Lottery rationale

January 3, 1997

DIANA GARNHAM makes a number of important points about the grants recently announced by the National Lottery Charities Board for medical research charities (THES, December 20).

The board can indeed only make grants to organisations which are charitable, philanthropic or benevolent bodies. It cannot make grants to individuals.

Like any other grant maker in the public or private sector the board considered its policies and criteria for medical research applications very carefully and took advice from many who were experienced in the field including the Association of Medical Research Charities, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. The strong advice received was to require applications to come through medical research charities and also to insist on independent peer review for proposals submitted for consideration.

However, the board is a generalist grant maker and operates in a wider world. Through our first three grant application rounds we received 37,000 applications bidding for more than Pounds 4.5 billion.

In these rounds we have had just under Pounds 480 million to allocate and just over 6,700 awards have been made. Demand far exceeds supply.

The board also is concerned to have an application process which is fair to charities and other eligible organisations. It applied the same rules to medical research charities as it has to other applicants so far.

When setting out our policy and criteria for applications, we gave clear guidance about our expectations and this is acknowledged by Ms Garnham. The success rate for medical research charities has been about the same as for other types of applicant.

Ms Garnham also poses an "unanswered question" about whether if a higher volume of applications for research had been received, more money would have been available.

The board is a reactive organisation, responding to applications it receives. All eligible requests are assessed on merit and the best ones get through.

In the case of the medical research applications we took advice from an eminent Medical Research Advisory Panel chaired by lngrid Allen of Queen's University, Belfast. The panel's views were instrumental in helping the board decide which grants would be made.

In the early part of the new year, there will be a review of the processes and procedures used this time around which will help the board decide whether and when there will be another chance for medical research charities to apply. We will be seeking the help of the AMRC in this review.

GERALD OPPENHEIM Director UK and Corporate Planning, National Lottery Charities Board

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