The network of Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) created in England under the umbrella of the National Institute for Health Research “is already contributing to observable changes in institutional relationships between the NHS, academia, industry and other players”, a report by the RAND Corporation for the Department of Health has found.

Interviews of senior executives involved in the scheme also suggested the BRCs are “helping to shape the health research system to pursue translational research and innovation with the clear goal of realising patient benefit”, concluded the research organisation in Changing the translational research landscape: a review of the impacts of Biomedical Research Centres in England.

Moreover, the scheme and the associated changes in stakeholder relationships are making a significant contribution to capacity-building in the health research system, leading to improved management, governance and targeting of resources, the report said.

The formation of BRCs in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle through partnerships between National Health Service Trusts and academic centres was one of the flagship initiatives of the Department of Health’s Best Research for Best Health strategy.

As the RAND Corporation notes, its progress report on the scheme comes just 18 months after the centres were set up. As such, it suggests, a more detailed review of the scheme at a later stage of its evolution could benefit from investigating the views and experiences of other participants, such academics and clinicians involved in research projects, as well as NHS managers.

Most of the interviewees felt the BRCs had resulted in improved collaboration between the National Health Service, academia and industry, RAND reported. BRCs “are aware of the value industry can bring, and of the disadvantages of not leveraging industry collaboration to deliver innovation to the market”, it commented. One BRC senior executive stressed that “academic reluctance to collaborate with industry due to fears of impropriety has been notably reduced”.

Some interviewees expected BRC status, critical research mass and a greater emphasis on research governance probity and infrastructure development to “further increase the attractiveness of BRC campuses to industry in the long run”, the report noted. At three BRCs, the RAND researchers were told that partner organisations had become more focused on exploiting intellectual property to generate commercial revenues.

The full report on the impact of Biomedical Research Centres may be accessed online at
http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR787.