MRC publishes units and centres portfolio review

Close up of female hand signing formal paper on the office table.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has published a review of its units and centres portfolio, highlighting opportunities and priorities for key research and health themes over the next decade.

The review was commissioned by MRC Council and supported by three domain panels:

  • Molecular and Cell
  • Physiological Systems
  • Population and Public Health.

Recommendations were provided by an independent panel of leading UK and international experts.

The panel included representatives from the domain panels and drew together contributions from MRC research boards, overview groups, and units, centre and institutes as well as our partner universities.

Highlighting important research opportunities

The review identified where MRC strategic investment could make a transformational contribution to UK global leadership in biomedical research.

It then considered how re-shaping the existing MRC Unit and Centre portfolio, if merited, would better respond to or add value to this agenda.

The review highlighted a number of important research opportunities that would benefit from concerted action, spanning:

  • tools, technologies and measurement
  • integrative physiology
  • interventional population health and data
  • health needs due to anthropogenic change
  • healthy ageing
  • mental health.

Notably, all will require rich interdisciplinary collaboration across the breadth of UKRI research to address.

Opportunities to improve impact

In addition, the review agreed that the current MRC Unit and Centre portfolio has enormous strengths and had made important contributions. Nevertheless, the review concluded that there are clear opportunities to improve impact.

These included through improved integration and enhanced agility within the MRC portfolio to tackle shared challenges and through increased collaboration with other UKRI Councils, medical charities, National Institute for Health Research and industry to address key health issues.

Another opportunity was through strengthening the portfolio’s sharing culture and capability.

Central to this was the ambition to ensure the Units and Centres were demonstrably national assets, setting standards in the quality and impact of their work, their training environment and in open science.

A proposal for next steps, taking into account the prioritised research opportunities and health needs identified by the review, will be presented at the December meeting of MRC Council.

Responding to a rapidly changing world

Professor Fiona Watt, MRC Executive Chair, said:

I am very grateful for the hard work and excellent contributions of the review’s panel members and stakeholders. This important review provides a wealth of insights that will enable MRC to build on its strengths in order to capture new research prospects and respond to a rapidly changing world.

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