10-year impact assessment of the UK’s Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme

Publication date: 21 January 2022 | Report language: EN

The UK government funds scientists to conduct research to develop better ways to support health,
treat diseases and improve long-term care for patients. The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation
programme, a partnership between the UK Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health
Research, enables scientists to find out if and how a promising new approach might work in practice.
Between 2009 and 2018, the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme funded 145 research
projects with a total of £175.5M. To understand the programme’s impact, what worked well and where
improvements might be needed, an independent evaluation was carried out.

Researchers from Technopolis Group (Brighton, UK) and Ipsos MORI (London, UK) looked carefully at
data available about the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme and projects, and gathered
new information from project leads and experts involved in health research. These researchers found
that the programme supports important research that tests whether or not a treatment or approach
can work. Most Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation projects looked at treatments that can benefit
patients or save costs in the health service but that are of little interest to industry (e.g. using a
cheap existing drug to treat a disease or patient group that it is not yet used for). At the time of the
evaluation, 43 projects were complete, of which seven had provided findings that informed decisions
on how health care should be delivered.

Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation projects researched treatments across many health needs that
exist in the UK, but some problems that affect many people were investigated by few or no projects.
To steer scientists towards areas of need, the National Institute for Health Research sometimes
describes the research it is looking for when inviting proposals. However, many of these calls
for proposals do not lead to funded projects. Understanding the reasons for this may identify how
research in these areas can be better supported.

The evaluation makes recommendations for how the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme
can be improved to increase its impact or make it easier for scientists to carry out research.