The story behind our new strategy

Female scientist working with microscope and pathogen samples

Following the recent launch of our strategic delivery plan find out how we developed it, what it means in practice and how you can contribute.

What is our vision?

Our vision at the Medical Research Council (MRC) is to speed up improvements in human health for everyone, regardless of background, place or upbringing. We will do this by supporting world-class biomedical research and innovation. And by strengthening partnerships within UK Research Innovation (UKRI), across the UK and around the world.

What does this mean in practice?

We will continue our commitment to supporting excellent fundamental discovery science. This will help advance the frontiers of knowledge and maintain the breadth of expertise that allows us to respond rapidly to current and future challenges.

We will work across UKRI, with national and international partners, and industry to address health and societal challenges. These support the government’s Life Sciences Vision and include strategic themes set out in the UKRI strategy, focusing on:

  • securing better health, ageing and wellbeing
  • tackling infections

Highlights include:

  • committing to people and ideas by increasing our fellowship and training support by 30% (to £80 million per year), and our investigator-led funding for discovery science by 18% (to £200 million per year)
  • developing distributed national capabilities, for example through a new funding model for challenge-led units, which provides opportunities for connections across the UK
  • investing in a new Mental Health Research Platform, and the development of better, more durable vaccines
  • in partnership with industry, investing £20 million as part of a wider cross-government neurodegeneration initiative to support therapy development for diseases such as dementia

So how does MRC develop its strategy?

In developing and implementing our strategy we engage widely and listen to voices across the UK and beyond. This includes our research community, universities, and members of our boards and advisory groups. This also extends to the wider health sector, the Department for Health and Social Care, devolved nations, charities, Office for Life Sciences and industry.

As part of UKRI we work in partnership with our fellow research councils and Innovate UK, and we seek the views of the public and international partners. This helps us to explore the scientific and technological advances that can achieve a step change in our knowledge. It also ensures we address health and wider societal and political needs.

New imaging and gene technologies and huge data-rich resources are giving us unprecedented insights into the complexity of human health and disease from molecules to tissues and individuals to populations.

We can exploit this knowledge to:

  • prevent, diagnose and treat devastating diseases such as dementia and cancer
  • protect from current and future infectious disease threats
  • promote healthy ageing and prevention of mental and physical illness over a lifetime

To achieve this, we need a diversity of skilled people and teams and to harness capabilities across the UK and beyond.

And who decides on the priorities?

MRC council determines our strategic direction, following and led by advice from our strategy board. I’m chairing strategy board which brings together the chairs of our research boards and advisory groups.

Seeing the exciting research proposals that come through our boards and panels, strategy board is well placed to advise on scientific strengths, gaps, future needs and opportunities. This informs the decisions made by our council, which has a broader membership including commercial and public engagement expertise.

Having previously been on council I can personally attest to how effectively this relationship works. Indeed, in addition to holding 2 joint meetings of council and strategy board annually, there is an open invitation for council members to attend strategy board meetings. This is an invitation that council members frequently take up. The result is a strategic and joined up approach to our decision making as a council.

How can I contribute?

Please get in touch with the scientific programme manager for your area in the first instance.

Find out more

Take a look at the MRC strategic delivery plan 2022 to 2025. Or, if you prefer to hear a summary and listen to questions and answers about the plan, watch the recording of a webinar held earlier this month.

Top image:  Credit: janiecbros, E+ via Getty Images

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