Budget Update 2021

Summary

The economic impact of COVID-19 continues to dominate the Australian Budget, with tonight’s Budget, the second handed down in just seven months. Like the last one, this is a big spending Budget, but the focus has shifted from providing immediate stimulus to longer term recovery and Australia’s future prosperity. In the health sector, policy reform is focused on aged care and mental health.

Apart from COVID, the biggest health issue the Australian Government has had to grapple with in the last 12 months is aged care. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety provided the Government with 148 recommendations earlier this year. Until tonight, the Government had not provided a substantial response to the report.

This Budget outlines an additional $17.7 billion over five years, seeking to address the needs of aged Australians living at home and those in residential care. This equates to around half of what is called for overall in the Royal Commission’s Final Report. The Prime Minister’s press release states the Government has accepted 126 of the 148 recommendations, we are awaiting the Government’s detailed response to the Royal Commission – particularly the recommendations for dedicated funding for aged care and ageing research. The proposals from the Royal Commissioners in relation to funding for innovation and research have not been funded in this Budget.

Mental Health has also been under the spotlight, including the impact of COVID-19 on mental health. The Productivity Commission provided the Government with a report last year on what could be done to improve mental health, and earlier this year the Department of Health and Ageing consulted on what measures from the report should be implemented, and when.

Tonight’s budget provides $2.3 billion over four years from 2021-22 for the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, including initiatives to be progressed with states and territories for a new national agreement on mental health and suicide prevention. The Government has indicated that it has accepted all the recommendations of the Productivity Commission Report on Mental Health and that the funding announced tonight is only phase one of its response. The only research specific funding announced as part of this package is establishment of an Eating Disorders Research Centre as part of a $26 million package of funding for eating disorders. Further funding for research-related aspects of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations may follow in future budgets. There is $117.2 million for data collection, in part to establish the evidence base for reforms. We will be seeking the advice of key mental health research experts to understand how this data can inform continuous, evidence-based improvement in mental health care for Australians.

While Preventative Health has gained attention from the Government in the last couple of years, the National Preventive Health Strategy is still very much a work in progress and there is only very limited additional funding for preventive health in tonight’s Budget. There is $1.9 million in 2021-22 for preventive health research and scoping activities, including a national health literacy strategy, to inform the National Preventive Health Strategy. Research Australia has previously advocated the need to improve health literacy (and digital health literacy) as a key measure to address health inequity and enable all Australians to better use technology to manage their health.

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 drove a new focus in last year’s Budget on manufacturing, with the announcement of $1.3 billion over five years from 2020-21 for the Modern Manufacturing Initiative. While the Government seems satisfied this is enough, Research Australia believes more needs to be done, and has proposed raising annual Government spending on R&D to 0.75% of GDP, setting a target for Australia to become a net exporter of pharmaceuticals by 2035, and using the Government’s influence as a key buyer of products and services to boost Australian innovation.

A key measure in this regard is a patent box; a tax deduction provided to companies that manufacture in Australia using Australian developed IP (patents). The patent box will only apply to income derived from Australian medical and biotechnology patents, with consideration to be given to the clean energy sector. It provides a concessional effective corporate tax rate of 17 per cent, with the concession applying from income years starting on or after 1 July 2022. Such a scheme has operated in the UK for many years and is designed to support high value manufacturing in Australia, complementing the R&D Tax Incentive. Research Australia has been a long-term advocate of patent box tax treatment, along with CSL and others in our sector, and this is a significant win for health and medical research.

Much has been said recently about mRNA manufacture of vaccines and therapeutics, with the Victorian and NSW Governments both announcing support and Victoria proposing to invest $50 million. In the Budget tonight the Government has announced that it, too, is acting. It will provide an undisclosed amount of funding (commercially sensitive) to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to work with the Department of Health to develop an onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability in Australia. Research Australia called for  such a commitment from the Government in our Pre-Budget Submission and we have been calling for this facility privately and publicly, to encourage this sovereign capability .

While the MRFF funding proceeds as outlined in the Government’s MRFF 10 year Plan, the funding to the NHMRC’s Medical Research Endowment Account continues to decline in real terms.

Medical Research Future Fund

Funding from the MRFF

The MRFF reached the target of $20 billion of capital in August 2020. Tonight’s Budget sees this balance maintained over the forward estimates.

Forecast spending from the MRFF remains largely as expected over the forward estimates. While only $455 million is available from the MRFF to fund research and innovation in 2021/22 due to lower-than-expected investment returns, the Government is maintaining spending this financial year by providing an additional $175 million for MRFF funding from consolidated revenue (announced in the December 2020 mid-year budget). At this stage the Government expects the investment returns to recover this financial year, with $650 million available to fund medical research and innovation in 2022/23.

MRFF expenditure

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
MRFF Funding 2021 Budget 579.9 455.0 650.0 650.0 650.0

NHMRC and ARC Funding

In Research Australia’s Pre- Budget Submission and our Pre-Election Statement we continue to call for increases in funding for the NHMRC and ARC’s research programs. This Budget sees both schemes continue to decline in real terms, which is of genuine concern to the health and medical research community.

NHMRC Programs

The 2021/22 Budget reveals funding for the NHMRC’s programs continuing to grow very slightly, and only slightly faster than was forecast in last year’s budget. The increase in this financial year is 1,1%, with annual increases of around 1% thereafter. This is lower than the forecast CPI of 3.5%% for 2020-21 and CPI of between 1.75% and 2.5% expected in subsequent years. In effect, NHMRC funding continues to decline in real terms, as it has done for many years now. Research Australia remains concerned about this deficit because research and its outcomes is a long-term commitment.

NHMRC MREA Funding

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
Funding to MREA

2021 Budget

853,864 863,266 875,362 887,588 899,124
Funding to MREA

2020 Budget

853,864 862,412 872,770 884,960 N/A

ARC Programs

The Australian Research Council’s Funding Programs are critical to Australian publicly funded research including to the life sciences and medical technologies.

Over the forward estimates, the funding to the ARC for the Discovery Program increases slightly each financial year and while higher than in last year’s Budget, the funding is at significantly lower levels than forecast in the 2019 Budget. In real terms funding to the Discovery Program declines over the forward estimates. Again, a cause for concern.

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
Discovery 2021 Budget 483,272 489,188 494,922 501,162 509,432
Discovery 2020 Budget 483.272 487.016 487.860 490.610
Discovery 2019 Budget 513.542 525.537 538.350 N/A

The ARC Linkage Program has been singled out by the Government as an important component of Australia’s innovation system, and it was announced that from 1 July 2016 the Program would be open to continuous applications and decision making would be fast tracked.

Funding over the forward estimates is higher than forecast in last year’s budget, but future years fail to keep pace with inflation.

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
Linkage 2021 Budget 323.166 325.454 329.948 334.109 339.622
Linkage 2020 Budget 322.181 323.871 325.240 327.074 N/A
Linkage 2019 Budget 288.788 295.246 301.741 N/A N/A

 While not funding ‘medical and dental research’, the ARC Linkage program remains important to the health and medical research and innovation sectors.

Research Support

In addition to providing funding for the ARC Linkage Program, the Department of Education and Training also provides funding to universities to help cover the indirect costs of research.

In last year’s Budget, the Government used the Research Support Program to provide a vital injection of $1 billion into higher education research in the current financial year.  No further injection is provided in this year’s Budget and funding in is actually lower than was forecast in the 2019 Budget.

Research Support Program

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
2021 Budget 1918.298 930.659 942.775 958.326 974.143
2020 Budget 1918.298 926.490 929.270 938.107 N/A
2019 Budget 920.573 941.748 962.455 N/A N/A
2018 Budget 1,018.879 1,042.302 N/A N/A N/A

Funding for the indirect costs of research funded by the MRFF is now provided from the Research Support Program. With the MRFF providing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to universities over the next few years, beyond this financial year, a substantial increase in the Research Support Program is needed just to maintain the levels of research support funding for research projects at their current already inadequate level. The cuts to the Research Support Program beyond the one-off boost in 2020-21 represent a real and continued threat to the capacity of our universities to undertake vital health and medical research.

The issue of indirect research costs remains unresolved for the whole health and medical research sector and indeed publicly funded research more broadly. Research Australia continues to call for a whole of government approach to the issue of funding indirect research costs. Research Australia proposes that the Chief Scientist lead a review of the funding of indirect research costs to establish a sustainable and equitable funding program. In the short term, the pool of funding for the Research Support Program must be increased substantially.

Research Training

The Research Training Program (RTP) provides funding to universities to support higher degree by research students (mostly PhDs). Funding for the RTP also declined in absolute terms between the 2019 and 2020 Budgets, and have only partly recovered in this year’s Budget.

Research Training Program

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
2021 Budget 1054.981 1069.182 1083.160 1100.967 1119.137
2020 Budget 1054.981 1064.392 1067.585 1077.738 N/A
2019 Budget 1057.595 1081.921 1105.710 N/A N/A

Industry PhDs

The Department of Industry will provide $1.1 million over two years from 2020-21 to create new employment pathways for students and boost financial incentives for universities to enrol students in ‘Industry PhDs’. This measure will introduce an additional weighting in the Research Training Program funding formula for PhD students who undertake an industry placement.

Research Commercialisation

In last year’s Budget the Government committed funding for a scoping study for a University Research Commercialisation Scheme to better translate and commercialise university research outputs. The development of the Scheme is still in train and there is no funding for the Scheme in this year’s Budget. It looks like this might have to wait until next year. Research Australia remains actively engaged in consultation with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on this Scheme.

CRC Program

Funding forecasts for the CRC Program reflect a shift in some funding between 2019-20 and 2020-21. Beyond that, they are slightly lower over the forward estimates.

CRC Program $million

$m. 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25
2021 Budget 222,777 189,980 197,815 191,042 193,807
2020 Budget 234,168 189,040 186,378 188,599 N/A
2019 Budget 187,356 192,239 191,223 N/A N/A

The CRC Program is important to health and medical research and innovation with about one third of the CRCs funded over the life of the program being health related.

Conclusion

Research Australia will continue to provide analysis and comment in the coming days and weeks as well as seek further input from across the membership for your reactions and insight into the policy and funding announced for our sector; and how it affects or enhances your research and related activities as a result.

Ends …..

 

 

 

 

 

University Research Commercialisation

The Australian Government is undertaking a scoping study to understand how to best implement a University Research Commercialisation Scheme to better translate and commercialise university research outputs. It has appointed an Expert Panel and issued a Discussion Paper.

Research Australia’s response to the Discussion Paper addresses the role of ‘Missions’, the use of stage-gating and the role of co-funding by Governments, universities and industry. It highlights the critical need to better align existing funding programs and fill the gaps to provide a more seamless approach to research funding from basic research through to commercialisation.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

2021 Pre Budget submission calls for renewed investment in R&D

Research Australia’s Pre Budget submission to the Treasurer ahead of the 2021 Budget  focuses on the vital role of health and medical research and innovation in Australia’s  response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the manufacturing and innovation opportunities that health and medical research presents for Australia’s economic recovery.

It calls for renewed investment in R&D by the Australian Government, continued support for universities and medical research institutes with meeting indirect research costs, and measures to support medical products R&D and manufacture. The case for increasing NHMRC and ARC funding is also made. Funding for Government initiatives in data sharing and preventive health are among other measures sought.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

Improving approval processes for new drugs and medical technologies

Research Australia has responded to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Approval Processes for New Drugs and Medical Technologies.

Opportunities exist to change our approval processes to benefit patients and better support research and development in Australia. Faster and more effective approval processes mean new medicines and technologies reach patients faster. Improving the environment for clinical trials enables Australian patients to benefit from the latest medicines and technologies developed overseas while also helping Australian health and medical research to flourish in a competitive and lucrative world market. Research Australia’s submission identifies some of these opportunities with the twin objectives of improving Australians’ health and prosperity.

Research Australia’s submission is available here.

The Committee is expected to hold public hearings in early 2021.

Aged Care Research is essential for a better Aged Care system

Research Australia is delighted that research is firmly on the agenda for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The peak body’s Chief Executive Nadia Levin welcomed the news that among the more than 100 recommendations made by counsel to the Commissioners, were several very important recommendations relating to research.

Importantly, Counsel has recommended establishing a dedicated Aged Care Council to set a strategy and agenda for research and development into aged care. A dedicated aged research fund with an annual budget of 1.8% of government expenditure on aged care has also been recommended.

‘This would be a welcome boost to aged care research in Australia and has the potential to lead to better, higher quality and safer care, said Ms Levin. ‘In fact, I don’t think this promise of a better system can be delivered without more research, it is absolutely essential.’

Research Australia has made the case on several occasions for increasing research into aged care and ageing. We urged the inclusion of research in the Commission’s original terms of reference and have liaised with the Commission’s officers to connect them with researchers who were able to assist the Inquiry.

The aim is to prioritise research that involves co-design with older people, their families and the aged care workforce, and to facilitate networks between researchers, industry and government. The scope of research is broad, encompassing technology pilots and innovation projects, and assisting the translation of research into practice to improve aged care.

In a series of related recommendations, data collection across aged care should be improved and a national minimum aged care dataset developed under the auspice of the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.

The Commissioners are now considering the evidence they have received and are due to provide their final report to the Australian Government by the end of February next year. (They may accept, reject or modify Counsel’s recommendations.) More information about the Royal Commission, including the final submissions, is available here.

Research Australia will continue its advocacy focus along with its members such as NARI, CSIRO, University of Queensland, Flinders University and the University of Wollongong to keep research firmly on the agenda as the Royal Commission considers its response.

Please join our efforts through contributing to Research Australia’s submission due on the 12th November via greg.mullins@researchaustralia.org

 

Budget Update 2020

Summary

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.

Broader Context:

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.

 

Continue reading “Budget Update 2020”

Pre Budget submission calls for renewed investment in R&D (December 2019)

Research Australia’s submission to the Treasurer ahead of the 2020-21 Budget has used the Government’s own figures showing a drop in R&D investment by Government and business to call for a renewed focus on research and development, including health and medical research. In addition to greater investment in R&D across the board, Research Australia has called for increased funding for the research programs of the NHMRC and ARC; action to make better use of data; and investment in prevention.

To read Research Australia’s submission and the full list of recommendations, click here.

Improving Research Funding

Research Australia’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Research Funding has proposed a review across all funding agencies and government departments to eliminate unnecessary inconsistencies in application guidelines, processes and acquittal procedures. We also called for the development of a common approach to the calculation and payment of funding to cover the indirect costs of research.

Research Australia’s submission

Peer Review- 2 Stage Process for Idea Grants

Research Australia’s submission in response to the NHMRC’s Peer Review Consultation has urged the NHMRC to consult further on options for a two stage application process for the Ideas Grants.

There is considerable interest within our membership and across the health and medical research sector in a two-stage application process, and while there is not yet agreement on the approach, there is an appetite for change. Research Australia believes that a two-stage application process for Ideas Grants, incorporating an abbreviated application at the first stage, provides the chance to reduce the burden on applicants and reviewers alike, while better supporting the objectives of Ideas Grants to promote innovative and novel research.

In particular, the process could provide the focus on novel and innovative ideas and reduced emphasis on track record that the NHMRC is seeking.  Research Australia’s submission explores the opportunity to adopt a two-stage application process for Ideas Grants and puts forward some considerations for further investigation and consultation.

Research Australia’s submission

Federal Medical Research Plan: The Health & Economic Roadmap We Need

Media Release: Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Link to the MRFF Strategy & Priorities.

With almost two in three Australian adults and one in four children overweight or obese, two-thirds of Australians over the age of 50 with poor bone density, and one in six Australians with chronic back pain, tonight’s release of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Strategy sets out the roadmap for addressing some of our biggest health issues.

That is the verdict from the medical research community and Research Australia, the organisation behind the virtual doubling of health (NHMRC) funding in 2000, and again in 2005.

“As the organisation that has been championing health and medical research for the last 15 years, we can tell you the MRFF is a real game changer,” said Research Australia Chair, Dr Christine Bennett.

CEO of Research Australia, Nadia Levin said the MRFF Strategy’s vision of a health system informed by quality research is exactly what’s needed.

“Research Australia shares the Strategy’s vision of a health system fully informed by quality health and medical research,” said Levin.

Continue reading “Federal Medical Research Plan: The Health & Economic Roadmap We Need”