Despite everything, this was a bumper year for the MRS Awards and each company receiving a trophy is a really worthy winner, which is a fitting tribute to the sector in MRS’ seventy-fifth year.

Back when it was founded in 1946, MRS was a body of just twenty-three professional researchers (they set an original target of twenty-five) – all men, but nevertheless pioneers who saw the value in research and wanted to protect and advance it. 

Today, our members, fellows and winners remain pioneers in research; perfecting the art of the possible, and more frequently delivering the seemingly impossible.

Seventy-five years on MRS has 600 company partners representing not only more than eighty per cent of the UK research market, but also innovative international companies in the US, Israel, India and Europe. Our thousands of individual members come from over fifty countries around the world. It is truly amazing to think just how far we have come and the potential for us to make an even bigger difference in the future.

The original membership joined together in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the country was trying to rebuild. Some of our most notable fellows today also overcame adversity to make their mark on and change the sector. I am sure all of them will forgive a toast on our diamond jubilee to our oldest fellow, after whom we name our award for social impact - the redoubtable Liz Nelson OBE. Cheers Liz!

Back in 1939, after the original transformational role of research in the development of advertising, contemporary commentators and research professionals thought that the sector would shut down in the face of the war. It didn’t, as government found a need for research in helping develop the extraordinary social polices made necessary by the conflict.

We are once again recovering from a global crisis and, though the pandemic is by no means in the past, many of us working in research and insight can view what we have achieved during the peak of the crisis with a great deal of pride. We have risen to the challenges it has raised, as research and insight teams have been propelled into boardrooms and the data and insight we create has once again been vital in shaping not just government but also commercial decision-making throughout the crisis.  

The value of insight is beyond dispute but now that this door to the C-Suite has been pushed open, in 2022 we need to ensure that it doesn’t slam shut. 

Despite the pandemic, MRS has celebrated some major milestones over the past twelve months. There are too many to cover now, but the launch of our MRS Unlimited network for those who want to change the way the research sector treats physical and neuro diverse conditions, and the creation of our first international affiliates, are two of the most notable.

I was also pleased to see strong numbers at this year’s Sustainability Summit, and enthusiastic discussions about how research can play a leading role in the fight against climate change. As part of this, I do urge all our company partners to consider committing to MRS’ Net Zero Pledge, as well as the MRS Inclusion Pledge, both of which continue to grow. There surely can be no real reason for anyone not to sign up to such important commitments.

We know that research has an even bigger role to play in the future. To reach its potential it is going to have to re-invent itself continuously, and MRS will continue to uphold the highest standards in the collection and use of research and data however it is sourced.

Next year’s Impact is all about re-invention. We’ve attracted some great case studies and some wonderful keynotes who all know about this challenge, I’ll pick out a few. From the Supreme Court we have Lady Hale, from the commercial sector and sustainability, Paul Polman – and anyone who saw him speak to us some years ago will know how truly inspirational he is. To talk about how you can transform the lives of people and in so doing transform your businesses we have James Timpson - another inspiration.

To succeed we all need great young and diverse talent to enter the sector and a pivotal and practical role in this will be Apprenticeships. The New Year will see the formal launch of the new Apprenticeship standard for research.

In all of this we need to make time to safeguard and improve the welfare of the talent on which we all depend. Time to celebrate is very much part of that. 

Thank you everyone and I hope you have a happy Christmas and an even more successful 2022.


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