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Medical Research: What’s it worth?

On Monday this week, Cancer Research UK, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health published a report which demonstrates that cancer research doesn't just save and improve lives, it’s also good for the economy too! The report, Medical Research: What’s it worth?, reviewed the economic benefits of cancer-related research in the UK and found that each pound invested in cancer-related research by the taxpayer and charities returns around 40 pence to the UK every year! The report follows on from a previous report, published in 2008, that looked at the returns on investment into cardiovascular and mental health research. It found similar rates of return at 39 and 37 pence (respectively) to the UK every year.

According to the briefing document that accompanies the report, the UK Government invests approximately £8.6 billion in scientific research and development every year, of which £1.6 billion is spent on medical research. And the British public donated an estimated £1.7 billion to medical research charities in 2012/13. (Our latest figures show that AMRC members alone spent £1.3 billion on medical research in 2013.) 
 
The researchers reviewed the returns on this investment and found that it returned health benefits equivalent to around 10 pence plus a further 30 pence from the 'spillover' effect from research to the wider economy every year. That’s an annual rate of return of 40% to the UK.
 
The report, launched at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research Summer Reception, follows the 2008 Medical Research: What’s it worth? report, which reviewed investment in research into cardiovascular disease and also tested the methodology on mental health research. They found a similar rate of return on investment with every pound generating returns of 39 pence and 37 pence respectively, to the UK every year.
 
These two reports, although looking at different disease areas, demonstrate the economic impact of biomedical research and the return on investment it generates. Earlier this month, CaSE published a report on The Economic Significance of the UK Science Base that examined the contribution of the UK science base to the economy. Although using a slightly different methodology to the What's it worth reports, it also found significant returns on public investment in science and engineering. Reports such as these continue to provide a powerful case for the economic benefit of government investment in medical, and more broadly, scientific research.
 
The new What's it worth report also found that it takes around 15 years from the initial investment in medical research to the eventual impact on the patient. This goes to show just how important long-term funding plans are and why, despite the tough economic climate, spending money on research and research infrastructure now will be of benefit to the health and wealth of the nation in the long run.
 
We will continue to make this case to all parties as they prepare for the general election next year.