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Our research excellence

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is the second-ranked academic research centre in the UK - according to the Times Higher Education league table of university research quality and impact compiled from the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) - and first for biological sciences. 

Scientist pipetting in a lab

We were also the third-ranked higher education institution in the UK for the impact of our research on society – thanks to our strategy of combining world-class basic cancer research with a determination to take discoveries to patients.

The REF assessed all higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK which were eligible for public research funding. Our submission included world-class research studies on the development of PARP inhibitor drugs, the discovery and development of AKT inhibitor drugs, and the improvement of radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer and prostate cancer patients.

World-leading research and knowledge exchange

Some 99 per cent of the ICR’s biological science and 97 per cent of its clinical medicine submissions were ranked as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in REF 2021. It also made submissions describing its impact on the lives of people with cancer and its research environment, both of which gained outstanding scores in REF 2021.

We also scored very highly in the Knowledge Exchange Framework, or 'the KEF', in 2021. A sister evaluation to the REF, KEF 2021 was a measure of universities' partnerships and influence on wider society.

In KEF 2021, the ICR was one of only five HEIs to score top in four elements of evaluation - including working with business - and no other HEI scored higher.

Research recognition

Our ranking is a powerful endorsement of the quality of the ICR’s research, and the success of our partnership with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in translating discoveries for patients.

Professor Kristian Helin, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:

“The results of REF 2021 are recognition for the amazing research we’ve carried out in recent years and the benefits it is having for people with cancer. Our achievements across both biological sciences and clinical medicine are an acknowledgement of our ‘end-to-end’ research strategy, running from fundamental discovery research and the study of cancer’s complexity and evolution, through to cancer therapeutics and clinical trials to test the effectiveness of new treatments.

“We’re proud that the REF panel has rated a higher proportion of our research either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ than at any other higher education in the UK, and especially that our research has scored so highly for the impact it is having for society.

“It’s exciting also to gain such a high REF 2021 score for our research environment – driven by our open, collaborative culture, by the hard work of so many people and our excellent research infrastructure. I’m enormously grateful to all our researchers, students and professional services staff at the ICR, to our partners and funders, and to all our supporters, donors and patient advocates for playing such key roles in our success.”

Our REF 2021 Code of Practice

The ICR prepared a Code of Practice which outlined the ICR’s processes for the identification of staff and outputs for the REF 2021.