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Largest ever UK-wide study of babies and young children announced

In a speech given at the British Academy, David Willetts confirmed that the Birth Cohort Facility Project will bring together the UK’s leading…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


In a speech given at the British Academy, David Willetts confirmed that the Birth Cohort Facility Project will bring together the UK’s leading portfolio of cohort studies starting in 1946, and includes a new birth cohort study starting in 2012. This will involve children and families from all backgrounds across the UK, and is nearly five times bigger than the previous study conducted in 2000.

For the first time in a study of this kind, a series of samples will be collected from parents and the child. This will reveal more than ever before about the complex interplay between social, economic, biological, environmental and health related experiences and conditions, and how they relate to problems later in life.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, said:

“This Government is committed to the long term - to making decisions today that will promote a better future: a more prosperous economy, and a fairer society. In order to tackle intergenerational social mobility, breaking the pattern of deprivation being passed from one generation to the next, we need to know more about long-term outcomes from birth. The Birth Cohort Study will improve the evidence base we need to make the right investments in our drive to break down the barriers to a fairer society.”

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

“Birth cohort studies provide a unique insight into all the factors affecting people’s lives and are central to our understanding of child development. They produce powerful evidence that informs Government policy on a wide range of issues, including social mobility, inequality, education and public health.

“This is turn has positive economic impacts through changes in the delivery of public services, earlier diagnosis of diseases and improvements in quality of life.

“The 2012 study is the largest yet. This research will help us understand more about the needs of individuals than ever before, and ultimately strengthen the fabric of our society.”

Previous studies have provided groundbreaking research on the dangers of excessive drinking amongst young people, the consequences of teenage births for parents and their children and the role that child growth and development plays in cardiovascular disease and other health disorders.

The Birth Cohort Facility Project will create a UK centre of excellence, facilitating comparative analyses of data across previous studies, and helping illuminate how health and wellbeing have changed over time in line with society and lifestyles.

Notes to editors

  1. The Birth Cohort Facility Project will receive £28.5 million from the Large Facilities Capital Fund, £3 million from the Economic and Social Research Council and £2 million from the Medical Research Council.
  2. The ESRC and MRC are two of the seven UK Research Councils principally funded through the Government’s Science Budget which is administered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Each year a total of around £2.5 billion is invested in research conducted at UK universities, Research Council Institutes, and in securing access to international facilities for UK researchers. Together the Research Councils cover the full spectrum of academic disciplines from the medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, and the arts and humanities.
  3. The full speech is available online at
  4. BIS’ online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See []( for more information.

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division COI Phone




Name Sally Catmull Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 6577 Fax



Published 1 March 2011