The MRFF is a once in a generation opportunity to significantly reshape the landscape of Australian medical research and innovation. Australia has world leading health and medical research (HMR) and a world-class health system, but too often they operate in isolation from each other rather than as one system with the aim of a healthier community.
The MRFF provides the opportunity to bridge the gaps between the two so that Australian medical research and innovation in partnership with health practitioners delivers the new practices, services and products needed to continue to improve the health, wellbeing and prosperity of Australians.
Created by the Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015 (the Act), the MRFF came into existence in August 2015. With over $4.6 billion in capital at 31 March 2017, it is projected to grow to $20 billion by 2020/21. Earnings on this capital will be used to fund medical innovation and medical research, both of which are defined by section 5 of the Act:
Medical innovation includes:
(a) the application and commercialisation of medical research for the purpose of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians; and
(b) the translation of medical research into new or better ways of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.
Section 10 of the Act specifies that grants can be made to:
- States and Territories via the COAG Reform Fund;
- corporate Commonwealth entities (eg. the CSIRO); and
- universities, medical research institutes, and corporations.
The MRFF is forecast to disburse increasing amounts of funding over several years, commencing with $65.9 million in 2016/17, $121.5 million in 2017/18, $214.9 million in 2018/19, $386.4 million in 2019/20 and $642.9 million in 2020/21. The annual value of disbursements will continue to increase until it reaches around $600 million to $800 million per year (depending on investment earnings on the capital), projected to occur in 2021/22.
Funding decisions are made by the Health Minister in accordance with the five-year Strategy and two yearly funding Priorities, which are determined by the MRFF Advisory Board. Consisting of the CEO of the NHMRC and up to seven other appointees, the Board as a whole is required to have expertise in:
- medical research;
- policy relating to health systems;
- management or delivery of health services;
- medical innovation;
- financing and investment;
- philanthropy; and
- consumer issues relating to health.
 Australian Government Budget 2017-18 Budget Paper 1.8 Finance Portfolio Statement  Australian Government Budget 2017-18 Budget Paper no.1.10 Health Portfolio Table 2.1.1 Budgeted Expenses for Outcome 1  Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015, section 32G