The Australian Government is looking to support the sustainability of the health system and drive medical innovation through transforming how health and medical research is conducted in Australia. As part of the 2014-15 Budget, the Australian Government announced the establishment of the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to provide a sustainable source of funding for vital medical research over the medium to longer term. Through the MRFF, the Government will deliver a major additional injection of funds into the health and medical research sector.
The MRFF offers the opportunity to strategically fund research and address national priorities in a cohesive and coordinated way. It complements existing medical research and innovation funding to improve health outcomes by distributing new funding in more diverse ways to support stronger partnerships between researchers, healthcare professionals, governments and the community. MRFF funding will complement the work of the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Commonwealth Science Council and the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, including the Biomedical Translation Fund.
All Australians stand to benefit from ongoing investments in health and medical research through the MRFF, either directly through improved health, or indirectly by supporting improved productivity and economic growth.
Contributions to the MRFF have been sourced from savings within the Health portfolio that will accumulate until the capital target of $20 billion is reached. Disbursements over the next four years are projected to be close to $800 million, and when the fund matures it is anticipated that annual disbursements of up to $1 billion will follow.
The MRFF will be managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians. The Treasurer and Minister for Finance have set an investment mandate for the MRFF that provides broad direction to the Future Fund Board of Guardians in relation to its investment strategy. Net earnings on MRFF capital for a given financial year will be available for drawdown the following financial year, with the capital of the MRFF preserved in perpetuity.
The Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015
sets out the rules for the development of the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy (Strategy) and Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities (Priorities) by the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board (Advisory Board). The Strategy and Priorities will inform decisions made by the Government regarding program level funding from the MRFF.
Criteria for identifying the Priorities include:
- the burden of disease on the Australian community;
- how to deliver practical benefits from medical research and medical innovation to as many Australians as possible;
- how to ensure that financial assistance provides the greatest value for all Australians;
- how to ensure that financial assistance complements and enhances other financial assistance provided for medical research and medical innovation; and
- any other relevant matter.
The Government has established the independent Advisory Board comprising leading experts in medical research and innovation, and health policy and commercialisation, including experience and knowledge in philanthropy, consumer issues and translating research into frontline health care services to determine the Strategy and related Priorities.
The members of the Advisory Board are:
- Chair: Professor Ian Frazer AC is a scientist and previous Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director of Research of the Translational Research Institute. He is now Chair of the Translation Research Institute Foundation Board. Professor Frazer is President of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science and member of the Commonwealth Science Council. He is also Chairman of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation's Medical Research Advisory Committee.
- Member: Mr Yasser El-Ansary is the Chief Executive of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association where he is responsible for leading the strategic direction of the organisation’s work in representing the private equity and venture capital industry in Australia.
- Member: Professor Douglas Hilton is president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institute, Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and Head of the Department of Medical Biology at The University of Melbourne.
- Member: Professor Peter Høj is Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Queensland. Before this, he was Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of South Australia; and CEO of the Australian Research Council.
- Member: Dr Deborah Rathjen is CEO and Managing Director of the Bionomics Corporation.
- Member: Professor Karen Reynolds is Director of the Medical Device Research Institute and the Medical Device Partnering Program, as well as Deputy Dean of the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Flinders University.
- Member: Ms Jennifer Williams is the former Chief Executive of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and is currently the Northern Health (Victoria) Board Chair.
- Ex-Officio Member: Professor Anne Kelso AO is the CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council.
These individuals are highly regarded public figures both within the health and medical research sector and the wider Australian community, and have been selected to ensure that the Advisory Board has the right skills and experience to deliver on the objectives of the MRFF.
Australia has such a strong track record in medical research and discoveries, and the members of the Advisory Board have all played a part in building this foundation.
The Advisory Board held its first meeting on 4 May 2016 in Canberra. The Advisory Board discussed its terms of reference, roles and responsibilities and discussed a plan of action for the consultation process. The following communiqué provides an outline of the meeting.
Australian Medical Research Advisory Board Communiqué – meeting 1
Word version: Communiqué from the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board 4 May 2016 meeting (Word 31 KB)
PDF version: Communiqué from the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board 4 May 2016 meeting (PDF 89 KB)
The Advisory Board has begun consultations to inform the development of the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy and related Priorities to guide Government decision making on MRFF investments. Stakeholder consultation will be critical to the process, and there will a broad range of consultations to ensure stakeholders are able to engage.
There will be two opportunities for individuals and organisations to engage: firstly through the lodgement of submissions to the Department of Health consultation hub and, secondly, though targeted consultations likely to take place in most capital cities in July 2016, the format of which will be determined and announced by the Advisory Board at a later date.
Please make the time to get involved in the upcoming consultations on the MRFF. Your views and ideas are important in creating the right focus for health and medical research and innovation supported by the MRFF.
The consultation hub
can be found at the Departments of Health's web site.