By Dr Cat Ball, Policy Manager, AMRC

Published: 30 May 2017

What do you get when you combine UK medical research organisations, a trip on the Eurostar and a research project looking at the value of UK medical research to EU science and health?

No, it’s not the worst stag/hen do in the world; it’s the launch of the report The Impact of Collaboration: The Value of UK Medical Research to EU Science and Health in the European Parliament. The report will be launched today, 30 May, alongside European partners, MEPs and EU officials in Brussels.

The aims of the report and what is explored

Led by Cancer Research UK and co-funded by AMRC alongside a number of our members, the report aims to provide evidence for how UK medical research contributes to EU science and health. Looking at the interaction from this perspective – most previous investigations have looked at the importance of the EU to the UK - the report seeks to provide a new viewpoint that can be used in interactions with both UK and, crucially, EU audiences as negotiations to develop the UK’s new relationship with the EU begin.

The report explores five key areas where UK medical research has a significant impact on EU science and health including contribution of UK expertise; involvement in pan-EU clinical trials; provision of research facilities; and education and training of EU scientists.

An extensive literature review, data analysis and in-depth interviews with leading European researchers and institutional stakeholders in the medical research field were used to create this evidence synthesis. A number of specific disease areas are focused on including cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal conditions, cancer and mental health.

Further evidence for our ‘Brexit’ position

Here at AMRC, we will use the report’s findings to add to the evidence base for our ‘Brexit’ position. This position informs our messaging with key stakeholders including MPs and Government officials. We hope that our members will also be able to utilise the report’s findings in this way.  

EU funding programmes and schemes

A headline finding of the report is that the UK contributed to almost 20% of the total research work carried out within EU health programmes between 2007 and 2016 and that collaboration with the UK greatly increases the impact of EU publication, and vice versa. This supports AMRC’s call for the closest achievable affiliation with EU research programmes that allows for our continued involvement including the EU’s current Horizon 2020 programme and successor programmes.

EU clinical trials

The report also evidences the importance of UK involvement in pan-EU clinical trials. The UK has the highest number of phase I trials – those testing a new drug or treatment for the first time – in the EU and the second highest number of phase II and III trials after Germany. In addition, the UK conducts the third largest number of pan-EU clinical trials with EU partners, after Germany and Spain. AMRC have urged that patients must be able to continue being part of EU clinical trials and have access to new therapies.

UK involvement in the EMA

We’ve also urged that Government ensures the UK continues to cooperate with EU regulatory processes and key databases including the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The importance of the interaction between the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the EMA is emphasised by the finding of the report that between 2008 and 2016 the MHRA acted as Scientific Advice Co-ordinator in at least 20% of centralised EMA medicine approval procedures.

Movement of people

Global mobility is a key feature of the UK medical research community. Medical Research Council (MRC) data included in the report shows that almost 30% of their grant holders go on to take up positions in other countries. This mobility is key in both directions; between 2007-2013 the UK was the top destination for prestigious EU-funded Marie Curie Research Fellows. In order to ensure this crucial circulation of expertise continues, we’re calling on Government to recognise the intrinsically international and collaborative nature of science by implementing a simple immigration system that works for all those involved in science and research including researchers, skilled technicians and healthcare professionals.

Negotiations to develop the UK’s new relationship with the EU are set to begin in earnest this Summer. Following the report’s launch today, and as the negotiation process unfolds, we hope that it will be a useful source of evidence for our sector and policy makers alike.