Professor Anne Kelso AO
CEO, National Health and Medical Research Council
6 October 2020

Support for the critical role of health and medical research in improving the health of the Australian community continues in the 2020-21 Budget handed down on 6 October by the Treasurer, the Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP.

Government commitments will provide $6 billion over the next four years for health and medical research with $3.5 billion allocated to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for research funding. 

NHMRC will manage similar levels of funding to the previous year, with the Medical Research Endowment Account continuing to grow with indexation over the budget and forward years. 

Strong research foundation evidenced in Australia’s response to COVID-19

NHMRC invests in the highest quality health and medical research and the best researchers. NHMRC also supports the translation of scientific discoveries to benefit communities in Australia and around the world.

This is evidenced in the Australian research sector’s rapid collaborative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the disruption of professional and personal lives, researchers have stepped up to assist the national response – contributing to the development and testing of diagnostics, drugs and vaccines, supporting the public health response and investigating the mental health and other impacts of the pandemic on the community.

The outstanding effort was made possible by Australia’s long-term investment in our internationally competitive and engaged health and medical research workforce. 

Latest grant recipients demonstrate research excellence

NHMRC congratulates recipients of the latest grants announced as part of the 2020-21 Budget. We also acknowledge the considerable contribution of expert peer reviewers who underpin our robust research system, ensuring we support the most significant research and maintain Australia’s reputation for research quality and integrity. They have also worked under increased pressure because of the pandemic and we greatly appreciate their efforts.

Grant outcomes announced in the 2020-21 Budget:

Centres of Research Excellence

The latest round of funding through NHMRC’s Centres of Research Excellence scheme supports improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health, and better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a range of health conditions affecting the lives of many Australians.

The Australian Government is investing $35 million to support 14 Centres. Of the $35 million, $10 million is for research addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Of the 14 new Centres of Research Excellence, six are led by one or more Chief Investigator of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent. 

A media release on this scheme can be found here.

Development Grants

NHMRC’s Development Grant scheme helps take research to the proof-of-concept stage, a critical step on the pathway to commercial outcomes. This year, each Development Grant application was assessed by up to 10 peer reviewers: five scientific reviewers and five commercial reviewers.

The Australian Government is investing almost $15 million in this round of Development Grants which will support 18 research teams in the development of a product, process, procedure or service to improve health care, prevent disease or save health care costs.

They include a novel hearing-monitoring product integrated with the cochlear implant to minimise loss of natural hearing. Another team will pursue their discovery of a drug that blocks the injury response of the heart following a heart attack. Other funded grants will support development of a new drug to treat multidrug resistant bacteria, an improved method to repair tooth enamel/dentine, and a point-of-care test for Hepatitis C virus.

A media release on this scheme can be found here.

Partnership Projects

NHMRC’s Partnership Project scheme provides funding for researchers and partner agencies to work together to define questions, undertake research, interpret the findings and translate the outcomes into improved health policy and practice.

The latest round of funding through NHMRC’s Partnership Project scheme will support 22 research initiatives to advance health policy and practice. Australian Government support of more than $20 million for these projects is boosted by significant additional contributions from partner organisations such as frontline health services, government, consumer groups, non-government organisations and charities.

A media release on this scheme can be found here.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The Australian Government is investing $3.3 million in medical research to improve understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a complex condition with an unknown cause.

Consumer representatives with lived experience of this difficult condition were key participants in the competitive peer review process.

The funding will help Australian researchers find new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of patients presenting with symptoms – for example, using stem cell technology that shows more accurately how cells act in the body of their donor to identify new targets for the treatment of chronic fatigue. 

A media release on this scheme can be found here.

Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research in 2020

Our congratulations to Associate Professor Eric Chow from Monash University, recipient of the 2020 Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research.

The Award recognises Associate Professor Chow's outstanding research achievements in applying epidemiology and bioinformatics to sexual health, as well as his vision for his future research on sexually transmitted infections. 

Read about Associate Professor Chow’s work and award here.

The Excel workbook with NHMRC’s year to date grant outcomes can be found at this link: Summary of the results of the NHMRC 2020 Grant Application Round - Updated 6/10/2020 [XLS 180KB]. 

For more information on the Health Budget visit 

Professor Anne Kelso AO
Chief Executive Officer