Medical research spending by UK charities has fallen by £260 million since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The shortfall is a result of severe disruption to charities’ fundraising efforts caused by the pandemic.

The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) reports that its members’ annual investment in research dropped almost 30% from £920 million in 2019 to £660 million in 2021. The figures exclude spending by the Wellcome Trust whose annual expenditure fluctuates due to the timing of large commitments and renewals. Prior to the pandemic, research spending by AMRC members generally increased year on year.

‘The pandemic’s impact was, as we projected, severe, with a shortfall of £260 million in research spend mainly caused by the hit to fundraising income,’ said AMRC chief executive Nicola Perrin. ‘This has forced our charities to re-forecast their research spend over the next few years and many have had to make difficult decisions. Over a third of our members have had to cancel or cut funding for early-career researchers and research into new treatments.’

AMRC notes that a third of its members who fund research into new medical treatments have had to either cancel or cut this funding since the start of the pandemic. While over a third of AMRC members report that their spend had either not been affected or has already recovered, another third of charities predict that it will take at least two more years until their research spending recovers to pre-pandemic levels.

‘Most are still struggling with the impact of Covid-19 and anticipate more challenges with the rise in cost-of-living and the loss of access to EU research funding programmes, talent and opportunities for international collaborations,’ added Perrin. ‘Public donations have also been directed towards alternative causes with the proportion of people giving to medical research dropping from 25% in 2019 to 21% in 2021.’