Investment into health and medical research (HMR) provides exceptional returns and represents an opportunity for Australia to secure its long-term economic, health and social prosperity.
The Federal Government is tasked with ensuring all Australians enjoy the best possible health and healthcare, while also being fiscally responsible to current and future generations.
HMR cannot address all of the economic challenges we face but it does hold the key to substantially alleviating projected health expenditure and to creating a knowledge environment where collateral benefits fuel a growing economy.
Great nations emerge when people are empowered by a supportive and visionary Government – our HMR sector is filled with researchers who simply require opportunity to make their invaluable contribution to our future health and economic prosperity.
The Government is praised for establishing the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), a visionary initiative that is expected to disburse $1B per year by 2021. However, the recent announcement of the MRFF Strategic Platforms and Priorities confirms that this initiative will not address many of the problems currently facing the HMR sector.
- The MRFF provides little scope for ‘People Support’ and thus is highly unlikely to mitigate HMR workforce decline.
- Clinical translation and commercialisation requires a solid foundation of discovery-driven basic research – all stages of the research pipeline must be supported.
For the MRFF to meet its aspirational goals, there must be a concomitant commitment to investing in the NHMRC MREA, which supports the people and projects that drive translation and commercialisation.
Government investment into the NHMRC has remained static over the past 5 years. This has precipitated historic lows in grant funded rates, particularly for Project Grants and mid-career fellowships (< 1 in 6 applications funded), which, in turn, has resulted in damaging workforce attrition. As a result of workforce instability, many research leaders are being forced to take their intellectual capital overseas or to other industries, meaning breakthrough research is not being translated into tangible returns for Australia.
Replacing these experts is not a cost-effective option – these experts must be retained.
ASMR calls for –
Immediate: An additional investment of $300M into the NHMRC in the 2017 Budget.
Long-term: Increase investment into Australian HMR incrementally to reach 3% of total HSE by 2026.
Our request for a modest amount of immediate additional investment will provide short-term stability to the HMR sector, while transitioning to a more sustainable investment model will bring Australia into line with other leading nations and provide a solid foundation for the translation and commercialisation aspirations of the MRFF. This will allow the Government to forge a more prosperous Australia, rich in economic, health and social returns.
As always, our argument for additional public investment into NHMRC is underpinned by evidence (Budget Submission 2017). We will continue strategic meetings, but we need you!
Please write a letter to your local MP, the health minister and the prime minister (this powerful advocacy tool resulted in a doubling of investment into NHMRC in 2006, following ASMR’s campaign Government received >10,000 letters).