RESEARCH

‘Biggest investment ever’ made in Australia’s medical research

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Researchers are applauding the Australian government for following through on their promises of research funding.


By U2B Staff 

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Researchers are applauding the Australian government for following through on their promise of funding after it deposited A$7.8 billion (US$5.5 billion) into the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), making it the biggest funding boost in the field’s history.

The money goes towards reaching MRFF’s goal of reaching A$20 billion (US$14 billion) by 2020-2021. As the current value sits at A$17.5 billion, the fund looks set to reach its target by the deadline. The latest installment also puts to bed rumours and accusations of a lack of clarity in the government’s funding process.

In the lead up to the May general election, health minister Greg Hunt used MRFF spending as a way to score points with the electorate but it remained unclear exactly how and if that money would be spent, or if it was simply empty campaign rhetoric.

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But the Liberal Party came good on their promise, much to the relief of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI).

AAMRI president-elect Jonathan Carapetis told Times Higher Education that, by honouring its funding commitments, the government was allowing medical researchers to plan with confidence.

“This means getting treatments to patients faster and more effectively, and making sure new approaches to prevention are put into practice,” he said.

The new injection goes to a range of initiatives that all fit the remit of pushing medical research toward breakthroughs that could improve Australian health outcomes while also creating commercialisation opportunities.

While the boost to medical research is clearly welcome, there have been losses in other areas of science and a lack of funding in other disciplines, like the woefully funded Humanities and Social Sciences.

In April’s budget announcement, there were cuts to some areas of the science industry, including the abolition of the A$3.9 billion (US$2.7 billion) Education Investment Fund with the funds moved to a new Emergency Response Fund.

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There was also a A$345 million lost from university research funding.

“Bold investments in medical research and development through the Medical Research Future Fund will empower Australian scientists and technologists to become world leaders in their field,” President of Science & Technology Australia, Professor Emma Johnston AO, said in a statement following the budget’s release in April

“What we did not see in this budget was an ambition to be the clever country in all fields.

“A complementary Fund to support the translation and commercialisation of knowledge built through non-medical science research programs would amplify the economic returns that STEM brings for Australia.”