Memorandum from the Departments of Trade
and Industry and Health
1. The Departments of Trade and Industry
and Health welcome this inquiry. This paper sets out the involvement
of OST and DH in the MRC's review of the future of NIMR.
2. It is the responsibility of the MRC,
guided by its Boards and other structures, to decide what medical
science it should fund to deliver its Charter objectives and its
mission. OST's input focuses on monitoring MRC's performance in
relation to agreed objectives, ensuring its activities are consistent
with government policies and aims as set out for example in:
"The Quinquennial review of
the Grant Awarding Research Councils" published in November
2001 (weblink: http://www.ost.gov.uk/research/councils/quinquennial/index.htm;
"The Science Budget 2003-04
to 2005-06" published in November 2002 (weblink; http://www.ost.gov.uk/research/funding/budget03-06/;
the "Science and innovation
investment framework 2004-2014" published in July this
year. (See http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spending_review/spend_sr04/associated_documents/spending_sr04_science.cfm).
3. In relation to MRC's review of NIMR particular
attention has been given to ensuring that the process MRC follows
is clear, transparent and has involved staff and other stakeholders
in appropriate ways. OST believes that MRC's review of NIMR is
consistent with its remit and with these requirements.
4. The science at NIMR has consistently
been highly rated. It makes an important contribution to the excellence
of the UK biomedical base. OST is therefore pleased that MRC is
looking for the best way to sustain and build on this as it considers
the future of NIMR in the academic and health care environments
of the future.
5. In that context, OST welcomes the MRC's
intentions to strengthen translational research in the UK to improve
still further the benefits of our excellence basic research for
the benefits of patients and the economy. How best to achieve
this goal is a matter for MRC to decide in light of all the options
and competing priorities.
ON MRC COUNCIL
6. A senior OST official sits as observer
on the Governing Council of each of the Research Councils to ensure
its activities are consistent with government policies as described
in paragraph 2 above.
7. Senior Health Department officials (including
the Director of Research and Development at the Department of
Health) also sit on MRC's Council to ensure that their views and
priorities are considered by the Council during its deliberations.
8. The first Quinquennial Review of the
Research Councils took place in 2001. This concluded that the
Research Council system was working well and made a number of
recommendations on how to optimise this.
9. This Quinquennial Review considered the
role of institutes and the Councils review of these. It indicated
that Councils should, as part of their review, consider strategic
options for the future of institutes and encouraged collocation
of institutes with universities. It suggested that reviews should
question the need for Institutes, and consider alternative ways
of meeting these needs, including changes of ownership or management.
10. The MRC has a responsibility to keep
under review all the scientific work it funds within its establishments
and directly-supported units. It undertakes to do this in a fair
and open manner and to ensure that the same standards of objectivity
are applied to all scientific reviews.
11. In line with the Quinquennial Review,
MRC routinely reviews its institutes and units on a five yearly
cycle. The review includes an evaluation of the remit and value-four-money
of scientific work undertaken by the institute/unit and the use
of resources in its research establishments. MRC Council is advised
on whether direct support remains appropriate, on the remit of
proposals for future work, and whether the allocation of resources
is cost-effective and consistent with its overall research priorities
12. The current review of NIMR is appropriate
in that it is normal practice to consider ongoing need and overall
investment in a unit/Institute at a strategic points such as when
the tenure of the director is due to expire. In the case of NIMR,
the need for substantial forthcoming capital investment to underpin
the long-term future of the Institute also made a strategic review
13. In many areas of science, UK researchers
need access to large scale facilities of increasing cost and complexity.
This is essential for them to stay internationally competitive.
The Government and the Research Councils produced the UK's first
Large Scale Facilities Strategic Road Map in 2001, and revised
it in 2003. This Road Map sets out a 15-year forward look at the
most important large facilities which UK scientists wish to see
completed. These facilities are both national and international,
across the whole range of scientific disciplines. The Road Map
has enabled significant discussions with international partners
and within RCUK on the prioritisation of major facilities.
14. The Government has set aside a Large
Facilities Capital Fund, to help Research Councils meet the irregular
capital demands associated with construction of major facilities
such as the redevelopment of the Institute of Animal Health at
Pirbright, the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and
a replacement marine research vessel.
15. Demand always exceeds available funds
and priorities need to be agreed across all areas of the science
base. It will be for the MRC to make the case for inclusion of
NIMR in the Road Map, and for any funding from the Large Facilities
Capital Fund. Funding from the Large Facilities Capital Fund is
generally conditional upon a council itself contributing a significant
proportions of the overall capital funds required (from their
own budget and/or through agreement with a third party). When
the MRC has decided its preferred way forward for NIMR, MRC and
OST will need to discuss how any major capital funding from the
science budget should be addressed within the Roadmap process.
16. As an NDBP, the location of MRC's Head
Office was considered as part of the Lyons review. In addition
to its Head Office MRC, seven of its 32 research institutes and
units are located in London. The review concluded that the siting
of these was a matter for the Council to consider in the light
of its scientific remit and following the process set out in the
Quinquennial Review and that they should not therefore be included
in the Lyons Review of MRC.
17. The UK Health Departments and the MRC
have a common interest in promoting research into all areas of
medical and related science with the aims of improving the health
and quality of life of the UK public and contributing to the wealth
of the nation.
18. Since 1981, formal agreements have provided
the basis for a partnership between these organisations. The current
Partnership Agreement states that MRC will take into account,
before reaching any funding decision, the needs, priorities and
realities of the NHS when it is considering funding R&D which
will have immediate or future cost implications for the NHS and
that it will balance these against all other relevant criteria.
It also states that the Health Departments will seek to ensure
that the NHS meets legitimate service support and treatment costs
associated with MRC-funded research.
20. The UK Clinical Research Collaboration
was established in April 2004 and brings together the major stakeholders
in clinical research in the UK including the MRC and the UK Health
Departments. It aims to harness the UK's strengths in biomedical
research to improve the nation's health and increase the nation's
wealth. The UKCRC is considering the areas necessary to deliver
this aim, including translational research. MRC's consideration
of the future of NIMR was already well advanced when UKCRC held
its first meeting, but all UKCRC partners will clearly need to
take account of UKCRC's emerging views and plans as they consider
their future support for clinical and translational research across
21. Most recently, the MRC and the UK Health
Departments have formed a Joint MRC/DH Health Research Delivery
Group to co-ordinate their work in areas of common interest including
developing agreed positions on research issues to be discussed
and developed into proposals at UKCRC. This group will play an
important part in discussing and agreeing a common way forward
on MRC and DH support for translational and clinical research.
23 November 2004