Publication of Analysis of UK Health Research Funding

The Health Research Classification System (HRCS) has published the UK Health Research Analysis 2018, a detailed analysis of health-related research funding and awards issued in 2018.

HRCS was developed by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration (UKCRC) Partners and is a bespoke system for classifying the full spectrum of biomedical and health research across all areas of health and disease. The analysis is the fourth and largest in a series of reports conducted by HRCS since 2004, and analyses over 22,500 health and biomedical research awards from 146 organisations in 2018, accounting for an estimated expenditure of almost £4.8 billion.

The report compares results from 2004 to 2018, finding that the total amount of funding for health-relevant research across the charitable and public sectors has grown in this time, although this is largely the result of a relatively high compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% between 2004 and 2009, and a modest CAGR of 1.7% thereafter.

In addition to the overall level of funding, the statistics reveal trends across individual specialties and areas of study, with some of the most notable findings as follows:

Between 2004 and 2018, there was a decrease in the proportion of total funding for underpinning and aetiological research by 12% and 4% respectively. However, these areas have received a real-terms increase of £490 million in funding since 2004, and still account for half of publicly supported health research.

Reflecting trends initially observed in 2014, there has been a rise in the amount of funding dedicated to translational research. Between 2004 and 2018, an additional £548 million in real terms has been awarded to research on detection and diagnosis, treatment development and treatment evaluation, a proportional increase of 10%. Additionally, the amount spent on prevention research has increased by £120 million in real terms since 2004, a rise of 3.4%.

Analysis of the proportion of total overall spend by health category between 2004 and 2018 indicates that funding has been relatively stable for many diseases and conditions, with a quarter of expenditure on research without a specific disease focus, and almost a fifth on cancer research. Within individual categories, the largest growth has been in the infections research, which has seen funding proportionally increase by 4.5% since 2004, reflecting increasing concern over antimicrobial resistance.

Geographically, funding has been distributed relatively consistently across the UK between 2004 and 2018, with less than 1.9% variances between the UK’s 12 regions in this time. London receives the largest proportion with just under one third of funding, followed by the research-intensive areas of Oxford and the South East (15%) and Cambridge and East of England (14%).

In addition to funding made within the UK, the statistics also provide information about international funding, and organisations covered by the analysis provided approximately £223 million of expenditure to principal investigators based outside the UK. Additionally, approximately £254 million of health-relevant funding comes to the UK from international organisations, overseas public bodies (mostly the European Union) and global charities.

Information for these findings has been obtained and is available from: UK Health Research Analysis 2018 (UK Clinical Research Collaboration , 2020) ISBN 978-0-903730-29-7

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