can register and protect their intellectual property to prevent theft or copying by registering for copyrights, patents, and/or trademarks. They can also license it by partnering with another person or business to authorise their partner to use the intellectual property in exchange for an agreed payment.

268 awards (4%) generated 354 unique registered, protected and licensed intellectual properties.

The majority (65%) of intellectual properties were not yet formally licensed, with 55% in the process of being applied for.

Protection type for IP examples

There was a wide range of examples of IP in this dataset, including medical devices, therapeutics, research tools or methods, and software or technological products.

Spin out companies

Translating research can result in the creation of spin out companies to commercialise the new product or process. In addition to ultimately helping patients, these companies contribute to the growth of the UK’s economy and generate further jobs in our thriving life sciences sector.

62 awards (1%) generated 61 unique spin out companies.

The majority were drug discovery or development companies, many of which were aimed at treating cancer, cardiovascular disease or neurodegenerative conditions.

Case study: A device for dignity 

The “Head Up collar” is a neck support system that improves quality of life for people with motor neurone disease 

Motor neurone disease (MND), also called ALS, is a life-shortening illness where the death of nerve cells that control movement leads to muscle weakening and wasting. There is no cure for MND but some symptoms can be managed in order to lessen the impact on day to day life. One consequence of the disease can be loss of neck muscle strength, making it difficult or impossible for some people with MND to hold their heads up straight. People living with MND reported that existing products were uncomfortable, unattractive and restrictive. They identified better head and neck support as a priority to improve their quality of life. 

With funding from the MND Association, the NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme and Sheffield Hallam University, a revolutionary new support collar was designed and created with input from people affected by MNDThe entire process, from initial conception to distribution, took about 7 years in total. The product was designed with input from people with MND and was tested in a clinical trial where 100 participants across 10 sites in the UK and Ireland tried out the collars. When the trial concluded, 80% of participants felt the collar helped them and wanted to carry on using it. This patented product is available through the NHS and at least 25 NHS trusts are using the collar.  

This device allows people with MND to do simple everyday things like eat, look someone in the eye, read a book or watch television. Going forward, this collar could benefit people with other conditions that lead to neck muscle problems, including spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, stroke and Parkinson’s. 

Case study: The Heart Age Tool 

What age is your heart? A test available on the NHS website helps you assess the health of your heart and prompts you to make healthy lifestyle improvements 

Cardiovascular health is impacted by lifestyle factors like diet, exercise and smoking. Unhealthy lifestyle choices increase the risk of developing serious conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. For these types of health conditions, preventative intervention is key and increasing public awareness and engagement is the best way to empower individuals to make positive changes. 

The British Heart Foundation, together with the NHS, Public Health England, University College London and Joint British Society, launched an online tool that allows people to assess the health of their heart based on 16 physical and lifestyle questions. The tool tells them what their heart age is and the percentage chance of having a heart attack or stroke over the next decade. They can then see how these could be improved if they lost weight, lowered their cholesterol or reduced their blood pressure. This digital tool is targeted at younger tech-savvy people who are less likely to visit their GP for routine health assessments. 

As of September 2018, the Heart Age Test had been completed more than 1.9 million times and received significant media coverage. Many newspapers shared the alarming fact that 4 out of 5 (78%) people who took the test have a heart age older than they are, and it was described by the BBC as “a wake-up call to make healthy changes”. The British Heart Foundation hopes that this tool will help them to convey the message that it’s never too late to change. 

NEXT: Creating evidence that will influence policy and other stakeholders