Research to improve Aged Care quality

Counsel assisting the Aged Care Royal Commission have made their final submissions to the Commissioners, and the public has been given the opportunity to comment on the recommendations. This was the last chance for public input before the Commissioners provide their report to the Government in early 2021.

Research Australia has followed the progress of the Royal Commission closely. We urged the inclusion of research in the Commission’s original terms of reference and we have liaised with the Commission’s officers to connect them with researchers who were able to assist the Inquiry.

We have been pleased to see the reliance the Commission has placed on research to understand the current system and its failures as well as to explore alternatives. It is clear that research can play a critical part in improving the delivery of aged care services and in helping Australians to age well, and we have welcomed the prominence the final recommendations to the Commissioners give to research.

Research Australia’s response to the final submissions document is limited to two recommendations. Recommendation 55 deals with the creation of an Aged Care Research Council with a dedicated research budget. Recommendation 56 deals with creation of a minimum national aged care dataset and the availability of data to researchers. Finally, we have responded to the request for public response to remarks made by Commissioner Briggs in respect of Research and Data Governance.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Data Availability and Transparency- Draft Bill and Accreditation Framework

Research Australia has been advocating for many years for improved access to public data for research. We made submissions to the Productivity Commission’s 2016 Inquiry into Data Availability and Use. Strongly supportive of the Commission’s recommendations, we have worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the consultations which have culminated in the release of the Data Availability and Transparency Bill exposure draft and the proposed Accreditation Framework.

The Draft Bill and accompanying Accreditation Framework for researchers are broadly in line with previous consultations and discussions. Research Australia has made some recommendations designed to improve the operation of the legislation and the Framework.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

The Data Availability and Transparency Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 9 December 2020. Research Australia expects the legislation to be passed by the Parliament in 2021.

Improving approval processes for new drugs and medical technologies

Research Austrlaia has responded to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Approval Processes for New Drugs and Medical Technologies.

Opportunities exist to change our approval processes to benefit patients and better support research and development in Australia. Faster and more effective approval processes mean new medicines and technologies reach patients faster. Improving the environment for clinical trials enables Australian patients to benefit from the latest medicines and technologies developed overseas while also helping Australian health and medical research to flourish in a competitive and lucrative world market. Research Australia’s submission identifies some of these opportunities with the twin objectives of improving Australians’ health and prosperity.

Research Austrlaia’s submission is available here.

The Committee is expected to hold public hearings in early 2021.

Aged Care Research is essential for a better Aged Care system

Research Australia is delighted that research is firmly on the agenda for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The peak body’s Chief Executive Nadia Levin welcomed the news that among the more than 100 recommendations made by counsel to the Commissioners, were several very important recommendations relating to research.

Importantly, Counsel has recommended establishing a dedicated Aged Care Council to set a strategy and agenda for research and development into aged care. A dedicated aged research fund with an annual budget of 1.8% of government expenditure on aged care has also been recommended.

‘This would be a welcome boost to aged care research in Australia and has the potential to lead to better, higher quality and safer care, said Ms Levin. ‘In fact, I don’t think this promise of a better system can be delivered without more research, it is absolutely essential.’

Research Australia has made the case on several occasions for increasing research into aged care and ageing. We urged the inclusion of research in the Commission’s original terms of reference and have liaised with the Commission’s officers to connect them with researchers who were able to assist the Inquiry.

The aim is to prioritise research that involves co-design with older people, their families and the aged care workforce, and to facilitate networks between researchers, industry and government. The scope of research is broad, encompassing technology pilots and innovation projects, and assisting the translation of research into practice to improve aged care.

In a series of related recommendations, data collection across aged care should be improved and a national minimum aged care dataset developed under the auspice of the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.

The Commissioners are now considering the evidence they have received and are due to provide their final report to the Australian Government by the end of February next year. (They may accept, reject or modify Counsel’s recommendations.) More information about the Royal Commission, including the final submissions, is available here.

Research Australia will continue its advocacy focus along with its members such as NARI, CSIRO, University of Queensland, Flinders University and the University of Wollongong to keep research firmly on the agenda as the Royal Commission considers its response.

Please join our efforts through contributing to Research Australia’s submission due on the 12th November via greg.mullins@researchaustralia.org

 

Budget Update 2020

Summary

The global economic impact of COVID-19 has been the overwhelming influence on the Budget handed down tonight. This is a big spending Budget, the biggest Australia has seen, focused on providing immediate stimulus to the economy but also laying the foundations for a future Australia, shaped by the lessons of the last nine months.

Most relevant to health and medical research are the following key announcements:

    • Last year’s forecast budget spending on health for 2020-21 was $82.5 billion. This forecast has been revised up to $115.5 billion, as we begin to see just how much COVID-19 is driving up healthcare costs. In the coming months and years, Australians will look to health and medical research and innovation to deliver more effective treatments and more efficient pathways of care to curtail these costs. Research Australia will continue to work with Government to ensure support for the crucial role all parts of the health and medical research pipeline have to play in delivering better, more sustainable care.
    • An extra $1 billion this financial year through the Research Support Program for our university researchers will be critical to maintaining Australia’s national health and medical research capability. More than half of all Australian health and medical research in Australia is undertaken in the higher education sector. It is clear that Australia can no longer rely so heavily on international student fees to subsidise research. In the long term, we need to look at effective partnerships between higher education, government, industry and philanthropy. The commitment in this Budget to supporting university research jobs is a welcome interim step towards establishing a more sustainable higher education sector.
    • The Government will restore an additional $2 billion over 4 years through the Research and Development Tax Incentive to help innovative businesses that invest in research and development. It is doing this by reversing some of the changes to the R&DTI legislation that are currently before the Senate.
    • The budgets for the NHMRC and MRFF remain virtually unchanged. At the same time, researchers are dealing with extra costs to their funded project due to the delays and disruptions caused by COVID-19. While the universities benefit from the one-off increase in the Research Support Program, there is no similar support for researchers in Medical Research Institutes. Research Australia remains concerned that NHMRC funding has not increased over the forward estimates to keep pace with inflation, with the net effect that NHMRC funding continues to decline in real terms.

Broader Context:

One of the key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have become overly reliant on global supply chains for vital materials. This is driving a new focus on manufacturing and there are new roadmaps being developed which will, hopefully, join the dots between research, product development and manufacturing more successfully than has been done in the past. $1.3 billion over five years from 2020-21 will establish the Modern Manufacturing Initiative to: support manufacturing projects focused on building long-term business collaboration at scale; translating research into commercial outcomes and bringing new products to market; and integrating local firms to deliver products and services into global value chains. New roadmaps to guide the Modern Manufacturing Strategy are due in time for the 2021 Budget, in six months’ time, including for medical products.

Manufacturing accounts for around 6% of Australia’s economic output but is responsible for a quarter of all industry spending on R&D. However, Australia’s business spending on R&D is low by world standards. If Australia is to achieve the objectives of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy this will have to change, and we have to better connect business with Australia’s powerhouses of research, our universities and medical research institutes.

The Government has made several attempts to reform the R&D Tax Incentive in recent years, and tonight’s Budget is no exception. The R&DTI is critical to increasing business expenditure on R&D in Australia, and thus to the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. The Government is reversing several of the measures which are currently sitting before the Senate. For small business, the $4 million cap goes, and the rate is fixed at 18.5% above the company tax rate. For large companies the number of tiers in the intensity threshold will be reduced to two, with the RDTI paid at a rate 8.5% and 18.5% above the company’s tax rate for tiers one and two respectively. This is expected to increase the amount of R&DTI paid to industry by $2 billion over the forward estimates, compared to the amounts that would have been paid if the legislation had been amended in accordance with the Government’s previous plan.

 

Continue reading “Budget Update 2020”

Research for Preventive Health

The Australian Government is developing a 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy, anticipated to be finalised and released in early 2021.

The Consultation has been undertaken using an electronic survey. Research Australia’s responses emphasise:

    • the critical role of research in developing new preventive health measures;
    • the need to focus on implementation and scalability as part of translating research findings into new and effective preventive health programs; and
    • the critical role of data in evaluating the effectiveness of programs.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Research Australia supports budget measures for university based research

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Media Release

Health and medical researchers support interim budget measures for university-based research and urge longer-term sustainability

The $700 million bail-out package for university researchers flagged for consideration in the upcoming federal budget would be critical to maintaining Australia’s national health and medical research capability.

Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin said, “More than half of all Australian health and medical research in Australia is undertaken in the higher education sector. This research is at risk due to the loss of university revenue from international students. Health and medical research is a critical national capability and it must be protected, for its role in saving lives, improving our health system and our post-pandemic economic recovery.”

A Government commitment to supporting universities and research jobs would be a welcome interim step towards establishing a more sustainable higher education sector.

“In the long term, we need to look at effective partnerships between higher education, government, industry and philanthropy. It’s clear that Australia can no longer rely so heavily on international student fees to subsidise research.

“The package mooted in today’s Australian would give the universities some breathing room to consider a longer-term plan for funding research.” Nadia Levin said.

“Immediate measures are needed to provide job security for Australian health and medical researchers. Currently, half the health and medical researchers in this country are employed on short-term contracts. This rises to two thirds of early career researchers.

“Compare this to the broader Australian population where only 5.2% of people with permanent employment are employed on fixed term contracts. It’s easy to see why Australia runs the very real risk of losing a generation of early and mid-career health and medical researchers without some immediate intervention and more focus on long-term sustainability.”

As the national peak body for Australian health and medical research, Research Australia is working with its members from all stages of health and medical research to encourage a united position on research funding.

“We can’t just rely on government funding or international student fees, it is going to need to be a combined effort with industry, philanthropy and the health system. Working together, we’re confident Australia can become a world-leader in health and medical research, generating new STEM jobs and advanced manufacturing industries which will drive post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research. www.researchaustralia.org

Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404068912

August 2020 Pre-Budget submission calls for new R&D investment, emergency response to COVID-19

Research Australia has taken the opportunity to use the new call from the Treasurer for Pre-Budget submissions to call for urgent assistance from the Government to support research disrupted by COVID-19.

We have proposed bridging funding be paid from a contingency fund to researchers who need the additional funding to complete research because of COVID-19 related delays. We have also called on the Government to recognise the importance of a renewed investment in research and innovation as part of Australia’s response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research Australia’s Pre-Budget Submission

Vital investment milestone reached for Australian health and medical research!

15 July 2020

As the national peak alliance for health hand medical research, Research Australia is delighted that a capital injection of $3.2 billion will be made into the Medical Research Future Fund.

‘This is great news for Australia’s health and medical research and innovation sector and importantly, the millions of Australians who benefit from the great research’, said Research Australia CEO and Managing Director Nadia Levin.

‘It is a strong signal to the sector that the MRFF will achieve its objective of $20 billion in capital next week, with the earnings to fund new research and innovation’.

“The role of health and medical research in all of our lives is immense and as this pandemic has demonstrated, we rely heavily on it to ensure our continued wellbeing and access to the best possible care.

Despite all the challenging times we are currently facing it is very gratifying that this tremendous milestone has been reached, in line with the Government’s commitment and bipartisan support.  It offers all Australians hope for a better quality of life in the future, supported by a world class, research enabled health system.

Substantial investment in previous years has meant we can call on Australia’s incredible research today. We must ensure that we maintain this critical capability in the years ahead.

Research Australia’s annual opinion poll Australia Speaks, shows strong public support for greater investment in health and medical research and strong support for the Medical Research Future Fund.

The Medical Research Future Fund was enacted in 2015 with an initial capital injection of $1 billion. Since then, further capital has been invested each financial year, enabling the MRFF to achieve the target of $20 billion in capital with the final instalment of $3.2 billion being made next Tuesday, 21 July.

COVID-19 Impact on Health and Medical Research and Innovation

Research Australia’s submission to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 has sought to highlight the significant and lasting impact the pandemic will have on Australian health and medical research and innovation.

Research Australia’s recommendations to the Inquiry are:

    • The establishment of a national whole of governments review of Australian research and innovation to properly quantify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.
    • Commitment to a comprehensive, fully funded strategy for how and where research and innovation will contribute to Australia’s future prosperity and wellbeing.
    • A short-term injection of additional Government funding into research in Australia’s universities and MRIs to preserve existing research capacity while the economy recovers.
    • Extending the JobKeeper scheme to universities would be a good place to start, as would redressing some of the rules that have prevented some MRIs from accessing JobKeeper because of their governance arrangements.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.