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Author: Don Magin

The social return from business investment in medical research

New research analysis shows business that there is a return on investments made in important social infrastructure writes our CEO Don Magin.   

Businesses sensibly look to maximise their return on investment in their people, assets and other expenditure.

At the Greater Building Society we need to maximise the value of the money we spend because it is our customers’ money. Other businesses need to maximise returns to shareholders.

This can sometimes leave charities, other worthy causes and community groups behind the eight ball. In these economic times, these groups are increasingly struggling to be able to demonstrate to business that there is value in funding or sponsoring them. It can be difficult to determine or agree on measures.

At The Greater, we would argue that in some cases it is important that business just gives back to the local community from which it derives its profits. There is benefit from look at the social return on an investment in a charity or group not just a strict return to a business. A stronger, healthier community is a great place to do business.

There is some good news for businesses and charities alike with a new report showing the return on the investment by business into locally conducted medical research.

Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) health economists’ undertook an analysis of the social return on investment (SROI) of the funding from the Greater Building Society and the Greater Charitable Foundation provided to HMRI for two Stroke research projects. The analysis shows that for one project the SROI was 6.63 and for another it was 2.30.

That means for every one dollar of the $240,000 (between 2009 and 2012) received from The Greater for the project titled “Improving Patient Selection for Effective Stroke Treatment” a return of $6.63 was obtained in the generation of additional research grants and better patient outcomes (cost avoided in treating stroke patients). In addition, the research assisted patient selection for a pilot on the effectiveness of a newer anti-thrombolytic drug: Tenecteplase.

For every dollar of $180,000 (between 2006 and 2009) received from The Greater for the project titled “Keeping Brain Cells Alive After Stroke” a return of $2.30 was obtained in the generation of additional research grants. In addition, the support contributed to the likelihood of identifying treatments or pathways to delay brain cell death. To delay brain cell death will give better prognosis for patients after receiving stroke therapies and improve post-stroke recovery.

The SROI analysis was undertaken by HMRI health economist Associate Professor Andrew Searles and colleagues Professor Chris Doran and Kim Edmunds, along with Dr Rod Ling from the University of Newcastle. According to these researchers, the determined SROI figures are conservative and underestimate the broader SROI because they only focus on the benefits to the Hunter region, and not potential national and international benefits.

Their analysis shows that investment in science and research by business has direct benefits and a multiplier effect of benefits to researchers and the community. There are terrific benefits of it getting behind the work of HMRI and other Hunter researchers. Business investment in research can also attract researchers to the region and help attract additional research funding from within and outside the region. Cont...

The research projects funded by The Greater were led by Dr Neil Spratt. The funding helped to attract Dr Spratt and his family to relocate to the Hunter region. Another benefit to the funding is that Dr Spratt is also clinician who provides care to local Stroke patients.

The Greater Building Society is an inaugural supporter of HMRI. It initially funded the ground breaking work of Associate Professor Darren Shafren’s demonstration of the effectiveness of a common cold virus (Coxsackievirus A21) as a treatment to kill melanoma cells.

Funding of HMRI transferred to the Greater Charitable Foundation when it was established in 2011. Together the organisations have provided HMRI with more than $1.3 million in support.

Given the results of the research the Greater has funded we have always known this is money well spent on behalf of our customers for their benefit and their children’s benefit. This analysis is further proof.

I hope a broader benefit is that it encourages other businesses to invest in the ground-breaking and important research being done by 1200 local HMRI researchers working across areas so vital to our lives including asthma and airway diseases, cancer, diabetes, mental health, nutrition, pregnancy and reproduction, and stroke. There are other charities and community groups that are an important part of the Hunter’s social infrastructure that are also worthy of business investment.

This post also appeared as an opinion piece in the Newcastle Herald. Funding of HMRI transferred to the Greater Charitable Foundation when it was established in 2011. Together the organisations have provided HMRI with more than $1.3 million in support.

This post also appeared as an opinion piece in today's Newcastle Herald.



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