For medical research to achieve maximum success it needs funding from multiple sources and the development of partnerships with other researchers, companies and patients groups. By leveraging further funding and working with partners, it means that the research funded by charities is leading to increased investment and expanded networks of influence.

Stimulating further research can be split into two aspects:

   Key stats

  • 34% of the awards led to 5,841 unique examples of further funding
  • 46% of the awards led to 7,581 unique partnerships

Further funding

The UK charity funding landscape is diverse with many small funders (64% AMRC's members spend less than £1m on research per annum). These funders cannot support large research programmes, but hope that by supporting pilot studies and 'early' awards they can enable researchers to gain awards from larger funders.

For larger funders, having further investment from other sources is also a way of ensuring that the risk of research is spread and allows money to be 'freed up' for new endeavours.

34% of awards (2,316) generated 5,841 unique examples of further funding, amounting to £2.7bn.

Where there was further funding linked to an award:

  • 44% (1,020) generated one instance of further funding
  • 33% (764) generated two to three instances of further funding
  • 23% (532) generated over three instances of further funding

Types of funders providing further funding:

  • Nearly two-thirds (61%) of the value of further funding was from government funding (for example the Medical Research Council or European Commission), accounting for £1.8bn in further funding
  • 27% of further funding was from charities or non-profits, accounting for £823m in further funding
  • 6.5% of further funding was from the private sector, accounting for £196m in further funding
  • 3% of further funding was from academic institutes or universities, accounting for £87m in further funding

Other includes: Unknown, Multiple, Hospitals, Learned society

Countries providing further funding:

  • 73% of awards were funded by organisations in the UK
  • 12% funded specifically by the European Union, and 19% were funded by any European source
  • The top 3 countries in Europe providing further funding (in terms of value) were Belgium, France and Germany

Other includes: unknown and all other countries. Global refers to further funding coming from more than one country for the same award.

For a more detailed breakdown of sources of further funding by country and sector, click here.

Partnerships 

Research is a collaborative endeavour and the ability of researchers to forge partnerships with other researchers, companies and patient organisations allows research ideas to develop and be translated into new treatments, products or areas of understanding that will ultimately help patients.

46% of awards generated 13,096 partnerships, 7,581 of these were unique

Of these partnerships:

  • Most (43%) were linked to a single partner
  • Almost a quarter (22%) were linked to two partners

Countries where partners were based:

  • Charity-funded researchers had collaborations and partnerships with groups in 87 countries across the world
  • Most (61%) of the partnerships were with UK-based organisations
  • There were also substantial numbers of partnerships across Europe (21%) and with the United States (13%).
  • The top 3 partnering countries in Europe were Germany, The Netherlands and France.

Types of partners:

Other: Unknown, Learned society, multiple

Case study: Magnetic drug delivery 

Initial investment from Action on Hearing Loss enabled the company Otomagnetics to receive further funding to develop more efficient ways to deliver treatments to the hard-to-reach inner ear. 

One in six people in the UK has hearing loss or is deaf. Despite an increase in the number of people with hearing loss, and the serious impact it has on quality of life and risk of dementia, there are currently no available treatments to protect or restore hearing. 

Not all medicines taken orally or placed into the middle ear will reach the cochlea. Local delivery may also be essential to avoid unwanted side effects. In 2013, Action on Hearing Loss invested £300,000 to enable a US-based company called Otomagnetics to test a new drug delivery system. Their patented device is similar to a syringe, but magnetic forces are used instead of a needle to push drugs linked to biodegradable magnetic particles into the inner ear.  

Several years after this initial investment, Otomagnetics was awarded a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to further develop this drug delivery system and bring it closer to use in people. Without the initial funding from Action on Hearing Loss this follow-on funding and further development would not have been possible. Going forward, Otomagnetics hopes to apply their technology to deliver a variety of drug, protein or gene therapies to other hard-to-reach targets like the retina. 

Case study: Partnering for better stroke care 

A collaboration between academia and industry resulted in the development of a blood test for paramedics to determine who is experiencing a stroke and transfer the patient to the nearest specialist unit. 

Stroke is a leading cause of death worldwide and contributes to a large burden on health and social care. The length and extent of recovery relies heavily on the accuracy of initial diagnosis and a fast emergency response, but there are many other conditions which create identical symptoms such as migraine and seizures. Paramedics are often the first to see patients in the crucial period following a stroke, but it can be challenging to identify actual stroke and to choose the best immediate course of action. 

Dr. Christopher Price, a clinical researcher at Newcastle University who the Stroke Association has been supporting through fellowships since 2013, partnered with the UK-based company Sarissa Biomedical in 2016 to show the accuracy of a finger prick blood test in helping paramedics diagnose stroke at the scene or en route to the hospital. This test measures levels of a substance in the blood that rises after oxygen deprivation, which occurs in the brain during stroke, but stays low in other conditions producing the same symptoms. The collaborative team behind the development of this test won a Small Business Research Initiative award from Innovate UK. 

This blood test is now being trialled in a multisite study with three ambulance services and four specialist stroke units. The blood test when used in conjunction with the well-established FAST test (facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties) should improve the ability of paramedics to quickly and correctly distinguish between stroke and other conditions within 5 minutes. This will enable a decision about which is the most appropriate hospital destination and use limited NHS resources more efficiently by avoiding sending people along the stroke treatment pathway who need other types of care. For stroke patients, it may lead to greater confidence in the initial diagnosis and faster administration of treatments which can greatly minimise the disability caused. 

NEXT: Developing the human capacity to do research