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
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.
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.
Wednesday 23 September 2020
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
Impact of COVID-19 on health and medical researchers – one of Australia’s crucial lines of defence
More than half of Australia’s health and medical research workforce face job insecurity according to a report released by sector’s national peak alliance, Research Australia.
The report, The Impact of COVID-19 on Health and Medical Researchers, details the short term nature of careers in what should be regarded as a critical national capability.
In unprecedented numbers, health and medical researchers have been rapidly redeployed to work on COVID-19 – but it has come at a cost. This sudden and necessary mass pivoting of so many researchers away from business as usual, coupled with the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, has thrown existing projects and their funding streams off course.
“No one is immune to the effects of this pandemic. Laboratory work can’t be done from home, social distancing restricts access to patients and without access to hospitals and clinics, many researchers have struggled to recruit new participants in studies. It can take weeks and months and additional funding to restart projects, or valuable research will be lost.
“COVID-19 has been a wakeup call to the health and medical research sector for the need to not only sustain and enhance Australia’s world-class research capability but increase its resilience, flexibility and sustainability.
“Beyond immediate action, there is a clear need for long-term reframing of the system’s architecture. The pandemic has forced us to look at the challenges facing Australian medical research and consider how we can improve the not only the framework for investment in medical research but importantly to enjoy the considerable opportunities that this sector offers the country,” said Research Australia Managing Director and CEO Nadia Levin.
The key findings of the report are:
- 90% of medical researchers were supportive of the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic, overwhelmingly agreeing that the response has been both timely and effective.
- Nearly 70% of medical researchers expect their research to be affected by COVID-19 beyond 2020. Nearly half (47.7%) of those who expect to be affected anticipate they will be unable to complete current projects. More investigation is needed to understand the extent to which currently funded research programs may never be completed or may need to be restarted at a later date.
- Medical researchers experience high rates of job insecurity. A majority (54.5%) are employed on fixed term contracts, with this ratio higher for early and mid-career researchers. Across the broader Australian population only 5.2% of people with permanent employment were employed on fixed term contracts.
- Only 34.8% of researchers were not currently applying or about to apply for funding.
- Nearly two thirds of medical researchers (62.5%) support a longer-term restructure of Australia’s heath and medical research funding framework.
A copy of Research Australia’s Report is available here.
Research Australia Media Contact: Lucy Clynes on 0404 068 912 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Report on Australian COVID-19 Research: From vaccines to aircon filters
Since the coronavirus hit Australia’s shores, health and medical researchers have been rapidly redeployed in unprecedented numbers to support the national response.
Research Australia, the national peak body for health and medical research, has released the first report in its COVID-19 series showcasing the incredible breadth of Australia’s COVID-19 research.
“Australians are rightly proud of our world-leading vaccine projects. There’s incredible work being done beyond the lab too – everything from guidelines for breastfeeding mothers to filters that have the potential to remove the coronavirus from air conditioning systems,” said Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin.
“The true range of COVID-19 medical research is not evident to the researchers themselves, let alone governments and the general public who are relying on our medical researchers to get us through this pandemic.
“In this report we look at over 200 research projects to demonstrate the depth and breadth of COVID-19 research underway in Australia right now,” Nadia Levin said.
The volume of coronavirus medical research is testament to long-term investment in Australia’s medical research capacity, but that it had come at a cost.
“The sudden ‘downing of tools’ that must happen when researchers are called upon to pivot their research towards an urgent pandemic throws existing projects, and their funding, off course. Like other parts of the economy, health and medical research is suffering.
“Research Australia is already talking to its members about how we re-design a medical research system which can withstand these crises because there is a very real possibility COVID-19 won’t be the only pandemic we see in our lifetime,” Nadia Levin said.
The full report is available here: COVID-19: How Australia’s health and medical research sector is responding
Media contact: Lucy Clynes, General Manager, Research Australia on 0404 068 912 or email@example.com
Research Australia Managing Director and CEO, Nadia Levin, presented Research Australia’s position on the COVIDSafe app to the Croakey readership.
Research Australia supports use of the COVIDSafe app. If properly utilised by the Government and Australians, the app will likely prove to be a highly effective tool against the spread of COVID-19.
Please click here to read the full article on Croakey.
Invitation to participate in our survey – The IMPACT of COVID-19 on research
Research Australia is working with its members across the pipeline to compile a comprehensive report for Australian governments to fully understand:
1) the contribution the health and medical research innovation sector is making to the response to COVID-19 and
2) the impact COVID-19 is having on the sector
We continue to collect examples of COVID-19 related research for the first and we thank you for the ongoing contributions you are forwarding.
We now ask for your input to the second focus area. We have designed a brief survey to gain insight into the impact of the pandemic from the viewpoint of researchers and innovators across the whole sector. Please complete the survey and forwarding it to others in your networks ASAP – it will only take 10 to 15 minutes.
We believe it is vital governments fully understand the different effects COVID-19 is having right across our sector and this is your opportunity to contribute. We need them to know about the impact COVID-19 is having on you, your research, and your teams.
At the moment this impact has no visibility – you can help fix this.
The survey is available here.
About the survey
The survey questions have been developed by Research Australia in partnership with Deakin University. Non-identifiable data will be transferred to Deakin University for analyses, report writing and publication of findings as aggregated data in peer-review publications. Submission of the survey implies consent.
If you have any complaints about any aspect of the project, the way it is being conducted or any questions about your rights as a research participant, then you may contact The Human Research Ethics Office, Deakin University, Telephone: 9251 7129, firstname.lastname@example.org Please quote project number [HEAG-H 71_2020].
For further information on this study please see the Plain Language Statement.
On Thursday 30 January 2020, Telstra Health and Research Australia co-hosted an event highlighting the vital role of digital technology in Australia’s changing health system. Research Australia members and Telstra Health partners from across the entire health and medical research pipeline convened to network and share their thoughts on this important subject over a drink to see in the new year.
Telstra Health’s Managing Director and Research Australia Board Director, Professor Mary Foley AM and Nadia Levin, Research Australia’s CEO and Managing Director, both spoke at the event sharing their views on the developing role of information technology in all aspects of health and health and medical research.
Professor Foley provided her insights on Telstra Health’s role supporting governments, health system managers, and healthcare providers to deliver high quality, equitable, and accessible care in an increasingly complex and specialised health system.
Nadia Levin highlighted the growing need for Australia’s health sector to utilise the many revolutionary benefits current and future digital information technologies can provide. Nadia gave examples from Research Australia’s members making ground-breaking progress in digital technology and later took a moment away from space medicine to focus on the patient, who is at the core of all health and medical research. Focusing on current health outcomes, Nadia acknowledged how something as simple as a digital sensor in an incontinence pad can positively impact a patient in aged care.
The evening included a Q&A session with an interactive audience wanting further discussion on the importance of addressing Australia’s health data privacy concerns. The Frontiers Health and Medical Research funding initiative was also a hot topic of discussion with attendees highlighting the need for greater acknowledgement of the innovative and research-based nature of digital information technology.