Universities are deluding themselves if they think medical research charities are ever going to pay research overheads, leading figures in the charity sector warned this week.
The Office of Science and Technology is consulting on plans to make universities responsible for calculating and recovering the full costs of their research.
Under the plans, an institution would negotiate with whoever funded the research, be it a charity or a research council, to determine what percentage of costs would be included in the grant.
Pamela Goldberg, director of the Breast Cancer Campaign, told The THES :
"Our supporters wouldn't be pleased to hear we were paying for the maintenance of buildings in universities."
Some larger charities support infrastructure schemes in universities, where there is some advantage for the charity. But most medical research charities are determined this should not become a standard part of research grants.
The Association of Medical Research Charities said there needed to be a radical change in approach to charitable research funding.
Diana Garnham, the organisation's chief executive, said: "There is a lack of understanding in universities. If they put the price of research up there won't be more money, there will be fewer grants."
The AMRC is setting up a standing group on university funding to look at these issues. It is also commissioning external consultants to assess which type of institutions work well with charitable funding and which don't.
But many charities see the government's plans to push universities to calculate the full economic costs of research as a step forwards. The AMRC says this is the only way universities will be able to ask the government for more money for infrastructure in future.
Fergus Logan, chief executive of the Arthritis Research Campaign, said:
"Universities have weakened their case by never outlining the costs of medical research away from the rest of the infrastructure of the institution."