A call for cross-government coordination of research By Rohan Bundell, Public Affairs Officer, AMRC Published: 22 February 2019 On Tuesday 5 February, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Life Sciences jointly held a panel discussion with civil servants and parliamentarians, ‘Keeping the UK a world leader in medical research: the need for cross-government coordination’. The event aimed to explore how the upcoming Spending Review could be an opportunity for government departments to better coordinate to help achieve the government’s ambition to invest 2.4% of GDP into R&D by 2027. Discussion focused on three priorities: the need for increasing investment in R&D, the need to develop a skilled and diverse R&D workforce, and the need to maintain cross-border collaboration. Chairing the panel, Chris Green MP welcomed the wide range of organisations and groups that had come together to discuss how better coordination across government can transform the lives of patients and boost the UK’s post-Brexit economy. He outlined the need for government to create the right conditions to attract substantial investment from a range of sources; to invest in an R&D workforce with a range of different skills, experiences and training, drawing on the contribution of individuals from diverse backgrounds; and to ensure that, as the UK establishes a new relationship with the EU, it protects the international connections that have delivered substantial benefits for UK-based researchers. Speech Delivering the keynote speech, Shadow Financial Secretary Anneliese Dodds MP, the Labour Member for Oxford East, spoke about the importance of long-term government funding applied in tandem with efforts to leverage greater investment from private and charitable sources. Explaining that joining-up direct and leveraged investments is vital but takes time and careful coordination, she outlined the important role of the upcoming Spending Review in setting the pace needed to reach the 2.4% target. Panel Discussion Dr Barbara Domayne-Hayman, Entrepreneur in Residence at the Francis Crick Institute, opened the panel discussion by describing how public funding helps to support the entire UK life sciences ecosystem, from universities and charities to the SME community and global pharmaceutical companies. Relating how struck she has been by the need for skills training of the UK workforce, she explained that embedding an interest in pursuing STEM careers early in schools is vital. Delivering the patient perspective, Jane Taylor, Chair of the Versus Arthritis Patient Insight Partner Group, recounted her experience of sharing her data in an international study. She explained how collaboration with European and global research partners is essential to delivering breakthroughs, especially for rare diseases with small patient populations. This includes participating in EU-wide research initiatives such as Horizon 2020 and its successor programme, Horizon Europe, as well as ensuring the UK is able to attract and retain global scientific talent. Parliamentary & Whitehall attendance Alongside the group’s Chair, Chris Green MP, DUP Health Spokesperson Jim Shannon MP, Lord Hunt of King’s Heath and Baroness Neville-Rolfe attended. Six civil servants – whose role in undertaking the spending review makes them key to the UK’s future outlook for research – attended from the Treasury and across the Departments for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, of Health and Social Care, and for International Development. Next steps Following the event, we will be gathering support from Parliamentarians for a co-signed letter outlining the sector’s key messages to the Secretaries of State of Government Departments of greatest importance to research. As well as those mentioned above, this will include the Department for Education, a central player in driving domestic skills development. Feel free to download and share our useful infographic, pictured above, which accompanies the key messages with supporting facts and statistics. To stay updated with upcoming activity or if you have any questions about the work of the group, please visit the APPG on Medical Research webpage or contact [email protected].