10 May 2017

The Australian Government announced the first round of investments from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) in the 2017 Budget. This MRFF funding is in addition to the Australian Government’s funding of around $800m per year to NHMRC for health and medical research.

The Australian Government announced the first round of investments from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) in the 2017 Budget. This MRFF funding is in addition to the Australian Government’s funding of around $800m per year to NHMRC for health and medical research.

The independent Australian Medical Research Advisory Board supporting the MRFF noted in their inaugural Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2016-2021 that the MRFF will neither replicate the role of, nor operate in competition with NHMRC.  The Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015 recognises NHMRC as an expert research funding body that can assist with administering MRFF programs.

NHMRC is working with the Department of Health to determine administrative arrangements for some of the new programs announced under the first disbursement from the MRFF. This assistance will draw on NHMRC’s high quality application and assessment processes, and the expertise available to NHMRC through the health and medical research sector.

Further illustrating the complementarity between NHMRC and the MRFF, two specific measures announced will be implemented by the Department of Health using vehicles established by NHMRC: The Australian Prevention Partnership CentreAdvanced Health Research and Translation Centres, and Centres for Innovation in Regional Health.

Link to MRFF fact sheet: Rapid Applied Research Translation

Link to MRFF fact sheet: Boosting Preventive Health Research

Updates on NHMRC activities associated with the implementation of MRFF programs will be provided on our website and via Research Tracker.

Update on other budget measures for NHMRC

Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA)

NHMRC will manage similar levels of funding through the Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA) compared to last year, increasing slightly over the forward estimates in line with indexation.

National research into the human health effects of prolonged exposure to PFAS

The Government will invest $12.5 million over four years to increase the body of evidence and understanding of potential human health effects of prolonged exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). NHMRC will administer the program through a targeted call for research.

Streamlining and enhancing NHMRC grant assignment and outcomes reporting

This measure will provide $8.5 million to progress NHMRC’s advanced analytics pilot projects to full implementation over the next three years. These projects assist in matching grant applications to expert reviewers and panels, and in the identification and reporting of research outcomes. (This measure is part of a Modernisation Fund run by the Department of Finance.)

NHMRC and the Medical Research Future Fund Budget announcements

NHMRC’s role

NHMRC’s grant application and assessment processes have an international reputation for their high quality and may be used to assist with the selection of grants to receive support from the MRFF for relevant measures. In other instances, the MRFF will use vehicles established or recognised by NHMRC. Where appropriate, NHMRC’s requirements and guidelines for health and medical research will be used to support MRFF programs. More detail will be released in coming weeks.

Allocating MRFF investments 

Where it is deemed appropriate MRFF programs may use existing NHMRC funding schemes.  More information will be forthcoming following detailed announcement of MRFF’s first disbursement programs. 

Advanced Health Research and Translation Centres (AHRTCs) and Centres for Innovation in Regional Health (CIRHs)

These centres are powerful collaborations led by hospitals and health services, joining with our world-class universities and medical research institutes to ensure that research is translated into better care for patients.

AHRTCs and CIRHs have already undergone rigorous international peer review in order to receive recognition from NHMRC. NHMRC does not provide the centres with funding. The capabilities assembled in the AHRTCs and CIRHs provide an important new mechanism to pursue research and evidence based improvements in health and healthcare.

The first AHRTCs were announced in 2015 and new AHRTCs and CIRHs will be announced shortly.

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre

The Australian Partnership Centre was established in 2013 following a competitive call for applications. The Centre is jointly funded to the value of $22.6 million over five years by NHMRC, the Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Health, ACT Health and the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the HCF Health and Medical Research Foundation.

The Centre’s focus is on primary prevention and chronic health problems, including examining and building the information and actions required to establish a population wide, efficient and effective preventive health system in Australia.

Choosing MRFF investments

The investments were chosen consistent with the process set out in the Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015. They align with the independent and expert Australian Medical Research Advisory Board’s Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy 2016–2021and related Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities 2016–2018. In accordance with the legislation, the Government has considered the priorities identified by the Advisory Board in making decisions on MRFF disbursements.