MRC overhauls university grants

May 30, 1997

THE MEDICAL Research Council is to revamp its university grant system for the first time in 30 years. The move has been welcomed by university vice chancellors.

The MRC's new package does away with existing short-term stand-alone project grants. It has replaced these with five separate forms of funding, designed to encourage greater collaboration and help young and innovative researchers.

George Radda, MRC chief executive, said the review had taken place to cope with changes in biomedical research and increased funding pressures in universities.

He said the review was "designed to support the best science in the best places".

The MRC will introduce: * centre grants, which would require some financial contribution from universities, to set up research ventures on one site, led by internationally-recognised directors and involving possible infrastructure provision; * co-operative grants to increase scientific productivity by bringing together teams of researchers to work interactively; * three-year development grants to build up groups not yet strong enough for co-operative funding * career establishment grants, to enable scientists in their first posts to win funds without direct competition with established researchers; * Pounds 800,000 a year is also being ringfenced for 20 one-year innovation grants designed for established researchers keen to undertake curiosity-driven research; Howard Newby, vice chancellor of Southampton University, welcomed the new scheme: "It will enable the MRC to treat universities more as partners than just as grant holders."

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