Research

Strategic Aim One:

Picking research that delivers

Strategic Aim Two:

Research to people

Strategic Aim Three:

Going global

Strategic Aim Four:

Supporting scientists

Research environment

The global landscape for research is fluid, dynamic and intensely competitive. Unlocking research opportunities requires highly technical and often expensive infrastructure that delivers value over a sustained period of time and across a wide range of disciplines.

Coordinated and partnership investment is important to make the most of resources and increase the reach and impact of investments through the sharing of equipment and the co-creation of knowledge and skills.

Interdisciplinary approaches will contribute to the development of technologies that will accelerate medical discoveries and provide opportunities for industry investment.

Objective

To provide a world-class research environment for medical research.

Now

  • We are establishing the Francis Crick Institute, a unique partnership between the MRC, major charitable funders, and London universities which will provide a major new national biomedical research institute for the 21st century.
  • We have developed new world-class facilities for the internationally renowned MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, including adaptable space for cutting-edge equipment, which will enhance networking and research collaborations.
  • We are transforming the way in which we support research by fully integrating the majority of our MRC units within UK Universities.
  • We have invested in partnerships to create innovative environments and cutting-edge facilities for medical research, including the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the Research Complex at Harwell, the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health in London and the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics in Cardiff.
  • We have also invested close to £25m in next-generation optical microscopy (in partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) so that the UK can tackle key research questions in biomedicine and fundamental biology, and to support the interdisciplinary partnerships that drive technological innovation.

Future

Researchers require access to state-of-the-art technology and skills to carry out cutting-edge research and generate scientific discoveries that transform the knowledge base.

  • We aim to ensure that core technologies are sustainable and to deliver local, regional, national or international infrastructure which increases access to cutting-edge technologies in a cost effective way.
  • We seek to dramatically improve engagement between academics and industry through new and flexible approaches to joint working, which can lead to the co-creation of knowledge and skills.

How

The MRC will:

  • Work with stakeholders, including industry, charities, the NIHR and health departments, and other funding bodies, to further develop the long-term vision for how to deliver sustainable medical research infrastructure in the UK. This will include the best environments for clinical researchers and experimental medicine studies in humans.
  • Work with research councils, funding councils and charities to identify and respond to national gaps in medical research capability, and ensure that we align this work with the ambitions of the strategic framework for capital investment in the UKRI report Investing for growth.
  • Work in partnership with universities and other funders to strengthen the interdisciplinary environments required to tackle big challenges in medical research, maximising the opportunities provided by the Francis Crick Institute and MRC institutes, units and centres.
  • Strengthen consortia approaches that bring together the best scientists regardless of institution and sector and promote industry engagement.
  • Stimulate interactions between medical researchers and those in physical, engineering, mathematical and computational disciplines to accelerate technology solutions for the future.
  • Increase the reach and impact of investments through sustainable regional and national approaches to infrastructure provision and management.

Making an impact: Interdisciplinary research

‘Interdisciplinary’ research carried out by teams, or individuals, integrates information, techniques, perspectives and/or theories from two or more ‘disciplines’, or bodies of specialised knowledge. The aim is to advance understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.

For example, MRC researchers have been responsible for some of the most transformative advances in medical imaging, a field that requires working across traditional disciplinary boundaries in medicine, physics, mathematics and engineering. MRC research has resulted in, or underpinned the development of X-ray crystallography for protein structure determination, PET imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), laser scanning confocal microscopy, and optical projection tomography.

These techniques are essential tools for the clinician and the laboratory researcher, with almost 5 million diagnostic MRI and computed tomography scans carried out in the NHS each year, and optical laboratory microscopy now providing images at the molecular level.

To create and grow collegiate interdisciplinary environments the MRC has embedded Units and supported Centres within Universities, as well as maintained its own Institutes with the critical mass and long-term funding to tackle challenging problems in medicine.

The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology is often cited as the world’s most successful biomedical research institute, and this success has in part been built through recruitment of chemists, computer scientists, physicists and engineers to work on biomedical problems.

One example of this is the world-leading synthetic biology research programme led by Jason Chin, which uses innovative chemistry to re-engineer biological systems. Synthetic biology has been highlighted by the Minister for Science as one of the “Eight Great Technologies” in which the UK has advantages that may be leveraged for economic growth.