The Wellcome Trust warned this week that it would consider withdrawing funds from universities in the United Kingdom if medical research charities were forced to contribute to university laboratory running costs.
The charity, which is the largest private funder of research in British universities, has said that if a levy to cover overheads was charged, it would need to consider alternatives, such as setting up its own independent research units or fully funded Wellcome centres within universities, or even moving more of its research funding overseas.
Currently the trust spends Pounds 250 million on medical research annually, the majority of which is in the UK. Following government cuts to infrastructure in 1995, the trust imposed a moratorium on support for university equipment and buildings.
But Dame Bridget Ogilvie, the trust's director, has issued a further warning to universities, the Government and to Sir Ron Dearing, who is considering how infrastructure and overheads can best be funded. "The Wellcome Trust has to consider how best to use its resources to meet the objectives laid down by our founder Sir Henry Wellcome to fund biomedical research," she said.
Diana Garnham, general secretary of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said: "Nobody has to fund research in universities," she warned. "Charities don't have to put it there."
Universities were generally seen as the best place to do most research. "But it's not just a question of quality, but also value for money," she said.