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Brunel's contribution to saving the UK science budget: The Power of the Pound

Cath Kidston

Brunel's Health Economics Research Group (HERG) played a crucial role in providing evidence to help save the UK science budget in the Government’s recent Spending Review.

Just as for the Spending Review in 2010, a range of leading scientific organisations used HERG’s work demonstrating the value of research as key evidence to support their submissions to George Osborne and HM Treasury.

Medical research funders, in particular, used HERG’s work as key evidence. The Association of Medical Research Charities, which is the umbrella organisation for a range of charities such as Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and Arthritis Research UK, started its submission with a list of key points.

The first one drew entirely on HERG’s work and the submission by the AMRC said: "There is compelling evidence, accepted by government, that investment in R&D drives productivity. Every £1 of public or charity investment in medical research generates annual monetised health benefits of 10p in perpetuity and additional spill over benefits."

In the build up to the 2010 Spending Review many organisations in their evidence advocating continued Government support for science funding highlighted the HERG study, Medical Research: What’s it Worth (HERG et al., 2008).

This study estimated the value of UK cardiovascular and mental health research, and it was used in submissions to support science funding by the relevant government department, Business, Innovation and Skills, as well as many science funding organisations and groups of scientists. Often it was the only evidence cited as having calculated the value of UK research, including in the letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from the Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

In 2013 the Chair of the AMRC, Lord Willis, said about the 2008 HERG report: "In the run up to the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, AMRC and many other groups used the report’s findings to demonstrate the value of investing in medical research when arguing for continued government spending and protection of the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF)….It is my believe that this contributed to the Treasury’s decision to ring-fence the Science Budget, which includes the CRSF, for the 2010-15 financial period, a cut in which would have been hugely detrimental to the UK science base, charity investment and the wider economy."

By the time of the 2015 Spending Review there was a wider range of evidence on which organisations drew. But there was also another key Medical Research: What’s it Worth study from HERG (Glover et al., 2014).

The study showed that every pound spent on cancer research leads to benefits worth 40 pence each year thereafter, taking into account the value of the health improvements and the contribution to the economy.