The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) are uniquely positioned to work with individuals, philanthropic trusts, foundations and other funders to help support health and medical research in Australia. Philanthropists interested in supporting high quality health and medical research projects are encouraged to review the opportunities for, and benefits of, engaging with us.
NHMRC are Australia’s leading health and medical research funding body with over 80 years of experience supporting quality research. Many of the research proposals we receive are high quality and address health issues of community concern, making them well suited to funding by third parties, including philanthropic trusts and foundations.
Prospectus for Philanthropic Organisations
The NHMRC Philanthropic Engagement Working Committee was established to advise the NHMRC’s CEO on engagement with the philanthropic sector on funding health and medical research in partnership with NHMRC. NHMRC’s approach to philanthropic engagement was developed by the Committee to inform philanthropic organisations interested in investing in health and medical research about how they can partner with NHMRC to identify potential projects for investment.
The information on this webpage reflects NHMRC’s broader partnership policy, in particular, the benefits of working with NHMRC and the various funding pathways open for NHMRC partners.
Philanthropic Engagement Working Committee
Professor Graeme Samuel AC, Chair of the Dementia Australia Board
Mr Bruce Mansfield, Adviser, Minderoo Foundation Trust
Professor Bob Williamson AO, Scientific Director of Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program
Ms Nadia Levin, CEO and Managing Director of Research Australia
Mr Vedran Drakulic OAM, CEO of Gandel Philanthropy
NHMRC’s investment in health and medical research
NHMRC’s grant program attracts excellent researchers and research proposals. With NHMRC support, Australia undertakes outstanding health and medical research that contributes to significant improvements in individual and population health.
In 2021-22 alone, NHMRC awarded over $970 million in new grants to support research into health issues of community concern, including those responsible for the greatest burden of disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health, dementia and diabetes.
NHMRC’s grant program consists of four distinct funding streams, Investigator, Synergy, Ideas and Strategic and Leveraging Grants. The grant program provides opportunities for individuals, groups and organisations to support health and medical research by:
- partnering with NHMRC to invest in high quality research and researchers
- supporting health and medical research in line with your objectives (e.g. research on a specific disease or focussed on a particular problem), and
- using NHMRC’s well established application and peer review processes.
NHMRC’s grant program
NHMRC’s grant program attracts a wide range of applications from individuals, research teams and large collaborative networks. Through the program we invest in projects across the full spectrum of health and medical research.
Our grant program attracts excellent researchers and research proposals in all areas of health and medical research, and includes research in biomedical science, health services, public health and clinical trials.
NHMRC’s grant program is open to researchers at all career stages from postgraduate students to early and mid-career researchers to senior researchers. Support is provided for
- individual researchers and their teams
- specific projects
- large collaborative teams or networks.
A typical NHMRC grant is of three to five years’ duration. The average grant amounts for our four largest schemes are: Investigator Grants $1.5 million, Ideas Grants $0.8 million, Synergy Grants $5 million, and Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies $2.4 million.
NHMRC also offers postgraduate scholarships which provide a stipend for graduate students to complete a Masters or PhD by research (about $100,000 over 3 years for a PhD scholarship).
All other NHMRC grant schemes support early and mid-career researchers, as well as senior researchers. For example, Investigator Grants provide a salary and research support package for researchers at any postdoctoral career stage.
Some schemes are designed to support specific projects. For example, Ideas Grants fund innovative research addressing a specific question. Development Grants are for pre-commercialisation research and Partnership Project Grants support researchers, policy makers and health providers to work together to improve health services.
NHMRC also offers grants to enable teams of researchers to pursue collaborative research. For example, Synergy Grants support multidisciplinary teams to answer a major question ($5 million over 5 years) while Centres of Research Excellence aim to improve research translation into policy and practice and build the research workforce ($2.5 million over 5 years).
More information about all NHMRC schemes is available on our Funding page.
Opportunities for philanthropic funders
Providing funding for health and medical research is a simple and direct way of contributing to advances in our understanding and improvement of human health.
NHMRC is uniquely positioned to work with individuals, philanthropic trusts and foundations, government agencies and other funders to help you to support health and medical research in Australia.
Benefits of working with NHMRC:
- Reputation and experience:
- NHMRC is Australia’s largest health and medical research funding body with over 80 years of experience supporting the health and medical research sector.
- Identifying opportunities to support research across a range of areas and institutions, in line with your objectives:
- NHMRC can help with identifying suitable research projects and teams, based on your areas of interest, submitted to us by Australia medical research institutes, universities and hospitals. Many of these entities have deductible gift recipient (DGR) status.
- Well-established, rigorous peer review processes:
- NHMRC uses expert peer reviewers to evaluate applications and identify the best research proposals and researchers.
- Expertise drawn from all areas of the health system, including:
- Government, medical practitioners, nurses and allied health professionals, research institutions, service administrators, community health organisations and consumers.
- Time and cost savings:
- NHMRC’s grant application, assessment and administration processes can be used as an alternative to developing and running your own systems.
- Flexible partnership pathways to meet the needs of your organisation.
Simple partnership model
Running a bespoke grant program can be time-consuming and expensive. Your organisation can leverage NHMRC’s grant program and rigorous peer review process to identify research projects that match your interests.
How it works
Indicate your interest
- Philanthropists and other funders indicate their research interests.
- For example, you could nominate particular research areas (e.g. cancer, cardiovascular disease, genomics, etc.) or nominate characteristics of researchers (e.g. Indigenous researchers and/or female researchers).
- Researchers submit proposals to NHMRC schemes.
- The standard application form for our schemes (e.g. Investigator, Ideas, Synergy) allow researchers to indicate whether they wish to be considered for funding by other organisations
- NHMRC's well-established, rigorous peer review identifies the best research proposals.
- Research proposals are assessed by an independent panel of experts, including national and international health and medical research experts, as well as community and consumer representatives where appropriate.
Matching to interests
- NHMRC matches quality research proposals to your nominated interests.
- NHMRC identifies proposals that are first rate and fundable and matches them to your nominated interests. NHMRC seeks permission to pass on details of the proposals to you.
- You decide which research proposals you want to fund from the list provided.
- NHMRC provides you with a list of worthy proposals that match your nominated interests. You decide whether you fund any and which ones. Full application details can be made available for your consideration (subject to the researcher's prior agreement).
- The funder and the researcher agree on the funded project.
- By entering into a funding agreement directly with the researcher's institution (e.g. university, medical research institute and/or hospital) you control the funds and track how the project progresses. Many of these entities also have deductible gift recipient status (DGR).
McCusker Charitable Foundation
The McCusker Charitable Foundation, based in Western Australia, provides financial assistance to projects aimed at improving health and education. The Foundation’s priority areas of interest include: medical research and the advancement of medical science, care, welfare and education of young people and support for the aged and infirm. The Foundation has partnered with NHMRC to leverage access to high quality, fundable projects, assessed through the NHMRC’s Ideas Grant scheme.
The mechanism outlined in the memorandum of understanding between the Foundation and NHMRC is shown in the steps below:
- The Foundation provides application keywords to NHMRC
- NHMRC provides the Foundation with a list of 'fundable but unfunded by NHMRC' applications meeeting the keywords
- The Foundation contacts applicants to discuss options for funding
Cancer Australia works in partnership with NHMRC to identify high quality cancer research projects for funding through its annual, national cancer research project funding scheme, the Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (PdCCRS). All applications to be considered for funding through the PdCCRS are submitted through the NHMRC Ideas Grant scheme or Clinical Trial and Cohort Studies Grant scheme. Scores are then provided to Cancer Australia, weighted and combined with scores from Cancer Australia’s assessment of applicant responses to specific priority-driven cancer questions to produce a final score. Applications are collaboratively funded in ranked order by Cancer Australia and its PdCCRS Funding Partners according to this final score.
Since 2007, 417 cancer research projects have been funded by Cancer Australia and its funding partners under this arrangement.
Beyond Blue partnered with NHMRC to design and co-fund a $5 million Targeted Call for Research into ways to prevent depression, anxiety and suicide among elderly Australians and improve the detection and effective management of these conditions.
Seven projects were funded through this partnership, including a trial to reduce the prevalence of depression in Australian nursing homes and research to improve health and social participation outcomes in older adults with depression and anxiety.
Beyond Blue also collaborated with NHMRC in a $2.5 million co-funding arrangement in childhood adversity under the Centres of Research Excellence scheme.
Other funding pathways
As well as the simple partnership model, NHMRC offers a range of funding pathways, the suitability of which depends on your objectives, funding amount, timeframes and other preferences.
Objective 1: Support a specific research project in partnership with researchers
Partner with researchers to apply under NHMRC’s Partnership Project Scheme
Good choice for organisations involved with health care policy and service delivery that want to support specific researchers and/or a specific research project.
Support for the project provided by a funder can be in the form of cash and/or in-kind (non-monetary goods and services) contributions.
Prospective funders have the opportunity to shape the research question and potentially leverage additional NHMRC funding.
More information about the Partnership Project Scheme is available at Partnership Projects
Objective 2: Support quality research project/s in nominated research area/s
Leverage NHMRC’s existing grant program to help identify research projects to fund or co-fund, or top-up an NHMRC-funded research project.
Suited to prospective funders whose interests (e.g. career development or research into a specific disease or condition) align with the objectives of an existing NHMRC scheme.
There are three options within this funding model:
Simple Partnership Model (also called ‘gap funding’)
- Simplest model with low obligation and control over your own funding decisions and processes.
- NHMRC gives you a list of high quality applications following NHMRC peer review, which exceed NHMRC’s budget to fund.
- You can then choose which research or researchers to fund and at what level, as well as administer the grants directly.
- Your funds are pooled with NHMRC’s funds to provide increased support for the next round of an existing scheme.
- NHMRC manages all aspects of the funding cycle from application through to award.
- You could be named as a co-funder and publicise the grants.
- You can separately provide funds to successful applicants (post-NHMRC award) in addition to the funds NHMRC has awarded.
- NHMRC administers the core grant and you are responsible for administration of the ‘top-up’ funding.
Objective 3: Co-design and grant scheme with NHMRC to address a specific issue
Partner with NHMRC to design a Targeted or Joint Call for Research or other co-designed scheme.
Suitable where a particular health issue requires a targeted intervention and/or joint funding for a specific issue that aligns with NHMRC’s mission.
The partner and NHMRC collaborate in specifying the scope and objectives of the research and may collaborate on other aspects of the administration (e.g. peer review). Funding may be pooled or administered separately by each funding body.
NHMRC’s International Engagement Strategy applies to joint or collaborative funding with overseas funding bodies.
Objective 4: Support health and medical research philanthropically through a gift or bequest
Gifts and bequests received by NHMRC are placed in the Medical Research Endowment Account to be used to support health and medical research, subject to any conditions
Individuals and organisations can support NHMRC’s activities by making a donation or nominating NHMRC as a beneficiary in their final testament. If you are interested in making a gift or bequest, we recommend you seek private legal advice or contact the Public Trustee in the first instance.
Gifts and bequests can be conditional, that is made to support specific types of research, or given unconditionally, depending on your preference. Gifts must accord with NHMRC’s functions, policies and abilities, and are subject to formal acceptance by NHMRC.
In the case of unconditional gifts and bequests, NHMRC may choose to expend the funds through any grant opportunity under NHMRC’s grant program.
 Donations or bequests to NHMRC are not tax deductable.
It doesn’t matter in what area of health and medical research your organisation is seeking to invest – from cancer research to better prevention of chronic diseases to improving regional and remote health – NHMRC can help you find the right researchers and research projects.
Further information can be found at our Working Together to Support Health and Medical Research page or contact us at SupportingResearch@nhmrc.gov.au