The Academy of Medical Sciences is calling for government to invest in science at the 2021 Spending Review to ensure everyone can gain from the future social, economic and health benefits of research.
The Academy has written to the Treasury highlighting how medical research has been at the centre of the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the research community making vital contributions to enhancing our understanding of the virus and developing innovative diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
These developments would not have been possible without many previous years of research investment, and the pandemic has demonstrated how patients and the public directly benefit from this spending.
Before and beyond COVID-19, investment in medical research drives health improvements and economic benefits across the UK.
‘Every £1 of public investment in medical research delivers a return equivalent to around 25p every year, forever.’
The submission emphasises that it is crucial the Government provides long term, stable funding for science now to continue providing health benefits to the public and build our resilience against future health crises.
Yet, the submission also stresses that UK science has been damaged by the pandemic and risks long term harm if the Government does not invest strategically now.
Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak FMedSci, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Glasgow, said:
“We must continue to invest in the fundamentals, so in future we can again respond from a place of strength.”
The submission sets out why the Government must continue to invest in medical research and includes the following priorities for the upcoming spending review:
- Set out clear, consistent steps to reach investment £22bn in research and development by 2024/25
- Commit to providing long-term, real terms increases to the core research budgets of the seven research councils and the budget of the NIHR
- Ensure the UK’s medical research charities and world-class universities can continue to play their unique and vital roles in the research ecosystem
- Invest in NHS research by funding a pilot for NHS consultants to be offered a contract that includes dedicated time for research
- Invest in the UK’s international Research and Development partnerships
- Commit to covering the cost of UK participation in Horizon Europe without cutting the existing science budget
The submission notes COVID-19 has had a negative impact on UK science by stalling researchers’ careers; diminishing funds for lifesaving and life-improving projects; postponing clinical trials; and ultimately delaying improved outcomes for patients.
Medical science will be central to our collective recovery from the pandemic, the submission stresses – not just by offering a path out of the pandemic, enabling the UK economy to fully restart, but by directly stimulating the economy across the UK through new jobs, investments and ultimately delivering long-term health benefits.
Professor Sir Rory Collins FMedSci, Principal Investigator and Chief Executive of the UK Biobank, said:
“As a result of public funding over the last 20 years, the private sector is now partnering extensively with UK Biobank. It’s difficult to get private funding at the start of a project like this, it is considered too risky, but now the resource exists and is demonstrating its value, it has become a cost-effective way for the private sector to invest. And we’re attracting global investment because we’re 15 years ahead of anything similar.”
Professor Dame Anne Johnson, President of The Academy of Medical Sciences, said:
“The pandemic has demonstrated why investing in research is so important, and how UK science can step up to play its part on the global stage. The research community stands ready to turn the vision of Britain as scientific superpower into reality, but it requires the Government to follow up their ambitions with a sustained commitment to real investment, including by setting out clear, consistent steps to increase public investment in R&D to £22bn a year by 2024/25.”