Published on 7 July 2022

Report highlights shortfall in expenditure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Association of Medical Research Charities has published their 2021 Research Expenditure report revealing that £1.55 billion was spent on research in the UK by AMRC member charities.

This figure was out of a total charitable investment of £2.4 billion, based on breakdowns of charitable expenditure from 150 AMRC member charities.

DRWF is a member of the AMRC, a membership body representing the leading medical and health research charities who deliver high-quality research that saves and improves lives.

Working with member charities and partners, AMRC aims to support voluntary sector effectiveness and advance medical research by developing best practice, providing information and guidance, improving public dialogue about research and science, and influencing government.

Together, AMRC medical research charities are the top public funder of medical research in the UK, investing more than the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Charity funding is an essential component of UK medical research and over the past 10 years, AMRC members have consistently invested more than £1 billion in research each year - totalling £15 billion.

This investment has led to significant contributions in the life sciences sector and improvements for a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes among other conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and rare diseases.

A man wearing protective clothing in a laboratory.

A medical researcher (pictured) wearing protective clothing in a laboratory. 

While, collective spend on UK research by AMRC members (excluding Wellcome) generally increases year on year the report found that spend on UK research by charities dropped as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impact of lockdown conditions from March 2020.

When the pandemic began, the AMRC predicted a shortfall of £252-368 million in the sector due to the negative impact on fundraising income and research activities.

The results of the report found that between 2018-19 and 2020-21, research spend fell from £0.92 to £0.66 billion - representing a £260 million shortfall.

This shortfall in funds available is expected to have a long-term impact on early career researchers and future research for patient benefit.

As a result of the pandemic, 47% of AMRC members had to re-forecast research spend for subsequent years and many have had to make difficult decisions about their funding.

Additional report findings included:

  • 33% AMRC charities who fund research into new treatments have had to cancel or cut this funding since the pandemic began.
  • 35% AMRC charities who provide support for early-career researchers have had to cancel or cut this funding since the pandemic began.
  • 33% of AMRC charities estimate that it will take two or more years from the start of 2022 for their spend on research in the UK to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Woman Wearing Face Mask

A woman wearing a facemask (pictured) during the Covid-19 pandemic, an event which has hampered the progress of medical research. 

Nicola Perrin, CEO of the Association of Medical Research Charities said: “The financial year of 2020/21 was predictably difficult for the sector. The pandemic’s impact was as we projected, severe, with a shortfall of £260 million in research spend mainly caused by the hit to fundraising income.

“This has forced our charities to re-forecast their research spend over the next few years and many have had to make difficult decisions. Over a third of our members have had to cancel or cut funding for early-career researchers and research into new treatments.

“We’re seeing encouraging signs of resilience and recovery, with more charities increasing their research spend and over a third saying their spend had not been affected or had already recovered. Unfortunately, though, for many there is still a long way to go.

“Most are still struggling with the impact of Covid-19 and anticipate more challenges with the rise in cost-of-living and the loss of access to EU research funding programmes, talent and opportunities for international collaborations. Public donations have also been directed towards alternative causes with the proportion of people giving to medical research dropping from 25% in 2019 to 21% in 2021.

“AMRC will continue to support our charities in growing their research investment and strengthening the UK’s extraordinary and collaborative system, to deliver ground-breaking treatments and innovations that benefit us all.”

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