Ask a nerd: medical and research funding


Is there any info on this site about medical funding and funding for research?

Thanks, Sophie."

Hey Sophie, thanks for writing in with your question.

We did a policy comparison on where the Liberal Party, Labor Party, the Greens and the Science Party stood on science, innovation and research funding which you might find helpful. But there’s still some more information on research and medical funding to cover, so let’s take a closer look. 

Australia has historically been one of the great countries of scientific innovation and research. Ian Fraser developed and patented the basic technology behind the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer. Scientists at the CSIRO developed a key patent used in Wi-Fi. A team from the University of Queensland conducted the first ever successful flight of a scramjet. And a team of Australian scientists built the first quantum bit, the basic unit of quantum computing.

However, in recent years Australia has been suffering a ‘brain drain’. This is where talented scientific minds in our country go overseas as they are unable to get their research funded. A quarter of the health and medical research workforce surveyed are uncertain of whether they will have employment in 2016.  The Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) has said that if the attrition continues, the scientific community’s “renewal and restoration would take decades and be enormously costly”. Australian government and industry currently invests 2.1% of GDP on research and development. Federal government spending is currently at its equal lowest level in Australian history at 0.4% of GDP in 2015.

So what are the political parties going to do about it?

As part of the 2014-15 budget the Liberal government announced the establishment of a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund. The fund will spend $800 million over the next four years and will eventually increase to $1 billion annually. They have also created the Biomedical Translation Fund to make $500 million available over the next 2 years to help commercialise biomedical studies. However, Coalition has also cut $3 billion from CSIRO’s funding which has forced the redundancies of 350 Australian scientists. To see their plan, click here.

Labor has nominated a goal of seeing Australian government and industry invest 3% of GDP in research and development by the end of 2030. If we use Australia’s GDP at the end of 2015 as a benchmark, this equates to around $48 billion. Labor has, among other things, also promised to improve start-ups access in markets by co-investing through a $500 million investment fund. To see their plan, click here.

The Greens have also nominated a goal of increasing Australia’s investment in research and development to 4% of GDP by 2030.   If using Australia’s GDP at the end of 2015, this equates to around $64 billion. They also have a large list of funding commitments too long to list, but it can be found here.

Remember, there are also a large number of micro parties with an emphasis on science and research that are also worth checking out. Ones to start with could be the Australian Progressives or the Science Party.

Hope this is what you’re after, or points you in the right direction.

Calum at Y Vote