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Significantly increase funding for UK-led medical and technical research into global issues

Last updated: 03:05pm 22 November 2019

A global Britain should aspire to do even more: we will significantly increase our funding of UK-led medical and technical research into the biggest threats to global health and prosperity.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.39

Our verdict

The UK tends to punch above its weight in overall R&D, and is ranked number one in the world for biomedical research. In its 2017 manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged to increase funding of UK-led medical and technical research into the biggest threats to global health and prosperity.

In November 2017, the government published its ‘Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future’, re-affirming its commitment to reach 2.4% of GDP investment in Research and Development (R&D) by 2027. In line with this objective, the strategy announces an initial additional investment of £7bn for R&D over 5 years (2017-18 to 2021-22) as part of the National Productivity Investment Fund. Moreover, it indicates four Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of future industries and major global changes – namely AI (Artificial Intelligence) and data, the ageing society, clean growth, and the future of mobility.

With regards to medical research, in 2017-18 the UK Medical Research Council’s gross research expenditure was £814.1m, up from £755.5m in 2016-17. In 2018, the government launched 12 Interdisciplinary Research Hubs under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – established in 2017 to research and address global issues in developing countries including water security, health and urban equity.

In January 2019, the government announced 28 UK-led international partnerships, backed by £279 million of investment through the Industrial Strategy. Projects include research into the health risks posed by climate change and tackling antimicrobial resistance in the environment.

At the end of parliament, the government has made a set of investments in UK-led medical and technical research, while starting new hubs and supporting projects to research future threats. However, the funding announced in the industrial strategy is not set to be delivered in this parliament, thus making the total contribution to medical research less ‘significant’ than expected. As a result, this policy will remain ‘in progress’.

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