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Medical research funding grows 50 per cent over five years

Investment in UK medical research grew by 50 per cent in the five years to 2009/10, according to new data.

Figures show that the 12 largest funders for medical research spent over £1.6 billion in 2009/10, up from £1bn in 2004/05.

The data is due to be published in a report on 16 November by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, a group of health research funders and users. It was written by Ian Viney, head of evaluation in the Medical Research Council’s strategy group. Viney and colleagues used the Health Research Classification System database of almost 12,000 peer-reviewed awards from across the 12 funders.

Viney says work is underway to automate this coding process so that data collection for future reports is easier and faster.

“We’re trialling it at the moment,” he told Research Fortnight, “and I hope we’d have some results in the next month or so. There have been some promising trials both with Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research team in Southampton.”

The dataset produced for the UKCRC report will also be of interest to the devolved nations. “You can immediately see that there’s some interesting questions,” said Viney. “I can imagine the devolution question is being asked in Scotland.”

The UKCRC partners are working on extracting data subsets for specific fields, including dementia and experimental medicine. The report’s steering group will meet before the end of the year to discuss work with this data.

It is only the second time that such detailed analysis of UK medical research expenditure has been calculated. The first analysis was published in 2006 and covered 2004/05.

Areas that have seen significant increases in funding between the two reports include prevention research, respiratory medicine and translational work.

The report also estimates, for the first time, the total spending on health-related research and development from public, private and charitable sources. For 2009/10, it was £8.1bn. The report shows that the UK-based pharmaceutical industry’s £4.5bn investment is spent largely outside the UK.

The UKCRC report cost £20,000: individual funders paid for data collection regarding their own grants, and the analysis was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.