Research Australia’s submission to the review of research policy and funding arrangements emphasises that the primary role of universities is the creation of new knowledge and that the application of new knowledge (of which commercialisation is one of the paths) is important but necessarily a secondary role. Programmes such as the Research Block Grants and the competitive grants programmes must maintain a primary focus on research. There is scope to simplify and improve these programmes and to better support innovation in research training.
Research Australia has responded to the Victorian Governments’ discussion paper on the Victorian medical technologies and pharmaceuticals sectors, proposing the Victoria capitalise on its existing expertise in health and medical research and significant infrastructure to take advantage of future growth in this sector. There is significant scope of the Victorian Government to complement and take advantage of the Australian Government’s focus on the sector as a priority area for investment.
Research Australia’s submission to the Review of Research Training has emphasised the need to provide better preparation for doctoral students and greater flexibility in the the subject matter included in their study to reflect their own skills and experience and their career aspirations. It also emphasises the need to provide alternatives to a PhD for individuals who need a strong understanding of research skills and method because they will work with research and researchers in the communication, administration or commercialisation of research. The submission proposes the Masters degree by research as a means of providing better and more tailored preparation for a career in conducting or supporting research.
In responding to the Victorian Government’s consultation on its strategy for Health and Medical Research, Research Australia has emphasised the ability of the State Government to influence how health and medical research is conducted through the funding it provides for health and medical research, its role as a key stakeholder in the provision of health care, and its power to legislate to provide a supportive environment for HMR. Key recommendations include continuing to support initiatives that bring researchers and the health system together (Academic Health Science Centres, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre), providing incentives for further collaboration and multi disciplinary research, and improving researchers’ access to health records and other data held by the State Government.
Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the MRFF Bill in its own name and as a principal member of the MRFF Action Group. While largely supportive of the MRFF Bill, Research Australia and the other members of the MRFF Action Group have proposed some amendments to the Bill to:
- improve the definition of ‘medical innovation’
- enhance the transparency and independence of decision making
- ensure the MRFF’s capital maintains its real value over time
- enable a portion of the MRFF’s capital to be invested in innovative medical start up companies.
Research Australia has responded to the Queensland Competition Authority’s Draft Report of Queensland Government Industry Assistance. Research Australia supports the need for a clear rationale and strict criteria for Industry Assistance Programs but suggests that the proposed criteria need to be developed and applied more appropriately. In the case of health and medical research, the opportunity to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the health care sector (with a saving to the Queensland Government) and to improve health and wellbeing need to be recognised as legitimate objectives of Government assistance. The submission highlights the complex interaction between public research funding and private sector involvement in the commercialisation of health and medical research, and points to some successful Queensland models that are worth supporting.
Research Australia has responded to the National Tax Review Discussion Paper. Research Australia’s members are drawn from across the not for profit, government and corporate sectors. As a consequence Research Australia’s submission necessarily addresses a number of different aspects of the tax system but a common theme is the role that the tax system can play in promoting Australian health and medical research and improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. Research Australia recommends incentives to support investment in small, innovative research intensive companies, the continuation of the tax deduction for self education expenses, continuing concessions for not for profit organisations and charities, and reform of alcohol taxes to improve their effectiveness in reducing alcohol related harm.
The Australian Government has consulted on changes to the personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) system, including moving to an opt out system, which creates the prospect of a much higher take up of the system and much greater utility to researchers in the future. While there is no proposed change to current arrangements in relation to research, the review offers the opportunity to influence how the system can be used for research purposes. Research Australia has supported the move to an opt out system, and has made a number of recommendations, including amending the legislation to allow identified data to be provided for data linking with other data sources for research purposes, and the indefinite retention of health records as a important resource for longitudinal research.
Research Australia’s submission to the National Diabetes Strategy Consultation paper has welcomed the inclusion of research as one of the five goals of the Strategy and makes a number of recommendations for how health and medical research can both support and improve the delivery of the National Diabetes Strategy.
In April 2015 the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. Christopher Pyne MP issued the Draft National Strategy for International Education for consultation.
The Discussion Paper makes specific reference to Australian universities’ reputation for research excellence as a key factor in making Australia an attractive destination for overseas students. Research Australia’s response specifically addresses this aspect of the Discussion paper and the strategy.