Supplementary evidence from the Medical
MRC RESPONSE TO
S&T COMMITTEE QUESTIONS
9 DECEMBER 2004
1. When did discussions begin with the Minister
for Science and Innovation about the process by which decisions
are to be taken and with what result?
It is for MRC to determine how to progress aspects
of its corporate strategic planning. The likely need for future
capital investment for NIMR has been on MRC's forward planning
agenda since 1999. OST has been party to the various deliberations
through their attendance at Council meetings at senior level since
that time. There has also been discussion of our plans at RCUK,
again involving senior OST officials, in the context of the large
facilities fund. We have provided briefing for Ministers but we
have not sought Ministerial views either during the work of the
Task Force or prior to the Council decision in October.
2. What precisely were the agreed respective
roles in chairing meetings and producing draft reports of the
Chairman of the Task Force and of the consultants employed by
the MRC to facilitate its work (Q10)?
The Task Force agreed at its first meeting that
consultants should facilitate their discussions and progress some
of the consultation with stakeholders and the research on other
national and international funding models in medical research.
In practice the work was shared between the chair, the secretariat
and the consultants who worked interchangeably on occasionsthis
was essential in progressing the volume of business and in making
optimal use of members' time.
3. If the Council decides that neither of
the two proposed options meets the necessary requirements, will
the enhanced base case prepared by Mill Hill be considered as
one of "all the other options" (Qq37-41)?
All options would be reconsidered if neither
of the two current proposed options can be fully developed to
meet the Council's overall vision.
4. What consideration was given to the option
of redevelopment of the Mill Hill site prior to or during the
Task Force's work (Qq 41-2; Q62)?
A strategic approach to possible future development
needs at Mill Hill has been part of our forward planning since
before the last quinquennial review (see question 6).
5. What other means of increasing the priority
given by MRC to translational research were considered before
the move of the NIMR was proposed by the FIS?
The increasing emphasis on translational approaches,
in MRC as in most medical research funding agencies in the UK
and around the world, gathered momentum in 2002-03 and was articulated
in the MRC 10-year Vision published in 2003 following stakeholder
consultation. The strategy has had and will continue to have implications
across the MRC portfolio, not just at NIMR.
6. What consideration was given during the
2000 Quinquennial Review of the NIMR to strategic questions about
the strategic direction of the institute and the need for it to
remain at its present site (Q104)? For what reasons were these
questions addressed by the FIS in advance of the 2005 Quinquennial
Review of the NIMR?
The need to distinguish the normal QQR of scientific
achievement and future plans from a strategic review of the future
of NIMR after his retirement was discussed with Sir John Skehel
in 1999. This strategic review needed to be conducted well in
advance of his retirement in 2006. The 2000 Quinquennial Review
of NIMR focused mainly on overall research strategy and quality
and on resource needs for the coming five years. The Review made
some observations on future direction and the need for forward
planning to identify Sir John Skehel's successor by 2006.
The need for a strategic review of future capital
investment at NIMR has already been explained in our previous
7. What discussions were held by the Chief
Executive with OST/Treasury about the potential availability of
funding for the NIMR with a new focus, including the proceeds
of any sale of the Mill Hill site; and what account of such discussions
was taken by the Task Force in its work?
As indicated in reply to question 1, there is
regular discussion with OST at senior levels, in a variety of
fora, in respect of all major capital plans in MRC as in other
councils. There has been no formal discussion with OST or Treasury
regarding handling of possible proceeds from any sale of the site.
The Task Force simply noted that "disposal of the Mill Hill
site could significantly reduce the costs to MRC" of co-locating
the renewed NIMR.
8. To what extent was the need to attract
serious interest from potential hosts a factor in the decision
not to keep Mill Hill as an active third option?
The decision was based on the assessment of
the majority of the Task Force, and shared by the Council, that
the cultural shift required for the translational aspects of the
mission of the new institute would best be achieved through physical
proximity to a teaching hospital.
9. Did the Task Force give full consideration
to the financial implications of the two central London bids before
reaching its conclusions? Was the Task Force fully aware during
its discussions of any financial constraints surrounding the relocation
of the NIMR?
Like most research funders, MRC cannot fund
all the high quality research proposals we receive. That applies
equally to extra-mural and to intra-mural research. The Task Forcelike
all MRC advisory groups would have been well aware of the
need for rigorous strategic direction and prioritisation across
the MRC portfolio, not just at NIMR. The Task Force report makes
clear that at the time of their report it was not feasible to
give a definitive view of the cost to MRC of proposals for renewal
of NIMR. Their initial financial analysis is published in their
report (section 6).
10. How did the FIS seek to engage with the
NIMR on the development of its proposal to relocate it at Addenbrooke's?
FIS developed their draft principles for future
funding of medical research ("the FIS principles"see
previous submission) at their first meeting in November 2002.
Each of the Directors of the four FIS sites was invited to comment
on these and to discuss with the FIS committee the implications
for future research strategies and positioning in their units/institutes.
In the case of NIMR, the FIS committee had a meeting with the
local staff side as well as with the director before developing
the detailed propositions which were published for consultation
in April 2003.
Each of the four directors was sent an advance
copy of the FIS report just prior to publication. The report included
a set of propositions for each of the four sites. These were to
be the subject of broad consultation including with staff. In
the case of NIMR, it was agreed with the director that the Council
Chair, the previous CEO and other senior MRC officials would visit
NIMR on the following day to explain the overall vision, to set
out the specific FIS propositions and to elicit the initial views
of senior scientific staff. In the event, the director chose to
circulate the report to all staff at NIMR in advance of the meeting.
Heads of Divisions walked out of this meeting without any engagement.
Subsequent engagement with staff, including some meetings between
NIMR scientists and FIS members, demonstrated that resistance
to the FIS propositions was implacable and led to the decision
to take a different approach to engaging NIMR staff in discussions
in the Task Force.
11. What consideration was given by the Task
Force to the ability of the proposed sites to facilitate all the
existing activities of the NIMR and to allow scope for future
The Task Force discussions and the current more
detailed options appraisal are based on no reduction in the volume
of science currently supported at NIMR.