ATSE recommends that model two from the consultation discussion paper be implemented, since it has the greatest potential for delivering a coordinated approach to health and medical research funding. Combining unified governance arrangements while maintaining two separate funding streams with distinct funding responsibilities can address potential duplication of funding, applicant administrative burden and lacking coordination. This approach also provides the flexibility to fund investigator-led research and researcher-driven research to address national priorities.
Currently, Australia lacks an overarching strategy for Australian Government funded health and medical research due to inconsistencies in the operation of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA). The reform offers Australia the opportunity to determine how health and medical research can better fit the nation’s needs now and into the future.
ATSE makes the following recommendations to improve the alignment of Australian health and medical research funding:
Recommendation 1: Adopt model two to enhance the coordination of Australia’s strategic investment in health and medical research while increasing efficiency in delivering the two funding streams.
Recommendation 2: Leverage the distinct funding responsibilities of the MRFF and MREA to meet the needs of the different priorities, while being managed by the NHMRC (with increased resources) to overcome efficiency problems and achieve greater alignment.
Recommendation 3: Promote the integration of research outcomes into the health system by increasing dedicated translational research funding and encourage MRFF-funded translation activities for promising MREA-funded research.
Recommendation 4: Encourage innovation that doesn’t fit within ‘standard’ research areas to ensure Australia is at the cutting edge of global health technology research.