The 2013 McKeon Review, Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research – Better Health through Research, highlighted the importance of research in the health sector and the benefits of translating this into practice. The Review recommended that government increase research and development investment to a long–term target of three to four per cent of government health expenditure.
Following the McKeon Review, the Federal Government announced the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), intended to build to $20 billion and provide $1 billion in funding annually for health and medical research. On 13 August 2015, the legislation to establish the MRFF passed both Houses of the Australian Parliament and was assented to on 26 August 2015. As a result, $10 million in additional medical research funding will be distributed in 2015–16, and over $400 million is estimated for distribution over the next four years.
As an endowment fund, the $20 billion capital will be protected in perpetuity, and earnings from investing this capital will be allocated to health and medical research and medical innovation, complimenting research funding allocated by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The proposed MRFF will eventually deliver $1 billion per annum for health and medical research and innovation (an effective doubling of Federal Government investment in this research).
Importantly, the MRFF will be broader in its remit than current NHMRC grant programs, funding medical innovation (i.e. commercialisation and translation of research, and the application of research findings in health settings), in addition to health and medical research. There is also potential for financial assistance from the MRFF to be provided directly to businesses to support medical research commercialisation activities.
An Australian Medical Research Advisory Board (including the NHMRC CEO and up to seven other skills-based representatives), will be responsible for preparing a medical research and innovation strategy and priorities to guide the allocation of financial assistance and grants from the MRFF. There is also a requirement that the Advisory Board consult organisations with expertise in medical research/innovation and organisations that represent health consumers/patients.