How the next Government can transform cancer research – Cancer Research UK

Building a resilient and sustainable model for funding biomedical research

Research funding in the UK is a collective effort – Government, charities and industry all work together to deliver lifesaving discoveries from the bench to the bedside. However, the current model for funding research in the UK is short-sighted, and we could soon fall behind.

Charities in the UK fund more cancer research than the Government, meaning funding is heavily reliant on donations from the generous British public. These should be a top-up rather than a replacement for robust Government-funded research. We estimate that in the next decade, there will be a more than £1bn gap needed to maintain the level of government and charity cancer research funding in 2019. It is imperative that UK Government works with the sector to provide more sustainable funding for life sciences research, including a plan to close this cancer research funding gap. And in our recent polling, 74% of people agreed that the UK Government should increase its investment into cancer R&D.

This is why we’re calling for the Government to establish a commission on sustainable biomedical research funding to bring together charities, industry and public funding agencies to start a conversation to find a long-term sustainable funding model, to avoid the consequences of this gap.

We are also calling on the Government to increase investment in overall UK R&D – setting out a plan to lead the G7 in R&D intensity. The role of government investment in enabling this is vital – it catalyses industry R&D investment and boosts the economic and health benefits of cancer research.

Research in universities is also struggling. CRUK funds ground-breaking research in universities, but we can only fund the parts of research dedicated to beating cancer sooner. The Government supports these costs with the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF), included with Quality Related (QR) funding. But while charity research funding has increased since this started, Government support has not kept pace – straining universities. We’ve called on the Government to increase mainstream QR funding and the CRSF.

Making research better for researchers

The UK is a fantastic place to conduct research, with a long-standing reputation of spearheading research. Over the years, world-leading scientists and teams have chosen to come to the UK to make their discoveries – bringing with them ideas, skills and contacts for collaboration.

But by putting up a visa wall, the UK Government are risking this. We currently have one of the most expensive visa systems in the world, and this is affecting our researchers. The end of free movement means that now EU/EEA researchers must also use this system and pay high costs. This year costs increased further. The UK Government must make the immigration system more affordable and accessible, and ensure the UK is attractive and welcoming for international researchers.

We know from our recent survey on international collaboration that there are many concerns in the research community around attracting scientific talent to the UK because of administrative barriers and the costs of navigating them.

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