Crowdfunding has been one of the most innovative developments of the last decade, and has allowed a range of projects to attract the financing they needed to succeed. Starting in the creative arts, the range of projects supported by crowdfunding has broadened in recent years. Perhaps one of the best examples of the potential of crowdfunding has been its use as a platform for the funding of university research projects, pioneered by Deakin University and Pozible in 2013.
With crowd funding in Australia currently restricted to providing non financial benefits, the Government has undertaken a consultation on the model of regulation required to allow crowdsourcing to be used by firms to raise equity. The consultation draws on a model developed by the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC).
Research Australia is broadly supportive of the model proposed by the Corporation and Markets Advisor Committee (CAMAC). The responses to the questions raised in the Discussion Paper outline some proposed refinements to that model and identify some key questions that should be addressed.
Crowd Sourced Equity Funding
Austrade has undertaken a consultation on the eligible complying investments for individuals seeking a visa under the Investor Visa Programme. Research Australia has proposed that donations to heath and medical research be included in the definition of complying investments.
Significant Investor Visa and Premium Investor Visa Programmes
In October the Commonwealth Minister for Health, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, announced that the Commonwealth Government was undertaking a review of independent Medical Research Institutes (iMRIs) within Australia to ensure that iMRIs can continue to make a strong contribution to the health and medical research sector in Australia.
Research Australia made a submission to the Review, noting the diverse nature of iMRIs and the different reasons why they have evolved their own independent identities. The submission also made a number of proposals in relation to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of MRIs and emphasised the primary responsibility of the governing bodies of MRis for ensuring efficiency and effectiveness.
Strengthening Independent Medical Research Institutes
The Ministers for Education and Industry jointly commissioned a review of measures that can be taken to boost the commercialisation of Australian publicly funded research.
Research Australia agrees that more can be done to support the commercialisation of Australian research, and our submission makes a number of proposals to increase the commercial returns from publicly funded research. While commercialisation of research is the clear focus of the discussion paper and our response, Research Australia recognises that commercialisation is not the sole purpose of publicly funded research, and that the focus must be on achieving the right balance between:
- basic and applied research;
- investigator led and strategic priority driven research; and
- commercialisation and other paths to translation.
Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research
The Industry Minister has appointed Mr David Miles, AM, former Chair of Innovation Australia, to lead a review of the CRC Programme. 11 of the 36 existing CRCs are health related. Research Australia’s submission supports the existing CRC Programme and emphasises the social and economic benefits of CRCs in supporting the translation of health and medical research including, but not limited to, research commercialisation.
Cooperative Research Centres Programme Review
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee has launched an Inquiry into the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No.5) Bill. Schedule 3 of the Bill proposes reducing the rate of the R&D Tax Incentive by 1.5%. While ostensibly this is to align the rates with the proposed change in the Company Tax rate, in fact this measure will disadvantage innovative research intensive companies, and particularly those that are still in early stage development of their products. In fact the saving to the Budget over four years is expected to be around $600 million. Research Australia has made a submission to the Committee opposing the reduction in the rate of the R&D Tax Incentive on a number of grounds.
The NHMRC issued a revised Statement on Consumer and Community Involvement in Health and Medical Research in August 2014 and sought feedback in response to five specific questions. Research Australia’s submission proposes that the intended audience and purpose of the Statement be clarified. It also provides specific comments on the text of the Statement.
Consumer & Community Participating in Health and Medical Research
The NHMRC has consulted on a Good Practice Process for Clinical Trials with the aim of improving clinical trials governance. Research Australia has made a submission welcoming the initiative and acknowledging that it is one of a number of actions being undertaken to improve, standardise and streamline clinical trial processes, including by COAG’s Standing Committee on Health. Research Australia’s submission highlights the benefits of moving to a national, standardised approach to clinical trials, points to some possible improvements to the process and identifies some state- specific regulatory barriers.
Clinical Trial Research Governance
The Financial System Inquiry is examining the role and function of Australia’s Financial System. Research Australia’s submission emphasises the critical role the financial system plays in supporting innovation and proposes that this should be a key aim of any government intervention in, and regulation of, the financial system. It makes the case for governments to work with private sector capital to invest in innovative companies, and provides examples of how social impact bonds can be utilised to translate research into practice in the healthcare system.
Financial Systems Inquiry
Research Australia has made a submission to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare in response to its discussion paper on variation in healthcare across Australia. Research Australia’s submission proposes that while variation in health care is an indication of room for improvement it does not indicate what this improvement should be or how it should be implemented. Research Australia’s submission highlights the need to improve our data collection and expand our capacity for analysis and the identification of best practice. We also need to improve the mechanisms for communicating best practice and undertake research into how evidence of variation in healthcare can be used to motivate the adoption of best practice.