Research funding

Clinical and translational cancer research funding is frequently awarded to a university or a hospital working in partnership with each other. There are several routes for obtaining this funding, which can be grouped into the three broad areas of governmental, charity and industry.

Researcher using equipment

Governmental funding

Two departments of the UK government allocate funding to health research: the Department of Health (DH) and the Department of Business Skills and Innovation (BIS).

DH allocates funding to health research via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), a large, multi-faceted organisation with an annual budget of around £1 billion, which aims to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR funds infrastructure, project and programmes, senior investigators and trainees.

BIS is responsible for allocating the science budget of around £4.6 billion, which is primarily awarded through the Research and Funding Councils.

Research Councils – there are seven in total – with the Medical Research Council and Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Councils providing the main sources of healthcare research funding. The Technology Strategy Board is also regarded as a Research Council, set up to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Research Council funds are awarded to individual researchers and cover infrastructure, project and programmes and training funding.

Funding Councils – there are four in total – with the Higher Education Funding Council for England providing the main source of university funding in England, which contributes towards some healthcare research costs. Funding Councils in the devolved nations provide similar functions for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Funding Council support for research (quality related funding) is distributed on the basis of the excellence of individual departments in higher education institutions. The next allocation will be made on the basis of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The Institute of Cancer Research came first overall in the league table of university research quality compiled from the REF and also led the rankings for the impact of its research on society. 

Charity funding

The largest charitable funder of research at the ICR and The Royal Marsden is Cancer Research UK, and there is also significant funding from The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Breast Cancer Now and  the Wellcome Trust. Many other charities also provide grant funding, including Prostate Cancer Research UK, Myeloma UK and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity helps to fund clinical trials and research posts at The Royal Marsden, enabling specialist clinical research teams at the hospital to rapidly develop new, better, kinder treatments for different types of cancers.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is the world’s largest independent cancer research charity. Cancer Research UK grants support our work in designing new cancer therapeutics, and our activities in cancer imaging and clinical trials. The ICR and The Royal Marsden are together designated a Cancer Research UK Centre.

Breast Cancer Now is the UK's leading breast cancer charity and funds the Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre at the ICR – the world’s first dedicated breast cancer research centre. It brings together 140 scientists and clinicians to focus on breast cancer biology, diagnosis and treatment. Breakthrough also supports several long-term epidemiological studies aiming to learn more about the causes of breast cancer. 

The Wellcome Trust funds research on human and animal health in countries across the world. Funding is awarded in a range of ways including strategic grants, projects and programmes and training. The ICR holds grants worth close to £30 million from the Wellcome Trust.

Industry funding

We interact in a number of ways with commercial partners who can provide the resources and complementary expertise required to take our research findings through development, manufacture and into clinical trials. Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, often provide academic grants or free drugs to investigators, while the CRUK Cancer Therapeutics Unit at the ICR works in partnership with many different biotech and pharma companies to design new cancer treatments and take them to the clinic.