Clearing the pathway for global clinical trials 

Australia’s world-class research community and strong health system, along with low COVID-19 infection rates, should be a beacon, positioning Australia as the preferred global destination for clinical trials.

We have been working with our members from across the pipeline including Novo Nordisk, GSK, PRAXIS Australia and many others to shine a light on the opportunities (and address the challenges) to attract global clinical trials to Australia.

It is fitting that today on International Clinical Trials Day, Research Australia is pleased to publish our report;

Clearing the pathway for global clinical trials

Improving the environment for clinical trials enables Australian patients to benefit from the latest medicines and technologies developed both in Australia and overseas. It also helps Australian health and medical research to flourish in a competitive and lucrative world market.

This report outlines how we can unlock Australia’s potential through 7 key areas:

  1. A world-first, national approach to decentralised clinical trials
  2. Developing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for clinical trial approvals
  3. How to cost and budget for clinical trials
  4. Demonstrating Australia’s high-quality clinical trials capacity to the world
  5. Incorporating health data into Australia’s clinical trial system
  6. The world’s most highly skilled clinical trials workforce 
  7. Working with consumers to build better clinical trials

To read and/or download the report please click here.

MEDIA RELEASE – MORE FUNDING IS WELCOME BUT RESEARCH MUST UNDERPIN AGED CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH REFORM

11 May 2021

Aged care and mental health reform

The national peak body for Australian health and medical research has welcomed additional Government investment in key policy areas including aged care and mental health in the Federal Budget.

However, more thought must be given to the critical role health and medical research plays in health reform.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said, “While more investment in aged care and mental health is undoubtedly welcome, we haven’t yet seen a clear line of funding for the critical role of research in the development and implementation of new programs.

“Within the $2.3bn Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, there is $117.2 million for data collection, in part to establish the evidence base for reforms. We will be seeking the advice of key mental health research experts to understand how this data can inform continuous, evidence-based improvement to Australians’ mental health care.

“The Aged Care Royal Commission recommended more funding for research into aged care and healthy ageing. We don’t currently have detail on how that recommendation has been reflected in the Aged Care Reform Package.

“Research Australia has brought together an Aged Care Working Group with leading aged care researchers, health economists, service providers and consumer representation. We’ve formed this Group to put the Aged Care Reform Package under the microscope and provide expert advice to Government on how research can underpin aged care reform.”

Health Innovation

Research Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to patent box tax treatment to encourage health innovators to manufacture their discoveries onshore.

“Research Australia has been a long-term advocate for a patent box policy. It has been proven to work overseas and it, along with the R&D Tax Incentive, will help in building local medical manufacturing and reducing Australia’s reliance on medical imports,” Nadia Levin said.

Research Australia has also welcomed the commitment to funding to develop an onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability in Australia.

“This is an important step towards a national capability to ensure Australia is part of a ballooning global supply chain of future medicines and vaccines which will be mRNA-based.

“A nationally significant capability like this requires a coordinated, national approach. We need to draw in Australian mRNA experts from universities across the country, Australian industry partners already doing work in mRNA and the states who are already progressed in looking at their own local mRNA capabilities.

“Research Australia was one of the first groups to call for a feasibility study into mRNA technology because we know that this complex capability cannot be delivered by researchers or industry acting alone.

“We also know that mRNA is not just about vaccines. With further research, RNA has a potential application in cancer immunotherapy, regenerative medicine and genome editing. It can be used to treat genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, cancers, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

“An onshore mRNA capability is a golden opportunity to match Australia’s world-class research capability with commercial capability,” Nadia Levin said.

The MRFF and the NHMRC

The Health Budget has also delivered key funding with the Medical Research Future Fund now fully matured and on track to deliver $2.4 billion in research funding over the next four years.

“Australians deserve access to the latest and best treatments and therapies delivered by the world’s most innovative health system.

While the sustained investment in the MRFF in tonight’s budget is a welcome step towards this, funding for the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Research Council fail to even keep pace with inflation.

“In real terms, funding for the NHMRC and ARC is declining. The NHMRC plays a unique and vital role in funding medical research separate to the MRFF and at a minimum, its funding must keep pace with inflation if it is to guarantee the pipeline of health and medical research so vital to our national health and wealth,” said Nadia Levin.

Higher education

Australian universities are critical to carrying out health and medical research in Australia. More than half of Australian health and medical research is conducted in Australian universities and they provide a skilled workforce to the health and medical research sector.

“Without a national plan for the safe return of international students, there continues to be a lost revenue stream for universities which will ultimately start to impact how much health and medical research Australia can do. And whilst last year’s $1bn funding commitment was welcome, long-term sustainable funding is needed if we’re to keep pace with global advances in medicine.

“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.” Nadia Levin said.

The budget announcements are part of the equation, Research Australia will continue its advocacy efforts, influencing smarter investment in health and medical research and innovation.

Health and medical research must be seen and treated as the critical national capability it is. Not only to ensure our health and quality of life, but as a key driver of our economy.

www.researchaustralia.org

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research – representing the entire pipeline from fundamental research through to health innovation and commercialisation.

Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404 068 912

Budget Update 2021

Summary

The economic impact of COVID-19 continues to dominate the Australian Budget, with tonight’s Budget, the second handed down in just seven months. Like the last one, this is a big spending Budget, but the focus has shifted from providing immediate stimulus to longer term recovery and Australia’s future prosperity. In the health sector, policy reform is focused on aged care and mental health.

Apart from COVID, the biggest health issue the Australian Government has had to grapple with in the last 12 months is aged care. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety provided the Government with 148 recommendations earlier this year. Until tonight, the Government had not provided a substantial response to the report.

This Budget outlines an additional $17.7 billion over five years, seeking to address the needs of aged Australians living at home and those in residential care. This equates to around half of what is called for overall in the Royal Commission’s Final Report. The Prime Minister’s press release states the Government has accepted 126 of the 148 recommendations, we are awaiting the Government’s detailed response to the Royal Commission – particularly the recommendations for dedicated funding for aged care and ageing research. The proposals from the Royal Commissioners in relation to funding for innovation and research have not been funded in this Budget.

Mental Health has also been under the spotlight, including the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. The Productivity Commission provided the Government with a report last year on what could be done to improve mental health, and earlier this year the Department of Health and Ageing consulted on what measures from the report should be implemented, and when.

Tonight’s budget provides $2.3 billion over four years from 2021-22 for the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, including initiatives to be progressed with states and territories for a new national agreement on mental health and suicide prevention. The Government has indicated that it has accepted all the recommendations of the Productivity Commission Report on Mental Health and that the funding announced tonight is only phase one of its response. The only research specific funding announced as part of this package is establishment of an Eating Disorders Research Centre as part of a $26 million package of funding for eating disorders. Further funding for research-related aspects of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations may follow in future budgets. There is $117.2 million for data collection, in part to establish the evidence base for reforms. We will be seeking the advice of key mental health research experts to understand how this data can inform continuous, evidence-based improvement in mental health care for Australians.

While Preventative Health has gained attention from the Government in the last couple of years, the National Preventive Health Strategy is still very much a work in progress and there is only very limited additional funding for preventive health in tonight’s Budget. There is $1.9 million in 2021-22 for preventive health research and scoping activities, including a national health literacy strategy, to inform the National Preventive Health Strategy. Research Australia has previously advocated the need to improve health literacy (and digital health literacy) as a key measure to address health inequity and enable all Australians to better use technology to manage their health.

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 drove a new focus in last year’s Budget on manufacturing, with the announcement of $1.3 billion over five years from 2020-21 for the Modern Manufacturing Initiative. While the Government seems satisfied this is enough, Research Australia believes more needs to be done, and has proposed raising annual Government spending on R&D to 0.75% of GDP, setting a target for Australia to become a net exporter of pharmaceuticals by 2035, and using the Government’s influence as a key buyer of products and services to boost Australian innovation.

A key measure in this regard is a patent box; a tax deduction provided to companies that manufacture in Australia using Australian developed IP (patents). The patent box will only apply to income derived from Australian medical and biotechnology patents, with consideration to be given to the clean energy sector. It provides a concessional effective corporate tax rate of 17 per cent, with the concession applying from income years starting on or after 1 July 2022. Such a scheme has operated in the UK for many years and is designed to support high value manufacturing in Australia, complementing the R&D Tax Incentive. Research Australia has been a long-term advocate of patent box tax treatment, along with CSL and others in our sector, and this is a significant win for health and medical research.

Much has been said recently about mRNA manufacture of vaccines and therapeutics, with the Victorian and NSW Governments both announcing support and Victoria proposing to invest $50 million. In the Budget tonight the Government has announced that it, too, is acting. It will provide an undisclosed amount of funding (commercially sensitive) to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to work with the Department of Health to develop an onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability in Australia. Research Australia called for  such a commitment from the Government in our Pre-Budget Submission and we have been calling for this facility privately and publicly, to encourage this sovereign capability .

While the MRFF funding proceeds as outlined in the Government’s MRFF 10 year Plan, the funding to the NHMRC’s Medical Research Endowment Account continues to decline in real terms.

Medical Research Future Fund

Funding from the MRFF

The MRFF reached the target of $20 billion of capital in August 2020. Tonight’s Budget sees this balance maintained over the forward estimates.

Forecast spending from the MRFF remains largely as expected over the forward estimates. While only $455 million is available from the MRFF to fund research and innovation in 2021/22 due to lower-than-expected investment returns, the Government is maintaining spending this financial year by providing an additional $175 million for MRFF funding from consolidated revenue (announced in the December 2020 mid-year budget). At this stage the Government expects the investment returns to recover this financial year, with $650 million available to fund medical research and innovation in 2022/23.

MRFF expenditure

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
MRFF Funding 2021 Budget 579.9 455.0 650.0 650.0 650.0

NHMRC and ARC Funding

In Research Australia’s Pre- Budget Submission and our Pre-Election Statement we continue to call for increases in funding for the NHMRC and ARC’s research programs. This Budget sees both schemes continue to decline in real terms, which is of genuine concern to the health and medical research community.

NHMRC Programs

The 2021/22 Budget reveals funding for the NHMRC’s programs continuing to grow very slightly, and only slightly faster than was forecast in last year’s budget. The increase in this financial year is 1,1%, with annual increases of around 1% thereafter. This is lower than the forecast CPI of 3.5%% for 2020-21 and CPI of between 1.75% and 2.5% expected in subsequent years. In effect, NHMRC funding continues to decline in real terms, as it has done for many years now. Research Australia remains concerned about this deficit because research and its outcomes is a long-term commitment.

NHMRC MREA Funding

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
Funding to MREA

2021 Budget

853,864 863,266 875,362 887,588 899,124
Funding to MREA

2020 Budget

853,864 862,412 872,770 884,960 N/A

ARC Programs

The Australian Research Council’s Funding Programs are critical to Australian publicly funded research including to the life sciences and medical technologies.

Over the forward estimates, the funding to the ARC for the Discovery Program increases slightly each financial year and while higher than in last year’s Budget, the funding is at significantly lower levels than forecast in the 2019 Budget. In real terms funding to the Discovery Program declines over the forward estimates. Again, a cause for concern.

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
Discovery 2021 Budget 483,272 489,188 494,922 501,162 509,432
Discovery 2020 Budget 483.272 487.016 487.860 490.610
Discovery 2019 Budget 513.542 525.537 538.350 N/A

The ARC Linkage Program has been singled out by the Government as an important component of Australia’s innovation system, and it was announced that from 1 July 2016 the Program would be open to continuous applications and decision making would be fast tracked.

Funding over the forward estimates is higher than forecast in last year’s budget, but future years fail to keep pace with inflation.

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
Linkage 2021 Budget 323.166 325.454 329.948 334.109 339.622
Linkage 2020 Budget 322.181 323.871 325.240 327.074 N/A
Linkage 2019 Budget 288.788 295.246 301.741 N/A N/A

 While not funding ‘medical and dental research’, the ARC Linkage program remains important to the health and medical research and innovation sectors.

Research Support

In addition to providing funding for the ARC Linkage Program, the Department of Education and Training also provides funding to universities to help cover the indirect costs of research.

In last year’s Budget, the Government used the Research Support Program to provide a vital injection of $1 billion into higher education research in the current financial year.  No further injection is provided in this year’s Budget and funding in is actually lower than was forecast in the 2019 Budget.

Research Support Program

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
2021 Budget 1918.298 930.659 942.775 958.326 974.143
2020 Budget 1918.298 926.490 929.270 938.107 N/A
2019 Budget 920.573 941.748 962.455 N/A N/A
2018 Budget 1,018.879 1,042.302 N/A N/A N/A

Funding for the indirect costs of research funded by the MRFF is now provided from the Research Support Program. With the MRFF providing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to universities over the next few years, beyond this financial year, a substantial increase in the Research Support Program is needed just to maintain the levels of research support funding for research projects at their current already inadequate level. The cuts to the Research Support Program beyond the one-off boost in 2020-21 represent a real and continued threat to the capacity of our universities to undertake vital health and medical research.

The issue of indirect research costs remains unresolved for the whole health and medical research sector and indeed publicly funded research more broadly. Research Australia continues to call for a whole of government approach to the issue of funding indirect research costs. Research Australia proposes that the Chief Scientist lead a review of the funding of indirect research costs to establish a sustainable and equitable funding program. In the short term, the pool of funding for the Research Support Program must be increased substantially.

Research Training

The Research Training Program (RTP) provides funding to universities to support higher degree by research students (mostly PhDs). Funding for the RTP also declined in absolute terms between the 2019 and 2020 Budgets, and have only partly recovered in this year’s Budget.

Research Training Program

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
2021 Budget 1054.981 1069.182 1083.160 1100.967 1119.137
2020 Budget 1054.981 1064.392 1067.585 1077.738 N/A
2019 Budget 1057.595 1081.921 1105.710 N/A N/A

Industry PhDs

The Department of Industry will provide $1.1 million over two years from 2020-21 to create new employment pathways for students and boost financial incentives for universities to enrol students in ‘Industry PhDs’. This measure will introduce an additional weighting in the Research Training Program funding formula for PhD students who undertake an industry placement.

Research Commercialisation

In last year’s Budget the Government committed funding for a scoping study for a University Research Commercialisation Scheme to better translate and commercialise university research outputs. The development of the Scheme is still in train and there is no funding for the Scheme in this year’s Budget. It looks like this might have to wait until next year. Research Australia remains actively engaged in consultation with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on this Scheme.

CRC Program

Funding forecasts for the CRC Program reflect a shift in some funding between 2019-20 and 2020-21. Beyond that, they are slightly lower over the forward estimates.

CRC Program $million

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
2021 Budget 222,777 189,980 197,815 191,042 193,807
2020 Budget 234,168 189,040 186,378 188,599 N/A
2019 Budget 187,356 192,239 191,223 N/A N/A

The CRC Program is important to health and medical research and innovation with about one third of the CRCs funded over the life of the program being health related.

Conclusion

Research Australia will continue to provide analysis and comment in the coming days and weeks as well as seek further input from across the membership for your reactions and insight into the policy and funding announced for our sector; and how it affects or enhances your research and related activities as a result.

Ends …..

 

 

 

 

 

Frontiers Award Nominee Professor Maher Gandhi featured in The Australian

New hope in fight with fatal blood cancer

The Australian
Mackenzie Scott, Tuesday 23 March 2021

A cancer breakthrough developed in Brisbane is expected to give new hope to patients suffering a rare and deadly form of blood cancer that affects the brain and nervous system.

The dual precision treatment designed at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital by haematologist Maher Gandhi is expected to revolutionise the care given to those diagnosed with a non-Hodgkin‘s lymphoma called Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma.

Professor Gandhi has spent the past five years researching the disease, which affects between 10 and 20 Australians a year. It is the first large-scale study into PCNSL conducted worldwide as part of an Australian-led international consortium, which found that the genomic make-up of the lymphoma was fundamentally different from any of the 60 other types.

“I remember when I was a trainee doctor, seeing patients like this, there was always a lot of excitement because the disease is quite rare. It was alongside a lot of disappointment, too, because it was so hard to treat,” Professor Gandhi said.

“Some of the rare cancers get very neglected. It just made me very passionate to try to extend the advances we’ve had in other forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to these ones.”

PCNSL, which is confined to the brain, eyes and cerebrospinal fluid,mostly affects people in their 50s and 60s who are ­immuno-compromised.

Chemotherapy and radiation are largely ineffective.

Brisbane grandfather Scott Griffiths, 46, was diagnosed with the disease in 2018 after a bout of glandular fever.

While the virus wouldn’t normally increase the risk of developing the cancer, a kidney and pancreas transplant in 2010 had left him susceptible.

Professor Gandhi prescribed a dual treatment that included a daily dose of small molecule chemotherapy drug Ibrutinib for 10 weeks alongside a vaccine of cells from a healthy person who had previously had the virus.

The goal was to try to kill the cancer slowly and re-educate the immune system how to function.

“I was really depressed when I was diagnosed,” Mr Griffiths said. “I thought I was going to die.”

“I may not be here for a long time, the tumour could come back but hopefully I can get back to work and do something for myself.”

The treatment is in its third year of clinical trials and the research is about to be published in the American Society of Haematology’s journal Blood.

Professor Gandhi is also in the running for Research Australia’s prestigious National Health and Medical Research Awards.

The full article can be viewed here.

@MackenzieJScott

MEDIA RELEASE – Australia’s health and medical research and innovation sector welcomes new Chief Scientist

10 November 2020

The national peak body for Australia’s health and medical research and innovation sector is delighted to offer congratulations to Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM FAA FTSE on her appointment as Australia’s new Chief Scientist.  

Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin said, This appointment is a celebration of Dr Foley’s high regard as a renowned physicist and extensive experience as CSIRO’s Chief Scientist and importantly, deep understanding of the scientific landscape and the contribution it does and should make to society. 

Dr Foley’s extensive contributions to areas such as understanding of superconductors has been influential in translating fundamental research into commercial outcomes. The health and medical research community looks forward to working with Dr Foley to translate our incredible lifesciences research into health systems outcomes. 

“I would like to warmly thank outgoing Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO for his significant leadership and endeavours during his tenure. Over the past five years, Dr Finkel AO has truly cemented his position as a friend to the health and medical research community, said Nadia Levin. 

Research Australia has welcomed the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday that Dr Foley’s role will be to facilitate collaboration between industry and the science and research community. 

“Research Australia has long encouraged collaboration between research, science and industry and we believe Dr Foley is poised to lead Australia’s science and innovation community as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The economic value that health and medical research and innovation offers this country should not be underestimated.  

Working together, we’re confident Australia can lead the world in health innovation and we believe the chance to maximise the health and wealth opportunities within the innovation and science sector more broadly, is now.  

We look forward to working with Dr Foley to achieve this, said Nadia Levin. 

Research Australia is the national peak body for Australian health and medical research and innovation. http://www.researchaustralia.org
Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404 068 912 

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

 

Notice of Research Australia AGM 2020

Dear Members
On behalf of the Research Australia Board, you are invited to attend the virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday 3rd December 2020 at 9h30am-10h00am AEDT.

During this meeting we will consider the following agenda items:

ORDINARY BUSINESS

ANNUAL OVERVIEW

ANNUAL ACCOUNTS

To consider the annual report, financial statements and report of the Directors and Auditor for the year ended 30 June 2020.

RESULTS OF DIRECTOR APPOINTMENT/S

To acknowledge returning Directors and the appointment of new Director/s in accordance with the Company’s Constitution.

OTHER BUSINESS

Any other business that may be brought forward at a general meeting in accordance with the Constitution.

Please note: A Member who is entitled to vote at the meeting has a right to appoint a proxy and should use the proxy form available here.  One vote is entitled per member organisation.  Please sign and date the proxy form and email to admin@researchaustralia.org by Monday 30 November 2020.

Please register here and we look forward to connecting with you on the day.

With best regards

Nadia Levin

Managing Director 

Research Australia

MEDIA RELEASE – Budget shows strong support for health and medical research as a critical national capability

MEDIA RELEASE

Budget shows strong support for health and medical research as a critical national capability

Australian health and medical researchers have cautiously welcomed a suite of support measures contained in this year’s Budget.

Higher education Research Support Program

“A one-off injection of $1 billion this financial year in support for university research through the Research Support Program will go some way to stemming the loss of crucial early and mid-career medical researcher jobs from our universities. While it is not the panacea to the problem, without this crucial injection of funds, we were at risk of losing a generation of Australian health and medical researchers – the minds behind the next Gardasil or Cochlear would never have been given the chance to save lives and boost our economy,” said Research Australia CEO and Managing Director, Nadia Levin.

More than half of all Australian health and medical research is undertaken in the higher education sector. It is clear that Australia can no longer rely so heavily on international student fees to subsidise university research.

“This funding is absolutely welcome in the short term, in the long term we need to look at effective partnerships between higher education, government, industry and philanthropy to create a more sustainable higher education sector,” said Nadia Levin.

Research and Development Tax Incentive

The Government will invest an additional $2 billion through the Research and Development Tax Incentive over the next four years to help innovative businesses that invest in research and development. This is welcome news for Australia’s medical innovators, those future job creators and exporters who will be so crucial to Australia’s post-pandemic economic recovery. It is achieved by winding back some of the proposed reforms to the RDTI legislation currently before the Senate.

“One of the key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have become overly reliant on global supply chains for vital materials, particularly medical supplies. The inclusion of medical products as a National Manufacturing Priority in the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative will help alleviate this sovereign risk.”

The MRFF and the NHMRC

The Health Budget has also delivered key funding with the Medical Research Future Fund now fully matured and on track to deliver $2.5 billion in research funding over the next four years.

“We remain concerned that the NHMRC is experiencing a decline in funding in real terms. The NHMRC plays a unique and vital role in funding medical research separate to the MRFF and at a minimum, its funding must keep pace with inflation if it is to guarantee the pipeline of health and medical research so vital to our national health and wealth,” said Nadia Levin. “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 who are grappling with the delays and disruptions caused by COVID-19.”

Research Australia Chairman, Chris Chapman said, “Last year’s forecast budget spending 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.”

Tonight’s budget announcements are part of the equation, Research Australia will continue its advocacy efforts, influencing smarter investment in health and medical research and innovation.

Health and medical research must be seen and treated as the critical national capability it is. Not only to ensure our health and quality of life, but as a key driver of our economy.

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

Media contact: Lucy Clynes 0404 068 912

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 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