Our strategy for funding research

We believe that funding medical research will lead to increased understanding of pregnancy that will improve antenatal care and the detection, treatment and management of women in pregnancy.

woman getting an ultrasound scan with partner

The current Tommy's research funding model

Tommy’s funds four research centres:

  • St Thomas’ Hospital in partnership with King’s College, London
  • St Mary’s Hospital in Partnership with Manchester University
  • Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in partnership with Edinburgh University
  • The Tommy's National Early Miscarriage Centre is a partnership of three universities: The University of Birmingham, The University of Warwick and Imperial College London.

Tommy’s makes an annual grant of £400,000 per centre against an agreed budgeted spend submitted annually by each centre.

Tommy’s funds salary costs of scientists, doctors and midwives carrying out the research together with consumables and equipment that are used in the research studies.

Tommy’s fund research projects in their entirety or contributes part-funding to research projects in partnership with other funders.

Tommy’s funding remit is miscarriagepremature birth and stillbirth and conditions in pregnancy which may lead to those outcomes such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, obstetric cholestasis, mental health or “lifestyle” factors which increase the risk of these outcomes such as obesity, diet, smoking.

Tommy’s focuses funding on the pregnancy period and does not fund research in assisted conception research such as IVF treatments nor research on the baby such as care of pre-term babies – this is to focus our limited research investment to attain maximum benefit for parents.

Management of medical research grants

Management of medical research grants

Each centre submits an annual budget which is challenged by the CEO before being scrutinised and approved by the Trustees at their meeting in November each year. Funding for the following financial year is approved and accounted for in the current financial year thus ensuring that Tommy’s is always able to fulfil the investment commitment it makes. Tommy’s makes an annual grant for the financial year 1 April to 31 March. Tommy’s does not commit funding for more than one year at a time.

Spend against the budget is monitored by the CEO and Finance Director through-out the year. A grant cannot be carried over from one financial year to the next. Any funding that is unspent at the end of the year is returned to Tommy’s reserves. Centres are not permitted to overspend their allotted budget.

Managing conflicts of interest

Tommy’s does not fund the work of the research expert Trustee/s who sit on the Board of Trustees, or the institution to which they belong. Should this change the Trustee stands down from the Board with immediate effect.

No individual who will benefit themselves (or their institution) from a grant is permitted to be involved in making any funding decision.

The Board of Trustees makes all decisions with regards to funding and their decision is final.

Tommy's conflict of interest policy (50 KB pdf)

Communicating our research results

We summarise the contents of the annual research reports for each centre and the impact reports and make this information available on the Tommy’s website www.tommys.org - it is updated at least annually.

We communicate research findings on social media such as emails, Facebook and Twitter and on broadcast and in print media when appropriate.

Read our annual report



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Reporting back on how funds are spent

Reporting back on how the funds are spent

Each centre produces an Annual Report in November each year detailing the progress of each project funded by Tommy’s (either in full or in part) and outlines projects that will be funded in the next financial year. The report has both an expert and lay summary facilitating its understanding and dissemination to all stakeholders.

Each centre produces a Research Impact Report in November each year which details a number of measures covering input, throughput and output measures:

  • Total grant income
  • Staff: Principal Investigators, research staff and other research staff
  • Number of peer reviewed papers published and impact factor for each journal and the citation metrics for each paper
  • Conference presentations including prizes won and oral and poster presentations
  • Esteem indicators
  • Additional funding leveraged from the Tommy’s grant
  • New tolls for research
  • Training in obstetrics such as contributions to textbooks, teaching and PhD/MSc students
  • Impact on health policy and guidelines such as NICE, NHS clinical improvement groups, RCOG guidelines
  • Products and inventions including patents
  • Research findings which have significantly contributed to health improvement

There are three Trustees meetings a year and each centre presents to the Trustees once per year. The Trustees take the opportunity to challenge the research results, direction and impact of the research.

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Peer review of our research centre activities

Peer review of our research centre activities

Tommy’s organises a peer review of each centres’ activities every two years. Reviewers are selected usually from outside the UK, to increase the chances that their views will be independent, from leading pregnancy research institutions normally in the USA and Europe.

The CEO gathers suggested reviewers names from the research expert Trustee/s and they are approached to ask them to complete the review and to agree a timescale within which to complete the task. The reviewers are sent copies of the annual report and impact report for each centre. Reviewers are asked to complete a review of each centre so they can compare and contrast the activities and results of each.

Two or three reviewers are approached to review each centre with a minimum of two reviews being received for each research centre.

The reviews are circulated to the Trustees and discussed at a Trustees meeting. Any actions are decided at these meetings. The CEO gives feedback to the centres on the outcomes of the reviews, including any positive comments and suggestions for improvements. Actions are followed up by the CEO to ensure they are implemented.

The reviewers are briefed to consider and make comments on the following areas:

  • What do you consider to be the areas of research strength and weakness?
  • Any comments on the quality of research leadership and up and coming talent?
  • Should the centre concentrate on fewer, more or different research areas?
  • Do they demonstrate that their research activity is part of a clear strategy and plan?
  • What would you consider outstanding (individuals or areas of research)?
  • What impact does the centre have on clinical care?
  • Is the centre focussed on Tommy's core goals to reduce miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth?
  • How do the outputs compare to other leading centres both in the UK and abroad?
  • Any other comments you might like to add
  • Please suggest up to three challenges for improvement

Reviewers’ identities are not revealed to the research centres to ensure they have the freedom to express their views and comments in full.

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Measuring the impact of our funds

Measuring the impact of our funds

Tommy’s collects a range of impact data from an annual impact report completed by each centre and detailed above.

Tommy’s focuses on measuring three key impacts for each centre:

National Clinical Impact: We look at how we can contribute to developing national clinical guidelines such as NICE and RCOG and NHS initiatives such as Care Bundles

Knowledge Impact Measure: We look for research discoveries which could lead to a significant clinical impact

Local Clinical Impact: We look at the success of our clinics in their localities

  • Manchester Centre: year on year reduction in stillbirths in the hospital catchment area
  • London Centre: year on year reduction in the number of premature births in patients who attend the prematurity clinic
  • Edinburgh: reduction of premature birth and stillbirth rates in Scotland
  • The National Centre for Miscarriage Research: Improved diagnosis and care of women who suffer miscarriage.

Read more about how we measure success.

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Applying for Tommy’s funding

Applying for Tommy’s funding

Every five years or so Tommy’s Trustees make a decision to fund a new research centre and agree what clinical research area they would like to focus on. The CEO writes a brief and a set of selection criteria and all the Universities with a medical school and medical research interests are encouraged to apply.

All applicants are then visited by the CEO to ensure they have understood the requirements of the brief and are given feedback to improve their submission.

All applicants present to a scientific selection committee made up of the existing research centre directors (or their nominated deputy), external research experts and an independent chair such as the President of the RCOG. All applications are scored by the members of the committee against the criteria set out in the brief. The committee advises whether any of the proposals are not fundable for whatever reason, such as the quality of the research proposal. The CEO compiles the scores and the two highest scoring proposals are then asked to present to the Board of Trustees at a separate meeting; they make the final decision based on a majority vote.

All research centres are subject to a contractual agreement which sets out how the relationship will work and the expectations that Tommy’s has of the new research centre covering items such as Intellectual Property Rights, annual reporting, double funding, accounting for expenditure and many other areas.

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Future funding plans

Future funding plans

The Trustees have agreed to fund clinical fellowships; which will be five-year research programmes focusing on improving screening and treatment for specific clinical problems. The process by which they will be selected has not yet been determined.

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AMRC membership

AMRC membership

Tommy’s is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and abides by all the requirements set out by that organisation.

Animals in research

Tommy’s supports the AMRC statement on research involving animals. Tommy’s research is mostly carried out in the patient or uses human tissue such as uterine tissue or placental tissue. Occasionally Tommy’s does fund research studies using mice or rats where it is not ethical to carry out these studies in humans.

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Policy on acceptance of donations

Read more about our research

  • Three pregnant women sitting in a row

    Research into health and wellbeing in pregnancy

    In addition to our core work on miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth and pre-eclampsia, Tommy’s also funds projects that research the effects of lifestyle and well-being on pregnancy and on the later life of the child.

  • Team of researchers

    Research into stillbirth

    When a baby dies after 24 weeks of gestation, it is called a stillbirth. Around 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year. Tommy’s research is helping to change this.

  • Nurse monitoring premature baby in hospital

    Research into premature birth

    Around 60,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the UK. These babies are vulnerable – they are born before they have grown to cope with the outside world. Tommy’s is saving lives by researching how we can prevent premature births by finding those at risk early on.


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