Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Australia’s Innovation System. Innovation is crucial to making the most of Australia’s discoveries in health and medical research, developing new products, and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of Australia’s healthcare system. Research Australia has called for a national ‘whole of governments’ innovation strategy and the inclusion of innovation on the COAG agenda, as well as some specific measures to drive innovation in health.
In the May Budget the Federal Government announced that it was replacing a range of existing industry support programmes, including Commercialisation Australia, with the Entrepreneur’s Infrastructure Investment Programme. In June 2014 the Department of Industry launched a discussion paper on the Programme, and Research Australia made a submission. Research Australia’s submission emphasised the importance of building collaboration between publicly funded research organisations and private sector entrepreneurs, the importance of viewing researchers both as a resource to entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs in their own right, and suggested a number of measures which would support the successful commercialisation of Australian public research.
Research Australia today lodged its submission in response to the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Services and Programmes. The focus of the review is on measures to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the sector, and the terms of reference specifically include mental health research.
Research Australia’s submission has focused on the better integration of research into the design, delivery and evaluation of mental health programmes and services, and the benefits this can bring through improved effectiveness and efficiency. Specific measures include the more effective collection and use of data across mental health services and an investment in infrastructure to facilitate clinical trials and comparative effectiveness research.
The submission was developed with the assistance of an expert working group drawn from Research Australia’s membership, and their contribution is gratefully acknowledged.
The Australian Treasury released an exposure draft of changes to be made to the tax legislation to implement the Government’s policy to ensure that tax deductible donations are spent in Australia. Research Australia has previously raised concerns with Treasury about the impact this could have on health and medical research organisations. Special provision has been made in the exposure draft of the Bill to facilitate international collaboration in health and medical research, and while this is a welcome development there are further changes and improvements that are required if the provision is to work as intended. There are also some significant implications for Australian groups that are raising funds to support overseas research into rare diseases.
The South Australian Government issued a discussion paper seeking on the suitability of Social Impact Bonds to fund innovative new programs. Research Australia’s submission proposes the use of Social Impact Bonds to address the well recognised problem of translating research outcomes and discoveries into practice in the health system. Specifically, Research Australia believes that Social Impact Bonds could be an effective mechanism for funding and evaluating pilot projects and clinical trials designed to implement and evaluate new evidence based practices and interventions. The benefits of implementing successful new interventions are improved patient care and efficiency gains in the South Australian health care system.
Each year the Treasurer invites the Australian community to make submissions in relation to the preparation of the budget for the following financial year. Research Australia’s recommendation are:
- Maintain the aggregate real value of Commonwealth Government funding for health and medical research across all funding programs.
- Fund the implementation and monitoring of the McKeon Review recommendations.
- Increase funding for research to support the effective and rapid translation of new discoveries into practice.
- Increase funding for health systems research to increase our capacity to analyse and identify best practice for the Australian health care system and to increase research into the most successful, effective and efficient delivery mechanisms and structures for implementing best practice.
- Expand the mandate of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care to include efficiency as well as safety and quality, and provide incentives for health care providers to nominate existing practices and initiatives to the Commission for adoption as part of the Healthcare Standards.
- Increase funding for population health and preventive health research to improve the effectiveness of preventive health campaigns and identify emerging trends in the health and disease profile of the Australian population.
- Retain programs that support Australian research and development (R&D) and innovation, including Commercialisation Australia and the R&D tax incentive.
The Government has invited submissions on the draft Terms of Reference for the Financial System Inquiry. The Inquiry, to report to the Treasurer in November 2014, ‘will make recommendations to foster an efficient, competitive and flexible financial system, consistent with financial stability, prudence, integrity and fairness.’
Research Australia’s submission has sought to have the terms of reference amended to specifically include consideration of how the financial system can better support productive innovative companies and ideas, as an essential element in commercialising the outcomes of Australia’s scientific research.
The Government has established a National Commission of Audit (NCOA) to identify areas of waste and duplication in Commonwealth Government Expenditure. Research Australia has made a submission to the NCOA. The Government has given a commitment to protect funding for health and medical research, and Research Australia has sought to ensure that the Commission is aware of the breadth and extent of HMR funding, and that this goes far beyond NHMRC grants. Research Australia has also urged the Commission to support implementation of the McKeon Review’s recommendations as a means of making our health system safer, more effective and efficient; even small improvements in efficiency in the $140 billion health sector can generate significant savings.
In June 2013 the Australian Government issued a consultation paper seeking views on a proposal to assess the wider benefits of university based research. The paper proposed that a pilot exercise be undertaken in 2014 using case studies and quantitative data, and sought input on its design. Research Australia made a submission, urging a small scale ‘experimental’ approach using existing data to the greatest extent possible to test the feasibility and value of measuring research impact in this manner.
Unlike some other States, Western Australia’s Guardianship and Administration Act does not make provision for the participation in human research of individuals who are unable to make a reasonable judgment or decision for themselves.
Research Australia’s submission proposes the Act be amended to make specific provision for this purpose. Research Australia’s chief recommendations are that Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) be responsible for determining whether medical research is safe for individuals who are unable to make a reasonable judgment or decision for themselves to participate in; and that persons responsible be able to decide whether a person who is eligible to participate will do so.