Australian H&MR Facts

Funding health & medical research in Australia


    • $10 billion is spent on health and medical research (HMR) in Australia each year
    • More than a quarter (26%) of all Australian Research and Development (R&D) is spent on HMR (Total R&D is around $40.6 billion in 2022/23)
    • 4% of all spending on health is spent on HMR (total health expenditure in 2021-22 was $241 billion)
    • 0.4% of GDP was spent on HMR (Australian GDP in 2022-23 was $2,564 billion)
    • Nearly half of all Australian HMR is undertaken in the higher education sector
    • HMR accounts for more than one third (35%) of all R&D expenditure in higher education institutions
    • 31% of all HMR expenditure is in the private sector

Expenditure by sector

The following table is an estimate of where HMR expenditure occurs in Australia

Location of expenditure $million      
Aust. Govt. (including agencies) States & Territories Higher Education Not For Profit Business Total
134 672 4,947 1,387 3,200 10,340
1% 7% 48% 13% 31% 100%

The estimates are complicated because they are:

  • based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data and the ABS surveys the different sectors for different periods. Government and NFP data is for 2022/23; Higher Education is for the calendar year 2022 and Business is for 2021/22
  • the ABS categorises data by Socioeconomic Objective (SEO) and by Field of Research (FoR). The SEO of Health generally provides the most accurate estimate but the combined FoRs of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences; and Health Sciences (ANZSCR 2020); is used for Business because most HMR in industry is classified not under the SEO of health but under the SEO of manufacturing. The ABS data is not provided at sufficient detail to enable health R&D to be extracted from the SEO of manufacturing.[1]

[1] Prior to 2020 the FoR of medical and health sciences (ANZSCR 2008) was used. From 2020, the New ANZSCR 2020 is applicable.

Australian Government 

While only a relatively small proportion of HMR is undertaken directly by the Australian Government it is responsible for providing the funding for a much larger proportion, particularly in higher education and Medical Research Institutes (MRIs). This includes funding provided through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Australian Research Council (ARC). It also includes funding provided to universities through the block grants system, which is tied to the volume of each university’s research and the number of research students.

Australian Government funding of HMR through universities and MRIs

Australian Government funding of HMR through universities and MRIs

NHMRC Funding $946 million
ARC Funding contribution to HMR (10%) $81 million
Research Block Grants contribution to HMR (35%) $700 million
MRFF $650 million
Total $2,377 million

Source: Australian Government Science Research and Innovation Budget Tables 2023-24 estimated expenditure for 2023-24


This estimate assumes all MRFF funding in 2023-24 went to universities and MRIs as it is not possible to break this figure down. This estimate does not take into account taxation measures such as the R&D Tax Incentive and programs like the Department of Industry Innovation and Science Entrepreneurs Program, which support the development and commercialisation of research generally, including new medicines, medical devices and therapies. It also doesn’t reflect other Commonwealth Government support provided to universities and MRIs which are used for new buildings and facilities that support HMR.


State and Territory Governments

State and territory governments are responsible for funding research undertaken within the State and territory hospital systems; the provision of support to MRIs for the indirect costs of research; and other programs to support R&D, a portion of which funds HMR. State and territory governments also provide capital funding for stand-alone research institutions (e.g. the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) and for organisations that combine research with health care delivery (e.g. the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre).

It is likely that the total support provided to HMR significantly exceeds the $672 million per annum captured in the table above.

Higher Education

The bulk of Australian HMR is conducted in the Australian higher education sector, and is funded by the Australian Government, philanthropy and universities own funds from other sources, including teaching revenue for the Australian Government and students. Approximately one third (35%) of all research expenditure by the higher education sector is on health and medical research.

Source: ABS 8111.0, Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia 2022, SEO Health ($4,947 million) divided by total expenditure ($13,990 million).

Not for Profit sector

The Not for Profit sector spent approximately $1.4 billion on R&D in 2022/23, of which $1.64 billion (87%) was spent on the SEO of Health. The concentration of research in the non profit sector on HMR reflects the dominance of this sector by Medical Research Institutes (MRIs). The next highest categories were Education and Training with $58 million, Plant Production and Plant Primary Products ($18 million) and ICT ($15 million).

Source: Research and Experimental Development, Government and Private Non Profit Organisations, 2022-23 PNP expenditure by SEO, 2022-23


Expenditure on HMR represents approximately 15.5% of total R&D spending by business. Much of the R&D expenditure by businesses has an emphasis on the ‘D’ (Development) in R&D rather than research. For this reason it is captured in the broad SEO of Manufacturing rather than Health; the combined FoRs of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences; and Health Sciences are used in the above table to estimate business expenditure on H&MR.

Source: Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, 2021-22 FoR for  the combined FoRs of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences; and Health Sciences ($3,200,000,000) divided by total expenditure ($20,642,000,000).

For more information contact Greg Mullins, Head of Policy,

Image credit: Professor Len Harrison, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

grassROOTS Magazine

Autumn 2016 Issue Out Now!

Welcome to the Autumn issue of Research Australia’s grassROOTS magazine.  Activity in our sector has been at fever pitch for a while now and there have been some good outcomes. The National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) was announced by the Prime Minister in early December. Research Australia welcomes this clear focus by our Government on science and innovation as essential to Australia’s future and there is no doubt that health and medical research has an important role to play.

This agenda reconfirmed the importance of the Medical Research Future Fund, it has enabled the set up of a biomedical translation fund to quickly address the funding gap for mid to later stage clinical research and development, and it is also focused on developing a new plan for research infrastructure and championing the importance of STEM subjects such as maths and science, in our education system.

Continue reading “grassROOTS Magazine”

Research Australia Events

2016 Research Australia
Health & Medical Research Awards

The 14th annual Research Australia Health and Medical Research Awards honoured some of the country’s top minds and big hearts for their incredible contribution to health and medical research in Australia.

Research Australia is proud to have had such an extraordinary night with incredible researchers who have distinguished themselves in their careers, be it early stage, mid career or through a lifelong commitment to HMR.

It is with great pleasure that we present the 2016 winners of the Research Australia Awards :



Recognises an Australian who has made an outstanding contribution to building Australia’s international reputation in the area of health and medical research, and fostering collaboration for better health.

Awarded to: Professor Ian Gust AO


Recognises an Australian from the media, a celebrity or member of the community who has raised community awareness about the benefits of health and medical research.

Awarded to: Brenda King, SIDS Stampede


Griffith logoRecognises an early researcher (no more than five years post PhD) whose paper/patent/discovery has already demonstrated its importance or impact.

Awarded to: Dr Rebecca Coll

Highly Commended: Dr Felicity Davis and Dr Michael Livingston


To recognise and encourage personal philanthropic donations over a period of time by an individual or family to health and medical research.

Awarded to: The McCusker Charitable Foundation


For the development of the most innovative method of gathering, making available, processing or interpreting data in a way that advances the sector.

Awarded to: Capital Markets CRC, Health Market Quality Team

Highly Commended: The National Breast Cancer Foundation and DreamLab (Vodafone and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research)


Recognises outstanding leadership by a corporation or business giving to and supporting health and medical research through relationships or partnership and commitment over time.

Awarded to: Volvo Car Australia


Created in 2014 to recognise the importance of the emerging field of health service research.

Awarded to: Professor Michael Barton OAM



With its accompanying grant of $80,000, has played a part in assisting some of Australia’s most important leaders and innovators in the medical research sphere. Its focus is on helping support career development with an emphasis on human health and Australian research.

Awarded to: Professor Prof Arthur Christopolous & Patrick Sexton


Previous Research Australia Health & Medical Research Award Winners

Some of the 2016 Award Nominees and their stories



Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are conducted in human volunteers to test that new drugs, devices and therapies (‘interventions’) are safe and effective. A new compound may kill tumour cells in mice, but will it work effectively in people, and how big a dose is required? Can it be delivered as a tablet, or is an injection more effective? These are some of the questions that can only be answered with a clinical trial. For people with hard to treat diseases, participation in a clinical trial for a new drug may offer the only opportunity for a cure.

Clinical trials also provide the opportunity to compare the effectiveness of existing treatments or practices, to determine if they actually work, and which is best.

Clinical trials in Australia are subject to strict rules to protect participants and ensure the integrity of the trial process, so that the results can be relied on when deciding whether to allow a new intervention to be offered to patients in Australia, or whether existing practices should be changed.

More information about clinical trials is available at Australian Clinical Trials.