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Research Funding for Non-Medical Innovation

By Peter Binks, BHERT

17-May-18


UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs

BHERT Board Director and President / Vice-Chancellor of UNSW, Professor Ian Jacobs, has called for significant new investment in non-medical research in Australia to take innovations to the development stage.

Writing in the Australian Financial Review on March 18, 2018, Professor Jacobs noted that the medical research pipeline is funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), now complemented by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), and the Biomedical Research Translation Fund.

In contrast, the Australian Research Council (ARC), which administers non-Medical grants, has funding equivalent to the NHMRC, but nothing like the MRFF for the translation-application part of the pipeline.

BHERT supports Professor Jacobs’ call; support to research translation – including directly to companies and startups – is as important as funding of basic R&D. The Australian Government provides support to research translation through three indirect mechanisms at the moment:

•The R&D Tax Incentive program: $3.126 billion in 2016/17.The effectiveness of this program has been queried (3Fs Review), and changes recommended to support collaboration between industry and research institutions

•Support to the Industry Growth Centres: $28 million from 2015/16.6 priority areas were identified, each receives $3 million to conduct operations, and $8 million to invest in projects annually

•Industrial Transformation Research Program: $17 million in 2017.Researcher groups aligned with the Industry Growth Centres, which conduct further research directed towards translation

While each of these has benefits, they do not provide direct funding for post-R&D translation, particularly for sectors outside of the 6 priority areas. A single Research Translation Fund – a non-medical “Future Fund” – as proposed by Professor Jacobs would be simpler and more efficient mechanism, and would allow industry to capture and invest funds in the topics they seek to address. BHERT believes such a fund would be an important catalyst for accelerating non-medical innovations to market – and would benefit from the learnings of the MRFF and BRTF.

UNSW Sydney (The University of New South Wales) is one of Australia's leading research and teaching universities. UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement and a commitment to partnerships with industry.

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