The Government’s three-year Spending Review and 2021-22 Budget was presented yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP. The Spending Review usually takes place every two to four years and sets out the Government’s long-term expenditure plan on public services, including research and innovation and health and social care.

The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) – of which Epilepsy Research UK is a proud member – shared their response to the Review and Budget and outlined the key announcements relating to research and innovation, and healthcare. The AMRC is the hallmark of quality research funding and have led the calls for more investment in medical research charities with their recent #ResearchatRisk campaign.

The AMRC on the Spending Review and 2021-22 Budget…

Although it is great to see a large investment in Research & Development (R&D), it is disappointing that the commitment to invest £22 billion has been pushed back. We are looking at the detail to understand what it means, and continue talking to government departments as they agree their allocation.

Research & Innovation

  • Headline figures: The Chancellor reiterated the Government’s ambition to cement the UK’s status as a science and technology superpower. The Spending Review announces an investment of £20 billion in R&D by 2024/25. The target of investing £22 billion is maintained, though will now not be reached until 2026/27.
  • Public investment in R&D will reach 1.1% of GDP by 2024/25, with additional investment from the private sector helping the Government target of 2.4% by 2027 to remain in place.
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: BEIS will receive £14.2 billion for R&D funding by 2024/25, an increase of £3 billion from 2021/22.
  • As a result, core science funding to National Academies, universities and research institutions will rise to £5.9 billion by 2024/25, an increase of £1.1 billion per year. The increase in funding is in addition to funding calculated for R&D tax reliefs.
  • To meet the costs of associating to the Horizon Europe funding programme, £2.1 billion will be allocated. Should the UK not be able to associate, the funding will be rerouted to other Government R&D programmes.
  • The new Advanced Research and Invention Agency will receive £800 million by 2025/26, with £50 million in 2021/22.
  • Life Sciences Vision: The Office for Life Sciences will receive £95 million from this funding pot to invest in increasing the uptake of innovation in the NHS, delivering on the Prime Minister’s healthcare missions on cancer, obesity and mental health.
  • Innovate UK’s annual budget will increase to £1.1 billion by 2024/25.
  • The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will receive £5 billion by 2024/25 to fund health research via the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), with £2 billion spent in 2024/25.
  • £40 million will be invested in social care research to support the development of innovative technologies for diagnosing and detecting dementia.
  • £33 million will fund a new national study to deploy the latest Covid antiviral treatments.
  • Research workforce: The NIHR will receive a total of £30 million from this funding pot to invest in research skills and training, which will focus on improving diversity by increasing the number of life science researchers from under-represented groups.
  • A Global Talent Network will launch hubs in India and the USA, building on previous commitments to attract talented researchers in science and technology.
  • Levelling-up: An increased share of the research, development and innovation investments is planned to be invested outside of London, the South East and the East of England. More detail will follow in a white paper on the Government’s levelling-up plans.

Healthcare

  • Headline figures: The health budget will receive over £177 billion by 2024.25, an increase of £44 billion compared to before Covid-19.
  • NHS backlog: NHS England will receive £5.9 billion to help clear the backlog of patients waiting for tests and treatments. This comprises £2.3 billion for diagnostic tests; £1.5 billion on equipment, beds and the creation of new surgical hubs; and £2.1 billion on improvements to IT systems and digital technology.
  • Technology and rare diseases: Genomics England will receive part of the DHSC funding pot to invest in a pilot scheme, Generation Genome, which aims to sequence 100,000 newborns to improve the detection of rare diseases in babies.
  • Diversity in research participation: Part of the DHSC funding pot will also be invested in a Diverse Data project, which will aim to tackle healthcare inequalities by increasing the proportion of under-represented groups in genomics research to at least 15% of participants.

You can read more about the AMRC’s vital work with the government to represent charities like Epilepsy Research UK in this Research Blog by Aisling Burnand, AMRC CEO from Sept 2014 – Feb 2021.