Our strategy for funding research

By funding medical research, we can help increase our understanding of what causes some women and birthing people to experience complications and loss. This will help us find new tests and treatments to detect when things might go wrong, save more babies’ lives and improve care for everyone.

The Tommy's research funding model

Tommy’s funds 3 university-based research centres and 1 centre focused on implementing best practice nationally:

Tommy’s makes an annual grant of £500,000 to each 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 funds research projects in their entirety or contributes part-funding to research projects in partnership with other funders.

Tommy’s funding remit is miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth and conditions in pregnancy that may lead to those outcomes such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy and chronic histiocytic intervillositis.

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 premature infants – this is to focus our limited research investment and to attain maximum benefit for parents.

Each centre submits an annual budget, which is reviewed by the Scientific Advisory Group before being scrutinised and approved by the Trustees. 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. While Tommy’s agrees in principle to fund a research centre for a 5-year period, Tommy’s does not commit funding for more than 1 year at a time.

Spend against the budget is monitored by the CEO, Finance Director and Senior Research Manager throughout 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.

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 medical research conflicts of interest policy (50 KB pdf) relates to all committees and funding panels of the charity, their chairs and other members, including Trustees of the charity.

We communicate research findings on social media, by email and in broadcast/print media when appropriate.

We also publish an annual impact report that includes research highlights from each of our centres.

Read our 2022–23 impact report

Tommy’s operates a 5-yearly (quinquennial) funding cycle. Every 5 years, each centre reports on the progress and impact made in the previous 5-year funding cycle, as well as their plans for the next 5 years. Research centres are also required to produce milestone-focused activity reports each year, detailing the progress of each project funded by Tommy’s (either in full or in part). Centre reports have both an expert and lay summary so that they can be understood by all stakeholders.

Tommy’s organises a 5-yearly (quinquennial) peer review of each centre's activities and strategic plans. This process is overseen by our Research Review Group, which consists of a Scientific Advisory Committee, a Parent Voices Committee and an Implementation and Improvement Advisory Committee. To ensure independence, reviewers are selected from both within and outside of the UK, and each member serves on the committee for a maximum of 6 years. Each research centre produces a progress report, 5-year research plan and budget, which is shared with the Research Review Group. The centres also present to the Research Review Group at a face-to-face meeting, where there is an opportunity for questions and discussion. The reviewers produce a written report reflecting the recommendations of the Research Review Group, and this is shared with the centre and circulated to the Trustees. Each centre then produces milestone-focused activity reports and annual budgets each year, which are reviewed by members of the Research Review Group. Approval of annual budgets is contingent upon receipt of satisfactory external reports and evidence that milestones are being met.

At the 3-year checkpoint, the Centre Directors and representatives of the Research Review Group meet face-to-face to review progress and to assess whether the centre has taken on board the recommendations made during the quinquennial review. If there are significant concerns about a centre at this checkpoint, the reviewers may recommend that Tommy’s cease funding the centre at the end of the 5-year cycle.

Find out more about our peer review process

Meet our Research Review Group

Tommy’s collects a range of impact data from an annual impact report completed by each centre. Tommy’s focuses on measuring input, throughput, output and outcome measures that link to our goal to reduce miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.

Read more about our impact

When a new research centre is needed to meet the goals of our organisational strategy, we first obtain agreement from our Trustees that we are in a financial position to fund a new centre for 5 years. We next draw up a centre brief and detailed selection criteria, which we circulate widely to institutions such as Universities and professional bodies, inviting them to apply.

We ask each applicant to articulate a clear vision and route to impact, alongside a full 5-year activity plan that sets out clear milestones and objectives. Tommy’s works with the prospective centres to ensure that their ideas are a good fit with Tommy’s goals and meet our criteria. We also ask the prospective centres to seek the views of people with lived experience when developing their core research questions and portfolio of work. All applications are reviewed by a selection panel, who make a recommendation to Tommy’s Trustees. The Trustees of the charity make the final decision about which centre is selected for funding.

All research/implementation centres are subject to a contractual agreement that 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 other areas.

Find out more about our selection process

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 endorses the AMRC position statement on the use of animals in research. 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 where it is not ethical to carry out studies in humans.

Involvement in research

Tommy’s endorses the AMRC position statement on the importance of involvement in medical research. Tommy’s Research Review Group consists of a Parent Voices Committee, which is made up of people with lived experience of baby loss and pregnancy complications. Each research centre is also required to embed Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) into their planning processes and must demonstrate how the input of individuals with lived experience is being actively sought, valued and integrated throughout the research process. Centres must provide evidence of a diverse representation among the participants engaged, ensuring that people from a broad range of backgrounds and demographics are proportionately represented in the PPI activities and decision-making processes.

Supporting research in universities

Tommy’s endorses the AMRC position statement on supporting research in universities.