9 The National Institute for Medical
Research at Mill Hill|
153. The approval to build the UKCMRI at St Pancras
has implications for the existing institutes run by the partners
in the consortium, in particular for the existing National Institute
for Medical Research (NIMR) at Mill Hill. In this chapter we examine
the arrangements for the closure of the NIMR, the largest of the
Medical Research Council's (MRC) three research institutes.
154. The NIMR covers 47 acres at Mill Hill in north
in 1913, the NIMR has carried out research in a diverse range
of fields, including developmental and stem cell biology, structural
biology, neuroscience, immunology and infectious disease.
With existing strong links to University College London (UCL),
NIMR has almost 600 scientific staff, fellows and PhD students.
The NIMR's written evidence indicated that members at the current
institute were "enthusiastic about the opportunity to build
on the success of their current work by moving to this new state-of-the-art
institute. In particular, NIMR scientists look forward to the
opportunity to expand their interactions with colleagues at [CR-UK's
London Research Institute] and UCL."
155. Over the last 10 years, research at NIMR, like
all biomedical research, has become increasingly interdisciplinary,
collaborative, and translational.
The four UKCMRI partners in the consortium took the view, as we
have noted, that the distance of NIMR from academic and clinical
partners, and its poor transport links, jeopardised its position
as a world-leading research centre and that these concerns would
be addressed by the establishment of the UKCMRI at St Pancras.
The future of the NIMR
156. The MRC's Final Full Business Case (FFBC) states
that when the "UKCMRI is fully operational the intention
is that the MRC's NIMR, based at Mill Hill, will close".
The FFBC outlines that "NIMR's main research programmes will
be transferred to UKCMRI and other Higher Education Institutes
or MRC units as appropriate."
Professor Savill, Chief Executive, MRC, said that there is "going
to be a need to decommission facilities [...] Ultimately, the
plan is that [the Mill Hill] site would be sold if Government
permission is given for that."
157. The sale of the site has an important bearing
on the funding for the project. The four partners in the consortium
stated in their joint memorandum that they expect that returns
from the sale of the site will be available to the MRC to support
transitional costs (see chapter 6 on the UKCMRI's finances).
Professor Guy Dodson, a former NIMR employee, pointed out in his
written submission that as a "working institute [the Mill
Hill site] has immense value, as land however it is apparently
worth only £40 million."
The UKCMRI explained in its written evidence that:
the MRC is taking steps to maximise the value
of the property at [...] Mill Hill to counter reduced property
values. Current projections assume that the valuation will recover
in line with any general recovery in property prices, leading
to a return to the pre-2008/09 valuation by 2011/12.
Arrangements for the move from
158. We asked the members of the consortium about
the arrangements for the move from Mill Hill. Professor Savill
told us that "staff will now need to be consulted as we understand
how UKCMRI will go forward. Clearly, the human resources departments
of both MRC and Cancer Research UK (CR-UK) will be working closely
with staff" and that the "MRC anticipates that the vast
majority of staff would relocate".
159. The National Trade Union Side (NTUS), representing
all MRC employees through a joint negotiation and consultative
committee, told us that the
individual unions and the Trade Union Side are
aware of the intention to close NIMR but are not aware, at this
stage, of any arrangements for the closure of NIMR, have not been
consulted or involved in any discussions about the closure. We
consider this to be a cause of concern.
160. We put these concerns to the four partners who
told us that the MRC had:
not been able to consult [with] anyone because
we have not reached the point where that is appropriate. We are
now moving towards that. Broadly speaking, all the stakeholders
would like to understand the shape of the institute and its staff
within the next 15 or so months, so we are moving now into an
important consultation phase with staff. [...] MRC could not have
consulted with staff because we didn't know the project was going
to go ahead.
161. After the oral evidence session, in supplementary
written evidence, jointly submitted with the retired former head
of Neurophysiology at the NIMR, Professor Tim Bliss, Professor
Dodson raised the issue of staff morale. They said that "NIMR
on its current site offers a superb scientific and working environment
that is hugely valued by its staff", and that it was "essential
for staff morale that they can have confidence in the scientific
strategies at UKCMRI and we wonder if these are known and have
Isabel Vasseur also submitted written evidence. She had concerns
about the current state of NIMR:
Ever since the debate commenced Mill Hill has
endured a type of blight typical of institutions whose future
is unsure. Major figures have not quite known how to ally their
future to that of the NIMR and one may imagine that research could
suffer from a continuation of this state of affairs.
Professors Dodson and Bliss also raised concerns
about the potential loss of funding and they said that "it
is critical that funding for the NIMR by MRC is going to be properly
preserved until the move to central London."
162. We accept that once backing was given by
the Government, and planning permission was granted, for the UKCMRI
to be built in central London it became inevitable that the National
Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill would close. This
must not mean, however, that the NIMR is left in limbo while all
attention focuses on the UKCMRI. The NIMR is a world-class facility
and it will have four to five years on the Mill Hill site, which
need to be supported and managed. Funding for research at Mill
Hill must remain in place throughout the transitional phase before
the UKCMRI is fully operational.
163. We recommend that the Government and the
MRC move quickly to begin discussions with current staff and their
representatives about future work at the NIMR in Mill Hill and
about the move to central London.
238 Ev 53, para 2b Back
UKCMRI website: www.ukcmri.ac.uk/news/press-releases/ukcmri-submits-plans
Ev w2, para 7 Back
Ev w1, para 5 Back
Ev w1, paras 5-6 Back
Medical Research Council, UKCMRI Final Full Business Case, version
7, January 2011, Para 1.1 Back
Q 59 Back
Ev 50, para 23 Back
Ev w19, para 2.7 Back
Ev 50, para 27 Back
Q 59 Back
Ev w10 Back
Q 60 Back
Ev w19 Back
Ev w12, para 3 Back
Ev w20 Back