Federal Budget 2020-21: Research and innovation crucial to Australia’s economic and societal recovery

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences welcomes measures in the 2020-21 Federal Budget to support Australian research and innovation. As highlighted in our Pre-Budget submission, COVID-19 has driven home the importance of an adaptable and responsive research and innovation sector working in concert with government, industry and the community.

The Budget includes an injection of $1 billion for universities through the Research Support Program, valuable support for a sector that has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. There is also support for specific groups, such as women in the research community, including funding for the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Program (WISE) and an extension to the Women in STEM Ambassador program. 

AAHMS President, Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO FRS FAA PresAHMS, said ‘Research and innovation are crucial to the nation’s economic and societal recovery from the pandemic. We welcome initiatives in the Budget to support the sector.

‘The benefits of a vibrant health and medical research environment have never been so clear. Overall, the success of these Budget measures hinges on successful efforts to contain the pandemic in Australia and globally, including through a vaccine. Continued investment in health and medical research is therefore crucial in the short term – as well as in the long term to support the recovery, drive economic growth and prepare us for the next pandemic.’

Investment in the Medical Research Future Fund earlier this year, which saw it reach full capitalisation, provides a strong platform for achieving such outcomes. As noted in our Pre-Budget submission, support is needed across the full pipeline of discovery and translational health research – this, along with the increasing costs of internationally competitive biomedical research, needs to be addressed by future growth in NHMRC funding.

Professor Scheffer continued, ‘A long-term strategy is required that sets out a framework for investing in research and innovation. A plan of this nature will help to ensure that Australia is able to reap the economic and societal rewards offered by investing in these endeavours, including those in health and medicine.’

Professor Scheffer added, ‘The inclusion of measures to support younger Australians by keeping them engaged during the financial crisis is also welcome. Additional student places and employment incentives are an important component of dealing with the impacts of the downturn, especially when it comes to mental health. In the research sector, early- and mid-career researchers remain at risk and will need support if we are to secure the future of our world leading research and innovation sector.’

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