Funding and regulation

The UK is a world leader in medical research, with a vibrant research and innovation ecosystem in which public investment leverages significant charity and private investment.

However, we must not take this for granted.The UK invests a lower proportion of our national wealth in R&D than many other leading scientific nations. The Academy believes the UK should increase combined public and private investment in R&D to 3% of GDP.

To support this ambition, we seek to provide evidence of that demonstrates the societal and economic benefits of investing in research. For example:

"Every £1 invested in medical research delivers a return equivalent to around 25p every year, for ever."

Increasing overall investment in R&D is essential to keep the UK at the forefront of medical research and unlock the benefits of R&D for all, but to deliver the full benefits of this investment we must ensure the regulatory environment facilitates high-quality studies and aligns with robust ethical principles.

“The Academy leads the way in bringing key players together, allowing different sectors to identify areas of common concern and to find a way to fix problems. The introduction of a better regulatory framework for health research has been a major boost to UK science and would not have happened without the hard work of the Academy.” Sir David Cooksey GBE FMedSci, Founding Chairman of The Francis Crick Institute

Horizon Europe

For information on our work surrounding UK participation in Horizon Europe please see our European policy work section.

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Following the Government’s decision to temporarily reduce the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget, from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP, the Academy of Medical Sciences has been asked to cease all calls for new ODA activity, and to prioritise existing activity. We have now confirmed to our grant awardees that the cuts to the ODA research and development (R&D) budget will not impact their active award in FY21/22. However, the cuts mean that we are unable to open any further rounds of our Newton International Fellowship, Newton Advanced Fellowship or Networking Grant schemes for the time being.

These cuts – which have impacted some organisations’ funding commitments even more than our own – pose a serious risk to the UK’s global leadership in science and research. Even a temporary reduction in funding for ODA-funded R&D programmes will compromise the ability of the UK to act as a leader in addressing global challenges and building capacity in research talent, particularly at a time when COVID-19 has demonstrated the critical need for global collaboration.

Our President wrote to the Foreign Secretary with the Presidents of the other National Academies, ahead of the decision to reduce the ODA budget, and continues to advocate for the protection and growth of global R&D partnerships. You can download the letter on the right-hand side of this page.

In May 2021 we responded to the House of Commons’ International Development Select Committee inquiry into the future of UK aid. Our response evidences the important contribution of research and innovation to the Government’s ODA priorities, and describes the impacts of the recent ODA cuts on the Academy, medical research, and the UK’s international reputation.

Budget 2021

Medical science is at the heart of the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be central to our collective recovery – not just by offering a way 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 long-term health benefits. Every £1 invested in medical research delivers a return equivalent to around 25p every year, forever. 

However, COVID-19 is currently threatening the foundations of UK success in research and development (R&D): stalling researchers’ careers; drastically limiting funding for life-saving and -improving projects; postponing clinical trials; and ultimately delaying improved outcomes for patients. To avoid long-term damage and continue reaping the benefits of medical research in years to come, it is crucial Government invest strategically now. This means:

  • Strategic funding of association to Horizon Europe to complement R&D investments and ensure 2.4% of GDP is spent on R&D by 2027
  • Critical support for charity-funded medical research
  • Maintaining our global R&D presence
  • Enabling local R&D through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund
  • Investing in research to underpin better public health

You can read and download the full representation on the right-hand side of this page.

Spending Review 2020

COVID-19 has put all parts of society under significant financial strain and the 2020 Spending Review is an opportunity to invest in the UK’s social and economic recovery. Supporting the life sciences will be crucial on both fronts: for improving patient outcomes and helping the NHS rapidly recover; to creating high-paying jobs and levelling up research infrastructure across the UK.

The full extent of these benefits will only be possible if the research landscape has long-term certainty. We have joined with charities, companies and other organisations across the life sciences sector to call for strategic investment in research over multiple years, so it can continue to help the UK recover from COVID-19. This includes:

  • Bolstering the budgets of key research funding bodies, to help Government reach their goal of investing £22bn in research and development (R&D) by 2024/25
  • Supporting charities through a significant drop in funding, so they can keep playing their essential role in the funding landscape
  • Investing in the infrastructure and workforce that will make the UK a destination of choice for clinical research

You can read and download the full statement on the right-hand side of this page.

Key contacts

HIVE alumni programme launch event with Professor Jonathan Van-Tam MBE FMedSci

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Developing an effective mentoring programme 2021

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Labour Party Conference 2021 - Becoming a “science superpower”: will the UK be fit to tackle the next global crisis?

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