AAMRI eNews Final Edition 2015

AAMRI eNews Final Edition 2015

17th December, 2015

In this issue

  1. AAMRI news – Wrap-up of 2015, AAMRI 2016 Convention date set
  2. Government update – NISA, MRFF hits $3.1B, block grant funding review, and more
  3. NHMRC & ARC updates – NHMRC funding trends, ERA report, Future Fellowships, and more
  4. Sector news – Defence Trade Controls Act, Source IP launch, new CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute, and more
  5. Reports & resources
  6. Funding & award opportunities

1. AAMRI news

Welcome to the final edition of AAMRI eNews for 2015. We’ve had a lot to celebrate this year with the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) being legislated and the first money flowing into the fund; the success of our What’s the Fuss? campaign that will continue into 2016 and up to the election; last week’s National Innovation & Science Agenda announcement and with it the protection of funding for NCRIS after averting a funding crisis earlier in the year; and much, much more.

Of course, all this has happened in a year where we saw another record low NHMRC success rate and many talented people leaving the sector, so we most certainly won’t be resting on our laurels in 2016. We’ll continue to advocate for a more effective NHMRC grants system; for full and equitable funding for the indirect costs of research; to see the MRFF continue towards its $20 billion goal; and many more campaigns and issues.

We couldn’t have achieved anything this year without the support of our members. We thank you all for the letters and emails you’ve written to politicians supporting our campaigns, for all the tweets and other social media engagement you’ve done furthering these issues, for all your input into our government submissions, and the meetings you’ve taken and tours of institutes you’ve hosted for MPs and Senators – all of these actions and many more have helped us have the successful year that was 2015.

The AAMRI office will close on 23 December and reopen on 4 January.
We hope you have a restful break (we certainly need it!) and a happy and healthy new year.
Doug, Nicole, Rebecca & Kathryn

Save the Date: 2016 AAMRI National Convention, 9-10 November
We’ve set the date for AAMRI’s 2016 National Convention in Canberra for 9-10 November. As always, this is a free member-only event. Further details on registration and accommodation arrangements will be sent out in the new year.

2.  Government update 

Innovation nation: National Innovation & Science Agenda
The Federal Government’s National Innovation & Science Agenda (NISA) continues to be met with praise from the research sector, including AAMRI members The George Institute, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute and Hunter Medical Research Institutehighlighting how the $250 million Biomedical Translation Fund initiative could help the sector.
As AAMRI’s recent summary of NISA outlined, the $250 million for the Biomedical Translation Fund will come from capital originally earmarked for the MRFF in 2016-17 and 2017-18. This decrease in MRFF capital will only have a minor impact on earnings (and thus disbursements) from the MRFF in these years, and the MRFF is still projected to reach $20 billion by 2019-20. It is not yet clear how the Biomedical Translation Fund will operate, and whether earnings from investments will be returned to the fund.
Former Prime Minister’s Department head Ian Watt has been lured out of retirement(author of the Watt Review — see below) to run a ‘policy delivery unit’ ­for the effective implementation of the many NISA initiatives.

The third wave of Labor’s innovation policy announced
Labor has announced the third wave of its innovation policy, following on from previous innovation policy announcements following the May 2015 Federal Budget.
The third wave includes plans to:
1. Accelerate innovation in our regions through Regional Innovation Hubs
2. Improve Startup Capital through a suite of tax incentives
3. Reform innovation architecture through Innovate Australia
4. Back our best and brightest overseas through a Landing Pad for Australian innovators.

Medical Research Future Fund receives new funding
The Government transferred $2.1 billion in health budget savings over the past year and a half to the MRFF on 1 December, bringing its total balance to $3.1 billion. This is great news and is broadly in line with the Government’s projections. The MRFF is expected to earn just over $60 million in 2015-16, with $10 million of this allocated to medical research & innovation in 2015-16 and the remainder in 2016-17. We are awaiting the announcement of the MRFF Advisory Board members, hopefully early in 2016, and information on how the first $10 million in MRFF disbursements will be allocated.

Review of research block funding released
The report from the Watt Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements (Higher Education) was released in early December, with recommendations including the consolidation of the six Research Block Grant (RBG) schemes into two schemes, simplifying funding formulae so that they are based on Category 1-4 income levels and Research Higher Degree student load, and using standardised metrics of research engagement/impact to help determine RBG allocations. These recommendations around RBGs were taken up in the Government’s National Innovation & Science Agenda.
Funding for the indirect costs of research for organisations outside of the Higher Education sector was not a primary focus of the review. However, the review panel did recommend that the Department of Health and the Department of Education & Training address the inequity in the funding for indirect costs of independent MRIs. Following up on this recommendation will be a key focus for AAMRI in 2016.

Science and Research Priorities – Capability Statements released
The Federal Government has released ‘capability statements’ for the Commonwealth Government’s nine Science and Research Priorities. The capability statements detail Australia’s current strengths, challenges and opportunities in each priority area. The Science and Research Priorities will continue to guide Government policy and investments to help ensure that appropriate levels of public funding are allocated to research that addresses the most critical problems facing the nation.

Senate Inquiry into Australia’s Innovation System report
The Senate Economic References Committee released the report from its Inquiry into Australia’s Innovation System. The report outlines key challenges to innovation in Australia and includes five recommendations to help overcome these.

New inquiry into Australia’s future in research and innovation
Just when you thought there had been enough reports on Australia’s innovation system, the Parliament’s Trade and Investment Growth Committee has commenced an inquiry into Australia’s Future in Research and Innovation. The committee will investigate how the research and innovation sector can better assist in overcoming Australia’s geographic, economic and labour challenges, with a focus on commercialisation, including how technology imports and exports could be further facilitated. Submissions are due by 11 February 2016.

Consultation on clinical trial of a genetically modified virus for treating liver cancer
The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator is inviting comments on their draft Risk Assessment and Risk Management Plan for a proposed Phase 3 clinical trial of a genetically modified virus for the treatment of liver cancer (application DIR 140). The draft assessment concludes that the clinical trial would pose negligible to low risk. Submissions are due by 27 January 2016.

3. NHMRC & ARC

Candid snapshot of research funding trends
The NHMRC and the ARC, in association with the Australasian Research Management Society, hosted the Research Administrators’ Seminar last month, which included a number of useful NHMRC presentations and ARC presentations on research funding trends, strategy, administration, applications, assessment and integrity.
NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso provided a candid snapshot of NHMRC funding trends in her informative presentation. Professor Kelso was also interviewed on ABC Radio’s The World Today after the NHMRC grants were announced late last month, with the transcript well worth a read.

Development of Human Research Ethics Application (HREA)
As part of the initiative to streamline ethics approvals, the NHMRC is developing the Human Research Ethics Application (HREA) to replace the National Ethics Application Form (NEAF). The HREA is being developed with extensive input from the health and research sectors.

Release of costed list of standard items for clinical trials
As part of efforts to streamline clinical trials, the NHMRC has developed a list of standard items associated with clinical trials. The revised list has now been costed by Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) and is available on their website. (Note, the IHPA website hyperlink on the NHMRC website does not work.)

Updated advice on Direct Research Costs
The NHMRC has updated its Direct Research Costs Guidelines.

Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) released
The ARC released the State of Australian University Research 2015-16: Volume 1 ERA National Report. The report details the quality of Australian university research benchmarked against world standards. It includes the ERA 2015 national results and research published in 2008-2013. It reveals strong growth in the proportion of Australian-produced research classified as world standard.

Future Fellowships announced
The ARC announced $38.6 million in funding for 50 new Future Fellowships on 16 December. A list of successful Fellows and funding statistics are available on the ARC website.

4.  Sector news

Are you ready for new laws in the Defence Trade Controls Act affecting research?
New regulations in the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 affecting research organisations will come into force on 2 April 2016. The Defence Export Control Office (DECO) has to date received very few applications from universities and research institutions for permits under the revised Act. Those organisations that are already undertaking controlled activities, or who plan to do so in the short-term, should apply for a permit as soon as possible to give time for the issue of the permit by 2 April 2016 deadline.
DECO has provided a summary of how your institution can oversee compliance and determine whether permits are needed to be in place. If you have any queries, contact DECO on DECO@defence.gov.au or 1800 66 10 66 or 02 6266 7222.

Launch of Source IP
A new online digital marketplace offering access to intellectual property (IP) generated by Australian publicly-funded research organisations has been launched by IP Australia. The website will allow companies to search all the IP patents held by Australia’s universities, MRIs, government research agencies and other publicly-funded research organisations, and to get further information on them by information provided by the research organisations for the website. Many universities and government organisations are already on the site, and independent MRIs are expected to be included in the near future. Further details on Source IP are also available through this presentation provided by Dr Rebecca Hinton from IP Australia at AAMRI‘s 2015 Convention.

Med Tech & Pharma Growth Centre launched
The Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Growth Centre, headquartered at the University of Sydney’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Technology, was launched in December. Additional nodes of the Growth Centre will include Monash University and Flinders University.

Queensland opens $134 million Centre for Children’s Health Research
The Queensland Government launched the new $134 million Centre for Children’s Health Research, to be co-located with the new Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. The facility will include researchers from the former Royal Children’s and Mater Children’s Hospitals, The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and the Translational Research Institute.

Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine launched
The Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University was officially launched in Parliament House on 30 November. The institute was established through $42 million in Commonwealth Government establishment funding, the ARC Special Research Initiative funding, and $42 million in Queensland Government funding.

Prof Kovin Naidoo to head Brien Holden Vision Institute
The board of the Brien Holden Vision Institute have announced the appointment of Professor Kovin Naidoo to the position of CEO. Professor Naidoo was appointed Interim CEO following the sudden passing away of Professor Brien Holden in July 2015.

5.  Reports and resources

Nature article: How to build a better PhD
There are too many PhD students for too few academic jobs, but with imagination, the problem could be solved, according to this informative Nature article.

Women in the STEM Professions Survey report
This report from Professionals Australia finds that 31 per cent of female scientists and technicians intend to leave their sector within the next five years, with more than half nominating bleak career prospects as the reason for wanting to leave. Respondents reported that the three greatest barriers to advancement in their working lives were balancing their work/life responsibilities, workplace culture and the lack of access to senior roles for women.

Australian Innovation System Report 2015
The annual Australian Innovation System Report from the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science explores the impact of innovation and related activities on business, industry and national performance. The report also outlines challenges and future opportunities for Australian innovation.

Translating research for economic and social benefit – country comparisons
This report from the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), and launched by the Australian Chief Scientist, makes evidence-based findings about how current levels of translation, commercialisation and collaboration in Australia could be improved and how international models could be applied.

Challenges and opportunities for using Researchfish to support research assessment
How to measure the impact of research and data transparency are hot topics within the research community. This report by Kings College London explores current challenges as well as future opportunities for Researchfish and its user community. The study aims to critically appraise Researchfish as a tool for assessing the outputs, outcomes and impact of research, identify the challenges faced by its users and identify future opportunities as an enabler for impact assessment.

Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released the first Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation, illuminating variation in healthcare provision across Australia. The atlas presents a clear picture of substantial variation in healthcare use throughout Australia, across areas such as antibiotic prescribing, surgical, mental health and diagnostic services.

Health expenditure Australia 201314: analysis by sector
This Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report extends the analysis presented in Health expenditure Australia 2013-14 to provide further information on spending on particular areas of health.

Mental health services – in brief 2015
This report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) provides an overview of data about the national response of the health and welfare system to the mental health care needs of Australians.

National Indigenous Reform Agreement: Performance Assessment 2013-14
This is the sixth report in the series of performance assessments for the ‘Closing the Gap’ targets. This is the first performance assessment prepared by the Productivity Commission, following a request from the Council of Australian Governments.

6.  Funding & award opportunities

WA: $1 million injection for health research
Researchers conducting studies into a range of medical topics are invited to apply for a one-off grant. A total of $1 million has been set aside for the grants from FutureHealth WA, a State Government initiative announced in 2013 to provide $30 million over four years for health and medical research. The new initiative will match NHMRC-secured money, dollar-for-dollar, up to $250,000 per grant. Applications close10 February 2016.

NSW: Medical Devices Fund grants announced; open for 2016
The NSW Government granted $10 million through the 2015 round of the Medical Devices Fund (MDF) to a record eight companies to bring innovative medical technologies to market.
The next round of grant applications is now open, with preliminary applications closing on 12 February 2016.

NSW: 2016 Infectious Diseases Grant Round
Expressions of interest are invited for a joint research grant provided by the NFMRI and Biosecurity and Food Safety NSW, a branch of the NSW Department of Primary Industries. The proposed outcomes of the research project need to be of benefit to NSW. The research grant, however, is not limited to institutions and researchers based in NSW. A total of $400,000 is available to support one or more research projects, for up to three years, investigating infectious diseases, with funding to commence in 2016. Expressions of Interest are due by 26 February 2016.

18th CRC funding round
The 18th CRC funding round is expected to start in February 2016. Guidelines should be released soon. The funding round will include the new CRC-Projects, which are expected to be set up for a 1 July 2016 start. Full CRCs announced in the 18th round are expected to start on 1 July 2017.