Strategy for the Francis Crick Institute unveiled at topping out ceremony

06 June 2013

Sir Paul Nurse, Director of the Francis Crick Institute, unveiled the organisation's strategy today (Thursday).

The announcement coincides with the topping out ceremony for the institute, which will open in London in 2015. Today's ceremony celebrates construction progress and the attainment of the highest point of the new structure.

The Crick will be a new and distinctive medical research institute. It will carry out discovery biomedical research to help better understand why disease develops and to find new ways to diagnose, prevent and treat a range of illnesses - such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative diseases. 

The institute will bring together outstanding scientists from all disciplines, carrying out research that will help improve the health and quality of people's lives, and will also keep the UK at the forefront of medical innovation.

The Crick is a landmark partnership between the UK's three largest funders of biomedical research: the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust, and three of its leading universities: UCL, Imperial College London and King's College London.  This exceptional cooperation will allow us to tackle major scientific problems and generate solutions to the emerging health challenges of the 21st century.

Sir Paul said: "From the outset, the Francis Crick Institute has been an unprecedented collaboration between the UK's leading medical research organisations, academic institutions and industry. As we mark this important milestone in the construction of the institute, I wanted to clearly set out the Crick's strategic priorities, as well as high level directions for the science that will be conducted.

"Our uncompromising commitment to excellence, our emphasis on multi-disciplinary research, our focus on young and emerging talent, our novel ways of partnership working, and our plans to export our best people to other institutions across the UK, are some of the factors that will set the Crick apart."

The Crick's strategic priorities are to:

1.   Pursue discovery without boundaries

We will support creative and ambitious research that addresses important questions of human biology.  We will build on the high quality science from the two parent institutes - Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute (LRI) and the MRC National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and work with our three university founders to integrate knowledge from the clinical and physical sciences.  

2.   Create future science leaders

The Crick's career structure will be unusual, with the majority of group leaders remaining at the institute for no more than 12 years before being supported to find scientific leadership positions elsewhere in the UK. This process will help the Crick to fulfil its national role by expanding the talent pool for biomedical science across the UK.  It will also allow the introduction of fresh knowledge and ideas to drive the development and renewal of our scientific programmes through continual new recruitment. 

3.   Collaborate creatively to advance UK science and innovation

We want to ensure that we work effectively with our university partners and our other collaborators across the UK, creating an open and permeable institute that can act as a focal point for scientific interaction and networking across the UK and beyond. 

4.   Accelerate translation for health and wealth.

This will focus on maximising the value that can be generated from the Crick's discovery science, measured in terms of improvements in the lives of people in the UK and internationally, and in new economic opportunities. We want to make translatable science an integral and highly valued facet of the institute's culture, and develop effective partnerships with industry and the NHS. 

5.   Engage and inspire the public.

The Crick's size, location and profile will make us highly visible and able to play an important role in generating excitement and interest in science, particularly through our engagement and outreach activity with schools.  We also have an opportunity to help promote health and wellbeing in the local area and across the country. 


Sir Paul will be joined at the topping out ceremony by Chief Executives from the Crick's partners and senior Government Ministers.

The Crick's striking new building, designed by architects HOK with PLP Architecture, and constructed by Laing O'Rourke, the UK's largest private engineering and construction company, will house 1,500 leading researchers and support staff.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "The Francis Crick Institute will be the jewel in the crown of UK medical research. Not only will it provide cutting edge facilities and develop world-class talent, but it will encourage collaboration between different disciplines, undoubtedly leading to scientific breakthroughs. It will keep Britain ahead in the global race to find innovative new treatments, benefitting patients and driving growth."

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "The Francis Crick Institute will be game-changing for medical research. Millions of people - including cancer patients, but also those suffering from a range of diseases such as heart and neurodegenerative disease - will benefit from its pioneering approaches. Scientists will work together across many different areas to make rapid progress in our understanding of these diseases, which will help us to treat them more effectively in the future. The Crick is also a unique opportunity for people to invest in one of the most exciting catalysts of scientific innovation we'll see in this generation."

Dr Ted Bianco, Acting Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The Francis Crick Institute highlights what makes medical research in Britain so strong: significant funding from both the government and charities, emerging and established talent from leading institutions, and opportunities for discoveries to be translated rapidly into new treatments through the NHS. Its scientific strategy should ensure that is capitalises on all of these factors and quickly establishes itself as one of our most innovative and world-leading new research centres."

Sir Keith O'Nions, President & Rector of Imperial College London, said: "We are delighted to be here at the topping out of the institute building, witnessing the start of an exciting new chapter for research and medical innovation. The opportunities that lie ahead to improve health are unparalleled and collectively we will help the UK remain globally competitive in efforts to tackle the 21st Century's global health issues and diseases. Imperial's Academic Health Science Centre and the Research and Translation Hub to be built at Imperial West will offer the Crick valuable opportunities for translation and collaborations with the NHS and industry. Alongside these initiatives, we look forward to contributing from Imperial's strengths in medical research, physical sciences and engineering in order to realise the Crick's vision and strategy."

Professor Sir Rick Trainor, Principal of King's College London, said: "As a founding academic partner we are delighted to play a key role in driving forward the Crick's strategic vision. King's is experienced in bringing together basic scientists and clinicians from a wide range of disciplines to translate research quickly into innovative treatments. We will bring this expertise to the Crick to help realise its translational aims and bring the scientific strategy to life for the benefit of patients."

Professor Sir John Tooke, UCL Vice-Provost (Health) said: "UCL is committed to realising the Crick's strategy and the tremendous opportunity it presents. We will draw on our strengths in interdisciplinary collaboration and partnership working to maximise the impact of the new Institute and reveal opportunities for research, education and enterprise. Together with our world-class partner hospitals we will drive the translation of the fundamental insights into disease mechanisms the Crick will reveal for the benefit of the population."

Roger Robinson, Laing O'Rourke's European Chief Executive, said: "Today's milestone is a critical point on the path towards completion during 2015.  Although we are celebrating the ancient tradition of 'topping out' to confer good luck, everything good about 21st century construction engineering is already part of the fabric of this building.  Digital engineering and modular delivery techniques are at the heart of our programme, and we are delighted be working so closely with our client team to design for success from the outset."