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Call for urgent Government support for research disrupted by COVID-19

Health Industry Hub | August 26, 2020 |

Medical News: Research Australia has taken the opportunity to use the new call from the Treasurer for Pre-Budget submissions to call for urgent assistance from the Government to support research disrupted by COVID-19.

Summary of recommendations

Bridging Funding Needed

The Government should establish a modest pool of funding of up to $100 million for the specific purpose of providing bridging funding to Government-funded health and medical research that will be unable to be completed withing the existing grant budget because of the disruptions and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding would be applied on a contingency basis.

Quantify the Impact of COVID-19 on the HMR Sector

The Australian Government’s response to COVID-19 must include an assessment to properly quantify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and medical research (HMR) and innovation sector.

Invest in Innovation

The Government should outline an investment in national innovation and commit to increasing its spending on research and development to at least 0.75% of GDP annually, by the end of its current term.

R&D Tax Incentive

In the current economic environment of reduced business expenditure on R&D, the Government should not take action to reform the R&D Tax Incentive that could further dampen R&D activity.

Health and Medical Research and Innovation

There is an opportunity to significantly increase Australia’s exports in the trillion-dollar global healthcare sector, adding new jobs in advanced manufacturing and other related industries, and helping to diversify Australia’s exports and economy. But we need to act now and capitalise on what has been put in place to date and the opportunity provided by COVID-19.

We must dramatically ‘scale up’ our efforts to support health and medical research and development and innovation across the whole economy if we are to make the most of these opportunities.

The MRFF

Research Australia congratulates the Government on its ongoing commitment to the MRFF which has seen the Fund reach the target $20 billion in capital.

NHMRC and ARC Funding

Funding for the research programs of the NHMRC and ARC must be increased in real terms in the 2020-21 Budget and over the forward
estimates.

Indirect Research Costs

The cuts to the Research Block grants outlined in the MYEFO on 17 December 2018 and confirmed in the April 2019 Budget must be
reversed.

The pool of funding for the Research Support Program needs to be
increased proportionately in the 2020-21 Budget to reflect the inclusion of MRFF competitive grants in the Program.

In a similar manner, an additional stream of the IRIISS program needs to be funded by the Department of Health to cover the indirect costs associated with MRFF funding incurred by Independent Medical Research Institutes. This funding should be administered by the
NHMRC.

The Chief Scientist should lead a review of the funding of indirect research costs to establish a sustainable and equitable funding program.

Data for Better Health and Prosperity

The Government should commit funding in the 2020-21 Budget to the implementation of the measures outlined in the CSIRO Report, Artificial intelligence: Solving problems, growing the economy and improving our quality of life.

The Government should make provision in the 2020-21 Budget for the infrastructure needed to support the new Data Sharing legislation in
anticipation of its passage through the Parliament in 2020-21.

The Government should also continue to invest in capacity building in Commonwealth departments and agencies to enhance their ability to capture, manipulate and analyse data, and their capability to link data and to prepare secure, deidentified datasets for public release.

Ensure the AIHW is adequately resourced to prepare for and undertake the significant new role of preparing and providing deidentified My Health Record data for research and public health purposes.

Access Research Australia’s pre-budget submission.


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