Critical role of medical research in Australia’s health and wealth recognised by Greens

Critical role of medical research in Australia’s health and wealth recognised by Greens

20th May, 2016

The Greens have helped ensure science is on the Australian political agenda this federal election through the release today of their Research Roadmap, says Professor Tony Cunningham AO, President-Elect of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI).

The roadmap reiterates the Greens’ support for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), commits to increasing Australia’s investment in research and innovation to 4 per cent of GDP by 2030, and outlines a range of transformational research funding initiatives, including a boost to funding for indirect research costs and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

“It’s great to see the Greens so passionately supportive of science and research in Australia during this election,” Professor Cunningham said.

Professor Cunningham especially welcomed the Greens’ re-commitment to Australia’s MRFF, saying the legislation for the $20 billion groundbreaking fund would not have passed the Senate last year without the Greens’ support.

“The MRFF is currently forecast to reach $20 billion by 2020-21, at which point it will distribute an extra $1 billion per year in health and medical research funding, bringing Australia back into line with the OECD average for government investment in such research.

“It’s clear that medical research, and science more broadly, is being recognised by all parties for the important role it plays in the health and wealth of Australians, and the economic transition from the mining boom. AAMRI looks forward to hearing the research policies of Labor and the LNP, including commitments to build the MRFF to $20 billion by 2020-21.”

Professor Cunningham said investing in medical research is not only essential for the future health of the Australian community, it made excellent economic sense.

“Medical research is critical to overcoming the growing burden of disease for illnesses such as dementia and stroke in our ageing population, and it also supports Australia’s best performing ‘smart industry’, the pharmaceuticals and medical technology industry, creating the country’s jobs of the future.

“The MRFF alone is expected to return $3.40 for every dollar invested through health savings from improved diagnostics, treatments and cures, and through the economic returns of improved labour participation rates and the commercial returns of medical innovations,” he said.

Professor Cunningham especially welcomed the Greens’ commitment to address the insufficient funding for the indirect costs of research, such as utility bills and the costs of essential management support.

“It’s a dry and esoteric subject, but there isn’t equitable or consistent funding when it comes to the indirect costs of research, which causes major sustainability issues in the sector. We’d like to see indirect cost funding of 60 cents per grant dollar for all research bodies, similar to international protocols, whether the funding be for research in hospitals, universities or independent Medical Research Institutes (MRIs),” Professor Cunningham said.

“The Greens’ suggested reforms for indirect costs funding would encourage collaboration between different parts of the sector and support critical bench-to-bedside research. Any attention drawn to indirect costs by political parties is most welcome, and an important step towards finally resolving this problem of more than two decades.”

Professor Cunningham said he was also particularly pleased to see support for integrated health research centres in the Greens’ plan, along with a boost to NHMRC funding, and an emphasis on supporting women in science.

Media Contact: Rebecca Thorpe, 0401 419 590, rebecca.thorpe@aamri.org.au.