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 play a vital role in supporting researchers, helping to kick-start their careers, sparking interest in a particular health or disease area, and developing their skill set to enable them to become leaders in their field. In 2020, AMRC members were actively supporting and funding the salaries of 19,000 researchers in the UK, including at least 1,750 PhD fellowships (based on 149 AMRC members, source).

The success of individual researchers is celebrated by the funders who provided them with crucial funding and support, particularly when they go on to become influential experts in that area and nurture the next generation of researchers.

Charities can track this success through the recognition that researchers receive for their work and their progression upwards in their career. We explore these further in this section.

Researchers funded by charities receive awards and recognitions that acknowledge success throughout their careers.

Awards and recognitions can stimulate the career of a researcher, increasing the profile of their research. Collecting information about the awards and recognition received by researchers allows funders to assess the success of the researchers they fund.

Researchers funded by AMRC member charities and tracked in Researchfish have reported 21,147 unique awards and recognitions. Awards and recognitions are linked to 41% of grants.*

The most common type of award or recognition is a personal invitation to give a key note speech, accounting for 52% of outcomes reported in this category. Other prestigious recognition included medals, research prizes, excellence awards, and membership or fellowship of a learned society.

These awards and recognitions help researchers demonstrate the impact they have had on their specialty area, people and society. When these outcomes are attributed to a charity’s funding, the charity is able to see the impact they have had on a person’s success.

As charity-funded researchers develop and progress, they move into new positions.

Many early career researchers benefit from the support of charities at crucial stages of their research paths. Charities aim to nurture future leaders in their particular health areas. One trackable career-related outcome of a grant is securing a new position.

Researchers funded by AMRC member charities and tracked in Researchfish have reported 9,275 unique instances of movement into new positions. These are linked to 39% of grants.*

Many of the researchers who reported moving into new positions were on early-career grants (23% were students and 44% were postdoctoral).

Of all researchers, 62% continued in academia and 4% went into the charity sector. Overall, 74% continued in careers related to research and 10% in healthcare and medicine. 71% of researchers took positions within the UK and 12% took positions in countries across Europe.

Other/unknown includes Learned Society

Non-research roles include Management/Admin/Policy, Full-time lecturer/school teacher, Not employed/on career break/ maternity/paternity leave, Engaged in study, Retired, Full-time study


* 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