Research Australia has responded to the Capability Issues Paper provided as part of the development of a new National Research Infrastructure Roadmap. The Roadmap will guide the Australian Government’s future investment in large national research infrastructure.
Research Australia’s submission supports the consideration of international participation in Australian facilities and Australian participation in international facilities as part of the process of evaluating new research infrastructure facilities. We have supported the proposed governance principles and suggested that specific governance arrangements need to be fit for purpose for the individual proposal rather than fitting a predetermined template.
Research Australia has emphasised the importance of broadening the governance frameworks in relation to data infrastructure to consider the issues raised where the data is individuals’ health information, and made the point that legislative and cultural barriers to the better use of data need to be addressed in tandem with technological solutions.
The need to consider workforce training and capability issues as part of the broader roadmap was endorsed, as was the need to consider the full infrastructure lifecycle.
Infrastructure Roadmap submission
As part of the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016, the Government has once again introduced a measure to reduce the rate of the R&D Tax Incentive by 1.5%. Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee opposing this measure, as we have done previously.
The reduction will have the greatest impact on small companies who are in receipt of the refundable tax offset. While the 1.5% reduction is intended to reflect the recent reduction in the tax rate for small companies and is there supposedly ‘tax neutral’ the reality is that these small research intensive companies are running at a loss and not paying tax, so they will be adversely affected. Large companies will also be adversely affected because the mooted tax reductions for large companies have not yet been legislated.
The Government has yet to release the report of the Review it commissioned in 2015 into the operation and effectiveness of the R&D Tax Incentive.
R&D Tax Incentive Submission
The NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso has appointed an Expert Advisory Group to provide advice and assistance to the NHMRC in undertaking a Review of Funding Programs. A Consultation Paper was issued in July and was followed by a series of public forums in August.
Research Australia has made a submission in response to the Consultation Paper supporting the proposal for two streams of grants, one which emphasises the researchers’ track record and the other on the research proposal. The submission proposes that the limit on the number of Chief Investigators be removed and does not support a fixed duration of 5 years for grants. Research Australia supports the proposal for early career people grants with a research component, and recommends that a Fellowship Program independent of Team or Investigator grants be retained, particularly for researchers who participate in and support multiple research projects and would be adversely affected by the proposed caps on the number of grants a person can apply for or hold.
The Productivity Commission is undertaking an Inquiry into the availability and use of public data. Research Australia’s submission in response to the Issues Paper emphasises the importance of improved access to public data as a means of facilitating Australian health and medical research. It highlights the importance of linked datasets and identifies a number of cultural and legislative barriers to the greater use of data for research purposes. It also provides some case studies and makes some recommendations for improvement.
Data Availability and Use
A National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions is being developed by the Department of Health as the overarching policy for the prevention and management of chronic conditions in Australia. It provides guidance for the development and implementation of policies, strategies, actions and services to address chronic conditions and improve health outcomes.
The second draft of the Framework, released for comment in May 2016, identifies research as one of the six enablers of the Framework. Research Australia’s submission supported research as an enabler of the Framework and made specific submissions about the role research can play in supporting the objectives of the Framework.
National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions
The initial phase of the MRFF Advisory Board’s consultation on the Strategy and Priorities closed on 6 June 2016.
Research Australia drew on the extensive consultation process we undertook with our broad membership and alliance partners to respond to the consultation. We provided a submission in response to the Strategy and seven specific proposals in relation to Priorities for the MRFF. Lodged as eight separate submissions, they have been collated in a single document.
R A submissions to MRFF Consultations on Strategy and Priorities
As part of the National Innovation & Science Agenda, the Government has commissioned Innovation and Science Australia to undertake a review of the R&D Tax Incentive.
While Research Australia proposed some possible minor amendments to the R&D Tax Incentive, we argued that on the whole the R&D Tax Incentive is already performing well against the Review’s criteria of effectiveness, integrity and encouraging additional R&D. Any changes to the R&D Tax Incentive at this point in time should be limited to improving the way it is administered.
R&D Tax Incentive Review
As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) Treasury has undertaken a consultation on an initiative to provide tax incentives for early stage investors in innovative companies. Research Australia’s submission supports the proposal and suggests some amendments to improve its operation and reduce red tape. These include making registration for the R&D Tax incentive a qualifying condition for treating a company as an ‘innovation company’ in respect of which the tax incentive can apply, and allowing the tax incentive to be available to ‘retail’ investors. The tax incentive has the potential to increase the capital available to early stage innovative companies, including those seeking to commercialise new medicines, devices and therapies.
Tax Incentives for early stage investors
Private and Public Ancillary Funds allow individuals and organisations to create trusts that can receive tax deductible donations and then distribute these amounts to charities in later years. The Treasury proposed allowing Ancillary Funds to reduce the amount they must distribute to charities each year, and to link this amount to their investment returns. Health and Medical Research is a recipient of funds from Ancillary Funds.
Research Australia has opposed the changes because linking the funds to economic conditions and investment market performance could reduce the amount of funds made available and lead to greater year-to year-variation in distributions
Reduction in Minimum Distributions for Ancillary Funds
Research Australia submission to the Treasurer in respect of preparations for the 2016 Budget acknowledges the importance of the Government’s focus on science and innovation to Australia’s future and makes a number of recommendations with the aim of improving supporting economic growth and developing a more innovative, safer, and efficient health system that delivers better quality care.
Pre Budget Submission 2016