Research must support Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan 2022-2032

Research Australia’s response to the Department of Health’s consultation endorses the direction of the draft Primary Health Care 10 year Plan and welcomes its recognition of the key role research can and must play if reforms are to be achieved. Research Australia has  recommended a sustained investment in translational primary care research that is commensurate with the reform task outlined by the 10 Year Plan.

Research Australia has recommended the creation of an Institute for Primary Health Care Translational Research and Innovation and we have outlined in our response to specific questions the critical role this Institute could play in the implementation of the 10 Year Plan. We propose the development of a primary health care research agenda, supporting each action area of the 10 Year Plan. The Institute would be responsible for delivery of this research agenda.

Read Research Australia’s submission here.

Preparing for the next Digital Health Strategy

Research Australia has responded to an invitation from the Australian Digital Health Agency to provide input to the Agency’s planning for the next digital health strategy, due to commence in 2022.

Reflecting on the current Digital Health Strategy, Research Australia has suggested the existing seven pillars are still relevant, and proposed consultation on the new strategy be accompanied by an update on progress on the 2018 Framework for Action. We have also suggested the are some lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic about the role digital technologies play in health and the capacity for greater advances when the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments share data and cooperate. An example from the pandemic is national vaccine certificates able to be loaded on State government check in apps.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Research can help address obesity

Research Australia has used its submission to the Australian Government’s draft Obesity Prevention Strategy 2022-2032 to make the case for a specific research strategy to support the Obesity Prevention Strategy.

An Obesity Research Strategy would identify research priorities and could include research to test and develop interventions and undertake comparative effectiveness studies and clinical trials. The research strategy should be developed with the relevant stakeholders: consumers, care providers and policy makers.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Research Australia supports voluntary National IP Framework for university research commercialisation

Research Australia has welcomed the Australian Government’s proposal for a standardised Intellectual Property Framework to streamline the commercialisation of university research, but has opposed the Framework being made mandatory.

In a joint submission with Medicines Australia, MTAA and AusBiotech, Research Australia has proposed a pilot of the IP Framework to collect information about how and where it is useful, which could be used to evaluate and refine the contracts and processes. We have also called for the Department to extend the consultation process and organise a series of sector-specific workshops to allow all stakeholders to explore the potential issues of a standard IP Framework in detail.

Read the submission here.

A new Strategy for the MRFF

Research Australia’s submission in response to the consultation on the new MRFF Strategy 2021-26 and related Priorities has proposed several critical changes:

    • It has emphasised the need for the Strategy to provide more guidance about how the MRFF should be invested.
    • Greater engagement with health systems in the states and territories is essential, as is a focus on preventive health.
    • The Strategy needs to address how evidence arising from the research and innovation funded by the MRFF is embedded into the health system.
    • The new MRFF strategy should identify and address gaps in skills and capability that prevent the implementation of evidence into practice into our health system.
    • Infrastructure funding priorities for the MRFF should be developed in consultation with Department of Education Skills and Employment and state and territory governments, to ensure research infrastructure is funded where needed and complements other programs and initiatives.
    • The Strategy should propose a mechanism for better differentiating the funding programs of the NHMRC and the MRFF. The Strategy should also propose the development of a national HMR strategy to better coordinate funding for HMR from all sources, in much the same way the first strategy proposed a whole of government approach to addressing funding for the full cost of research.
    • COVID-19 has highlighted the particular difficulties facing early- and mid-career researchers. The Strategy could commit the MRFF to considering how the design of the MRFF’s funding programs could better support EMCRs.
    • The effects of COVID-19 in our region provide the opportunity for the strategy to consider how Australia can use its research capability to support our neighbours’ response to and recovery from COVID-19, as an exemplar for broader engagement on regional health issues.

Read Research Australia’s submission here.

The new MRFF Strategy, for the period from 2021-2026 was subsequently published on 2 November. It is available here.   More information about the MRFF Strategies and Priorities is available on our website here.

National Medicines Policy- researchers as partners

Research Australia’s submission to the review of the National Medicines Policy has made the case for researchers to be formally recognised as partners in the Policy alongside government, industry, healthcare providers and consumers. We have also supported the expansion of the policy to include vaccines and new health technologies. Our submission provides examples of how the Policy can be more consumer-centric, by making better use of the data already collected to understand consumer behaviour in relation to medicines.

Read Research Australia’s submission.

Changes to MRFF investments and disbursements

The Investment Funds Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 will:

    • change the way the MRFF is invested,
    • allow the annual disbursements from the MRFF to be set for a period of up to five years, and
    • change the period for the MRFF Strategy and Priorities to six years and 3 years respectively (currently 5years and 2 years.)

In its submission to the The Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee Inquiry, Research Australia has welcomed the changes, which have the potential to increase the funds available from the MRFF to fund research and innovation and provide greater stability. Research Australia has urged the MRFF Act be amended to make it explicit that the capital value of the MRFF is to be maintained in the long term.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Sector support for Patent Box

As the national peak for the whole of the health and medical research pipeline, Research Australia was pleased to convene a broad cross-section of health innovators including Medicines AustraliaAusBiotech, and the BioMelbourne Network to develop a unified position on the Patent Box tax treatment. Together we have issued the following joint statement.

Joint Statement of support for an Australian Patent Box

Australia’s health innovators support the introduction of a Patent Box, and we welcome this initiative by the Australian Government. With the right policy settings, a Patent Box will ensure Australian discoveries in health are developed here, ensuring Australia captures the opportunity for new industries and jobs in health innovation. We look forward to working with Treasury to ensure the design of the patent box adequately incentivises Australian health innovators to develop and manufacture their ideas onshore.

This collective statement is made by Research Australia, Medicines Australia, AusBiotech, BioMelbourne Network and the Medical Technology Association of Australia. In short, we represent a broad cross-section of health innovators. Our combined membership conducts most health-related research and development (R&D) activities in Australia with the objective of discovering and delivering better health outcomes and an enhanced health system for Australian patients and the world. This membership includes universities, research institutes, consumers, and small, medium and large companies.

What is a Patent Box?

A Patent Box is a tax concession that provides a lower tax rate for income derived from certain forms of intellectual property (IP), typically patents. The policy goal of patent boxes is to promote R&D and the commercialisation of IP.

Key Points

  • We strongly support the introduction of a Patent Box in Australia. Many of us have advocated for the introduction of a Patent Box for several years.
  • We acknowledge the need for the design of the Patent Box to be consistent with the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) Action 5 Minimum Standard.
  • The UK’s patent box provides a model for Australia which is superior in many ways to the model proposed in the Australian Treasury’s Discussion Paper.
  • The Government should establish an expert working group with industry representation to support the design and implementation of the Patent Box.

Download the joint statement here.

Research Australia will continue to work with the Government and the Treasury to support the further design and implementation of the patent box.

Research Australia’s submission in response to the Treasury consultation is available here.

Research Australia monitoring important new MRFF legislation

The Government introduced the Investment Funds Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 into Parliament on 25 August. If passed, it will, among other things, fix the amount of funding disbursed from the MRFF for five years at $650 million per annum. At the end of the five-year period, the investment performance of the MRFF will be assessed to determine if sufficient earnings have accumulated over the period to raise the annual rate of disbursement. This five-year review period will become a permanent feature of the MRFF.

The MRFF 10-year Investment Plan introduced by the Government in the 2019 Budget has allocated roughly $550 million per annum over the period to 2027-28. The proposed legislative change will allow these commitments to be met, while providing approximately $100 million per annum for new commitments and programs.

This change is about reducing the volatility in MRFF disbursements that arises because of the link to annual investment returns. This volatility caused the Government to tip in $175 million to MRFF disbursements in December last year to keep the MRFF 10-year Plan on track.

Research Australia will be closely monitoring performance of the MRFF and continuing to advocate for fund growth to mirror the growth of the health and medical research sector. While fixing the disbursements, as is proposed by the legislation, provides certainty as to how much we can expect to see disbursed from the MRFF every year, we are seeking clarity as to whether this amount will be indexed. At a bare minimum, the MRFF should keep pace with inflation. Research Australia members remain concerned that other key funding streams like the ARC and NHMRC are not indexed to CPI, meaning they don’t keep pace with inflation and, in real terms, are funds in decline.

The Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee is undertaking an Inquiry into the Bill and is due to report back to the Senate by 14 October.

For further information or to contribute to Research Australia’s submission, please contact Lucy Clynes, General Manager at lucy.clynes@researchaustralia.org

A patent box tax concession for Australia

Research Australia welcomed the Government’s announcement in the May 2021 Budget that it would introduce a patent box tax concession for the medical and biotechnology sector. As part of the further development of this proposal, the Australian Treasury has issued a consultation paper, outlining the key features. Research Australia’s response addresses several major concerns with the proposal including the focus on incentivising licensing but not manufacturing, and limiting eligibility to patents granted in Australia.

We are working with our membership and other key stakeholders across the sector, and look forward to engaging further with Treasury as the development of the patent box continues.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.