UKCMRI and the consortium
1. In 2007 the former Government gave its backing
to plans to create the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation
(UKCMRI) at St Pancras in central London. The four founders of
the UKCMRI were the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research
UK (CR-UK), the Wellcome Trust and University College London (UCL)
2. As the UKCMRI's website sets out, the "creation
of UKCMRI has been made possible by an innovative partnership
between a UK Government funding agency, two charities and a leading
UKCMRI, when built and operating, will bring together science
teams from the MRC's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR),
the CR-UK London Research Institute and UCL. The Wellcome Trust
will fund scientists within the Centre, who will also be expected
to work closely with researchers from other nearby universities
and research-intensive hospitals. The Centre is expected to open
3. The biomedical industry is extremely important
to the UK economy, accounting for 9% of exports and 28% of business
R&D (research and development) spending.
The foreword of the MRC's Final Full Business Case for the UKCMRI
explains the rationale behind the project: "[the] UK is a
world leader in biomedical research. [...] The MRC and UK Government
recognise that it is important that this position is sustained
in the face of increasing international competition."
4. The UKCMRI has provided a short description of
each member of the consortium:
- The MRC is a publicly funded
organisation dedicated to improving human health through world-class
medical research. It supports more than 4,000 scientists across
a wide spectrum of research to find new ways to prevent, diagnose
and treat disease on behalf of the UK taxpayer.
- CR-UK is the world's leading charity dedicated
to cancer research, supporting the work of more than 4,000 scientists,
doctors and nurses across the UK. It carries out world-class research
to improve understanding of cancer and to find out how to prevent,
diagnose and treat different kinds of the disease.
- The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation
dedicated to achieving improvements in human and animal health.
It supports biomedical research and the medical humanities. The
Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education
and the application of research to improve health. It is independent
of both political and commercial interests.
- UCL is situated in the heart of London. It is
the most productive centre for academic medical research in Europe
and works in partnership with 11 top London hospitals.
5. Our predecessor Committee examined the establishment
of the UKCMRI and published a report in January 2008, UK Centre
for Medical Research and Innovation.
The Committee found that:
The establishment of the UKCMRI is potentially
one of the most exciting developments in UK research for some
time. It is also one of the most high risk, involving an estimated
cost [then] of £500m, including nearly £300m of public
funds through the MRC. There is therefore a clear public interest
argument that the proposals and their implementation should be
closely scrutinised by Parliament. In addition, the former Science
and Technology Committee had a long-standing interest in the future
of the MRC's [NIMR].
The MRC has provided six-monthly updates on the progress
of the UKCMRI since July 2008 to our predecessors and, since the
general election, to us.
6. In October 2010 the Coalition Government announced
its commitment to the UKCMRI, confirming funding of £220
million from the Department of Health as part of the Spending
Review. Rt Hon David
Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, and representatives
of the four partners signed a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) to
establish the UKCMRI on 9 November 2010.
7. We considered carrying out an inquiry in the autumn
of 2010. We decided, however, to wait until Sir Paul Nurse, who
had been appointed Chief Executive and Director of UKCMRI, had
taken up his post in January 2011 as we wished to take oral evidence
from him. The UKCMRI project is now at a crucial stage with the
Chief Executive in post, Government endorsement given, finances
secured and construction to begin shortly. Given the importance
of this project and the value of life sciences to the future of
science and economic development we considered it important to
carry out an inquiry in the first half of 2011.
8. We invited written submissions reviewing the progress
of the UKCMRI since 2008 and assessing the UKCMRI's future plans
and, to assist those submitting memoranda, we suggested they address
the following questions:
- What do the four partners hope
to achieve from the project and what new technologies and innovations
are being considered?
- Is the financing of the UKCMRI robust and justified,
with particular reference to the public support for the project
and the knock-on effect on budgets for other research?
- What are the risk assessment arrangements to
ensure the safety of the site?
- What are the arrangements for the closure of
the existing National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill?
9. We received 24 submissions as well as several
supplementary submissions. We would like to thank all those who
submitted written evidence.
10. We held three oral evidence sessions in February
and March 2011, taking evidence from four panels of witnesses,
to whom we are grateful:
i. Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost,
UCL, Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive, CR-UK, Professor Sir John
Savill, Chief Executive, MRC, and Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive,
ii. Natalie Bennett, Chair, Rob Inglis, Press
Officer, and Frankie Biney, local resident, St Pancras and Somers
Town Planning Action;
iii. Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive and Director,
Sir David Cooksey, Chairman, and John Cooper, Chief Operating
Officer, UKCMRI; and
iv. Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities
and Science, and the Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Quality, Department of Health.
11. The oral evidence and associated written evidence
is published alongside this report and the remaining written evidence
is published on our website at www.parliament.uk/science.
12. When we took evidence from the consortium we
formed the view that some of its representatives questioned the
need for our inquiry and had formed the view that as the UKCMRI
had been approved by the Government the matter was closed. We
take this opportunity to remind the witnesses that our remit is
to scrutinise the policies and actions of the Government on science
and technology matters and that Parliament will be asked to vote
over £200 million of taxpayers' money for this important
project. We intend to monitor this project during this Parliament.
The structure of report
13. In this report we shall examine all aspects of
the project to build the UKCMRI. In chapter 2 we examine the strategy
and vision behind the UKCMRI. We consider the wider implications
of the UKCMRI for the UK at chapter 3. One issue which emerged
during our inquiry is the reason for the UKCMRI's location in
Brill Place, beside St Pancras in central London, which we examine
in chapter 4. The suitability of the management structure and
robustness of its finances, which concerned our predecessors,
we examine in chapters 5 and 6. The safety and security issues
are covered at chapter 7, the impact on the local community at
chapter 8 and issues relating to the NIMR are at chapter 9.
1 "Founder organisations", UKCMRI website,
Office of National Statistics (2009) 'Expenditure on R&D
performed in UK businesses: 2009.' Newport: ONS. Back
Medical Research Council, UKCMRI Final Full Business Case, version
7, January 2011, Foreword Back
"Founder organisations", UKCMRI website, www.ukcmri.ac.uk/about-us/founder-organisations Back
Innovation, Universities, and Skills Committee, First Report of
Session 2007-08, UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation,
HC 185 Back
HC 185 (2007-08), para 3 Back
HM Treasury, Spending Review 2010, Cm 7942, para 1.35 Back
Agreement signed to establish UKCMRI, UKCMRI press announcement,
9 November 2010, www.ukcmri.ac.uk/news/news-archive/2010/11/09/agreement-signed-to-establish-ukcmri Back
New inquiry announced: UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation,
Science and Technology Committee press notice no. 21, 18 November