A milestone in support

Dr Helen Munn, Executive Director, Academy of Medical Sciences

The announcement on Monday 10 February 2014 that the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) will support the Academy of Medical Sciences with a programme grant from 2015/16 was a very major milestone for the Academy. Securing funding from BIS had been a long-held goal for the Academy, and a specific ambition of our current President Sir John Tooke – not simply to build financial sustainability, but to recognise the Academy’s place alongside the other UK National Academies (The Royal Society, British Academy and Royal Academy of Engineering). The grant will provide funds of £470,000 in 2015/6 to match the funding the Academy receives through our longstanding grant from the Department of Health. Our submission to BIS was made on the understanding that the Academy needs ongoing annual support, and not simply a one-off pulse of funds. We will therefore work very hard to ensure that the Academy continues to receive support in future spending reviews.

This dual relationship with BIS and DH is an important recognition of the role the Academy plays across the spectrum of medical science, spanning fundamental bioscience, clinical research and population health. This relationship reflects what is now a deep appreciation of the inter-dependency of scientific disciplines and how they can be harnessed for health and wealth benefits, as evidenced by the Office for the Strategic Coordination of Health Research (OSCHR), the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) and the new Ministerial post for Life Sciences, held by George Freeman MP.

The BIS grant will support the Academy’s work to influence policy to improve health and wealth, to link academia, industry and the NHS and to seize international opportunities, enabling us to provide independent and expert advice for those making decisions about medical research and innovation across Government and elsewhere. The BIS support does not currently include provision to distribute grant funds to medical researchers, however, it does signal a welcome confirmation that the Academy represents excellence across the breadth of medical science, both clinical and (for want of a better descriptor) non-clinical.

The case put forward to BIS was built on the enviable impact the Academy has enjoyed to date, and I thank most warmly the Academy Fellows, collaborators and staff for their contribution to our success. We are, as ever, grateful for the ongoing support from the Department of Health, which has been at the heart of our maturation into a viable and influential organisation over the last decade. The Wellcome Trust and GlaxoSmithKline deserve special recognition for their support during the earliest days of the Academy’s existence, and sincere thanks to the many other funders and partners who contribute to our work. Finally, let me congratulate our current President, Sir John Tooke, for succeeding in this major objective for the Academy, and for making the case to BIS so compelling.

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