How does medical research benefit the UK economy and society?

Posted on May 1, 2012 by


MRC are planning to model the impact of medical research on the economy and society. This information will help us better understand how and where investment is most effective and the different ways it is effective. It will help us make future decisions on how to invest in medical research – really useful stuff as we all try to understand how to invest limited funds most effectively in research to improve healthcare for patients. MRC launched a funding call last week and will be picking projects to fund in September 2012.


Back in October, MRC held a consultation and a workshop to think about the link between investing in research and the economic impacts that come from the findings and discoveries that are made.

There have already been some really interesting attempts to model the link between investing in medical research and the benefits we get. Medical Research: What’s it worth? developed a basic model showing that for each pound invested by taxpayer or charity donor in cardiovascular disease and mental health research, a stream of benefits is produced equivalent to earning 39 pence and 37 pence respectively each year ‘in perpetuity’.

MRC set out to explore the sort of questions they need to be answering to analyse the extent of this contribution to economic growth in more detail and produce more robust models to understand what is going on.

What do they want to look at?

At the workshop several themes were identified:

  • better understanding the spillovers from medical research that effect the UK economy
  • looking at how research in the UK differs from international research initiatives
  • the effectiveness of investment in translational research
  • how medical devices and diagnostics are developed
  • interactions with pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries
  • the impact of medical research on quality of life

MRC want this research to help inform and develop

  • policy recommendations to shape the medical research funding strategy in the UK.
  • a better understanding of the returns that come from investment in research.
  • International/cross funder comparisons of different environments/policy approaches, which highlights ways to maximise impact.
  • Identifying what success and indicators of impact look like so we can get a grasp on the impact of research.
  • Learning from missed opportunities or negatives results.
  • Understanding the contribution of academic research and MRC’s input into this.

What next?

The successful projects will be picked in September 2012 and funded for one year initially. They will provide an interim report of their work in May 2013.

I’m really interested in seeing MRC’s findings as we continue to have conversations with the treasury about the need to invest in the UK’s science base and support for medical research. It may also help us unpick how different funders are involved in driving research forward to improve healthcare and explore how we can fund most effectively.

Posted in: Policy