Bill Ferris AC, Chair of Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) recently floated the possibility of using major high-impact large scale projects to drive innovation. “In developing the 2030 Strategic Plan, we hope to identify one or more major, game-changing, initiatives with scale that can deliver significant direct and spill-over benefits to the innovation system and broader economy”.

Submissions for the 2030 Strategic Plan are due by the end of May. Now’s the time to to look into the future of science in this country, and you can shape the work you’re going to be doing for the next 20-30 years.

We are after BIG IDEA 2030 suggestions to include in our submission that will tweak the interest of Government and aim to position Australia as a global leader by 2030.

Need somewhere to start?

  • Your BIG IDEA 2030 will need to include several disciplines and cross-sector collaboration across health and medical research and innovation
  • Assume budget and timeframe are not limitations
  • Think Moonshot, think Square Kilometre Array, think BIG!

Please send your BIG IDEA 2030 to and we’ll include it in the planning for our submission.
Continue reading “BIG IDEA 2030”

Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates

Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates. Many of the Terms of Reference have relevance beyond brain cancers, cancers with low survival rates and low incidence cancers; our submission approaches the Inquiry from this broader perspective.

Government funding available for health and medical research is finite. While cancers with low survival rates are undoubtedly worthy of more funding, any increase in funding for one area has implications for the funding available to other disease areas. Improvements in survival are related to global research rather than specifically to the volume or subject of Australian research, and it is important that Australian researchers and patients have access to, and contribute to this global effort. This is particularly relevant for low incidence cancers and other rare diseases, because the number of patients in Australia is likely to be low and appropriate research collaborators are in many cases likely to be based overseas. Thus, when allocating funding we also need to consider the level of funding available and the research activity undertaken globally.

Research Australia also suggests there is merit in looking at approaches taken by other countries. This includes strategies such as rare disease policies that have been established in more than 20 countries as a means of providing a policy framework for a considered and comprehensive approach to the provision of research, diagnosis and access to treatment for rare diseases. In an area where the only available therapies are often experimental, a single policy that brings research, diagnosis and treatment together is valuable.

Read the full Research Australia submission today.

Research Australia Events

2016 Research Australia
Health & Medical Research Awards

The 14th annual Research Australia Health and Medical Research Awards honoured some of the country’s top minds and big hearts for their incredible contribution to health and medical research in Australia.

Research Australia is proud to have had such an extraordinary night with incredible researchers who have distinguished themselves in their careers, be it early stage, mid career or through a lifelong commitment to HMR.

It is with great pleasure that we present the 2016 winners of the Research Australia Awards :



Recognises an Australian who has made an outstanding contribution to building Australia’s international reputation in the area of health and medical research, and fostering collaboration for better health.

Awarded to: Professor Ian Gust AO


Recognises an Australian from the media, a celebrity or member of the community who has raised community awareness about the benefits of health and medical research.

Awarded to: Brenda King, SIDS Stampede


Griffith logoRecognises an early researcher (no more than five years post PhD) whose paper/patent/discovery has already demonstrated its importance or impact.

Awarded to: Dr Rebecca Coll

Highly Commended: Dr Felicity Davis and Dr Michael Livingston


To recognise and encourage personal philanthropic donations over a period of time by an individual or family to health and medical research.

Awarded to: The McCusker Charitable Foundation


For the development of the most innovative method of gathering, making available, processing or interpreting data in a way that advances the sector.

Awarded to: Capital Markets CRC, Health Market Quality Team

Highly Commended: The National Breast Cancer Foundation and DreamLab (Vodafone and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research)


Recognises outstanding leadership by a corporation or business giving to and supporting health and medical research through relationships or partnership and commitment over time.

Awarded to: Volvo Car Australia


Created in 2014 to recognise the importance of the emerging field of health service research.

Awarded to: Professor Michael Barton OAM



With its accompanying grant of $80,000, has played a part in assisting some of Australia’s most important leaders and innovators in the medical research sphere. Its focus is on helping support career development with an emphasis on human health and Australian research.

Awarded to: Professor Prof Arthur Christopolous & Patrick Sexton


Previous Research Australia Health & Medical Research Award Winners

Some of the 2016 Award Nominees and their stories



Australian H&MR Research Facts

Funding health & medical research in Australia


  • $5.9 billion is spent on health and medical research (H&MR) in Australia each year
  • 18% of all Australian Research and Development (R&D) is spent on H&MR (Total R&D is around $33 billion)
  • 8% of all spending on health is spent on H&MR (Total health expenditure in 2013-14 was $154.6 billion)
  • 0.37% of GDP was spent on H&MR (Australian GDP in 2013-14 was $1,582 billion)
  • More than half of all Australian H&MR is undertaken in the higher education sector
  • H&MR accounts for one third of all R&D expenditure in higher education institutions
  • 19% of all H&MR expenditure is in the private sector (mostly on pharmaceutical R&D)

Expenditure by sector

The following table is an estimate of where H&MR expenditure occurs in Australia

Location of expenditure $million
Aust. Govt.
(including agencies)
States & Territories Higher Ed. Not For Profit Business Total
198 479 3,271 824 1,124 5,896
3% 8% 56% 14% 19% 100%

The estimates are complicated because they are:

  • based on ABS data and the ABS surveys the different sectors for different periods. Government and NFP data is for 2012/13; Higher Ed is for 2012 and Business is for 2013/14
  • the SEO of Health generally provides the most accurate number but the FOR of medical and health sciences is used for Business because most H&MR in industry is classified not under the SEO of health but under the SEO of manufacturing. The ABS data is not provided at sufficient detail to enable health R&D to be extracted from the SEO of manufacturing.

Australian Government

While only a relatively small proportion of H&MR is undertaken directly by the Australian Government it is responsible for providing the funding for a much larger proportion, particularly in higher education and Medical Research Institutes (MRIs). This includes funding provided through the NHMRC and ARC. It also includes funding provided to universities through the block grants system, which is tied to the volume of each university’s research and the number of research students.

Australian Government funding of H&MR through universities and MRIs

NHMRC Funding $850 million
ARC Funding contribution to HMR (10%) $85 million
Infrastructure Block Grants contribution to HMR (34%) $340 million
Total $1,275 million

Source: Australian Government Science Research and Innovation Tables 2015-16, Table 4

This estimate does not take into account taxation measures like the R&D Tax Incentive and programmes like the Department of Industry Innovation and Science Entrepreneurs Programme, which support the development and commercialisation of research generally, including new medicines, medical devices and therapies. It also doesn’t reflect other Commonwealth Government support provided to universities and MRIs which are used for new buildings and facilities that support H&MR.

State and Territory Governments

State and territory governments are responsible for funding research undertaken within the State and territory hospital systems; the provision of support to MRIs for the indirect costs of research; and and other programs to support R&D, a portion of which funds HMR. State and territory governments also provide capital funding for stand alone research institutions (eg. the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) and for organisations that combine research with health care deliver (eg. the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre).

It is likely that the total support provided to HMR significantly exceeds the $479 million per annum captured in the table above.

Higher Education

The bulk of Australian H&MR is conducted in the Australian higher education sector, and is funded by the Australian Government, philanthropy and universities own funds from other sources, including teaching revenue for the Australian Government and students. Approximately one third (34%) of all research expenditure by the higher education sector is on health and medical research.

Source: ABS 8111.0, Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia 2012, SEO Health ($3,270,969,000) divided by total expenditure ($9,609,736,000).

Not for Profit sector

The Not for Profit sector spent $960 million on R&D in 2012/13, of which $824 million (86%) was spent on the SEO of Health. The concentration of research in the non profit sector on H&MR reflects the dominance of this sector by Medical Research Institutes (MRIs); the next highest categories were Education and Training with $56 million and the Environment with $18 million.

Source: ABS 8109, Government and Private Non Profit Organisations, 2012-13 Table 3, PNP expenditure by SEO, 2012-13


Expenditure on health and medical research represents approximately 6% of total R&D spending by business.  Much of the R&D expenditure by businesses has an emphasis on the ‘D’ (Development) in R&D rather than research. For this reason it is captured in the broad SEO of Manufacturing rather than Health; the Field of Research (FoR) of Medical and Health Sciences is used in the above table to estimate business expenditure on H&MR.

Source: 8104 Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, 2013-14 Table 3, FoR Estimate of Business H&MR (Medical & Health Sciences $1,123,956,000) divided by total expenditure ($18,849.438,000)

More information contact Greg Mullins, Head of Policy,

Image credit: Professor Len Harrison, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute