NHMRC is the Australian Government’s primary health and medical research funding agency. With NHMRC support, Australia undertakes outstanding health and medical research which has contributed to significant improvements in individual and population health.
Despite this significant investment, NHMRC receives more research proposals each year than it is able to fund. Many of these are of high quality and well-suited to funding through third parties.
In 2022 NHMRC developed the NHMRC Research Translation Strategy 2022-2025. Priority 1 of this Strategy is ‘Encourage partnerships between researchers and end-users’.
The following sections outline how you can work with NHMRC in funding health and medical research, along with the benefits of doing so.
For further information contact SupportingResearch@nhmrc.gov.au
Making the most of your support
Providing funding for health and medical research (whether via a donation, bequest, grant or other means) is a simple and direct way of contributing to advances in our understanding and improvement of health. However, determining which project, researchers or institution to support can be challenging. Conducting your own grant program can also be time-consuming and costly.
Note: To access a tax deduction, potential partners could support health and medical research through charitable organisations.
How NHMRC can help
NHMRC is uniquely positioned to work with individuals, philanthropic trusts and foundations, government agencies and other funders to effectively and efficiently direct funds by drawing on NHMRC’s expertise and services.
Specific benefits include:
- 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.
- opportunities to support a variety of research areas and institutions, in line with your objectives:
- NHMRC supports research across the full spectrum of health and medical research, from basic science through to clinical, public health and health services research.
- Funds can be distributed to researchers at approved universities, medical research institutes and hospitals through existing or custom grant programs. NHMRC can help with identifying suitable recipients. Many of these entities have deductible gift recipient (DGR) status.
- Custom programs can be designed to support a broad range of research including: research on a specific disease, career development, large collaborative research programs or focused projects, partnerships with the health industry and policy makers, development of ideas with commercial potential, and international collaborative research, amongst others.
- well-established, rigorous peer review processes:
- NHMRC utilises expert peer reviewers to evaluate applications and identify the best research proposals and researchers.
- 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.
- expertise drawn from all areas of the health system, including:
- governments, medical practitioners, nurses and allied health professionals, research institutions, public and private program managers, service administrators, community health organisations and consumers.
NHMRC’s Policy on Recognition of Supporting Partners
NHMRC’s Policy on Recognition of Supporting Partners acknowledges the role of Partners who work with NHMRC to support health and medical research. It sets out a strategy to recognise current and potential NHMRC Partners and how Partners recognise NHMRC.
Factors to consider when providing funding for health and medical research:
- what are your objectives
- the total amount of funding you wish to make available
- the duration of your commitment
- whether you want to make a one-off or recurring contribution.
In funding health and medical research what do you wish to achieve?
- build capacity in an area of research interest
- support excellence in an area of research interest
- support a specific research area.
NHMRC offers a range of funding pathways, depending on your objectives, funding amount, timeframes and other preferences. A Partnering Decision Tree presents potential partners with options to assist in making a decision on the type of funding model to adopt. NHMRC will provide advice on costs for our administrative services on a case-by-case basis, depending on the funding model you choose.
Common approaches and their key characteristics are outlined below.
1. Support a specific research project in partnership with researchers
- Researchers can partner with organisations involved with health care policy and service delivery on a specific NHMRC grant application under NHMRC’s Partnership Project scheme.
- 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 leverage additional NHMRC funding.
- Examples of partners who use this approach are listed on the Partnership Projects website, under the heading 'Outcomes of funding rounds'.
- Indicative timeframe from inception to award: 6 to 9 months.
1A. Funded through a Partnership Project grant, the Burnet Institute received a grant to determine the impact of the Melbourne Supervised Injecting Rooms on health and social outcomes. Supported by the Department of Health Victoria, Harm Reduction Victoria (HRVic), North Richmond Community Health and Cohealth, the project aims to provide new highest-quality evidence about the effectiveness of Melbourne Supervised Injecting Rooms to inform ongoing policy and practice around supervised injecting facilities. Partners supported the project by providing cash contributions for salary support, as well as in-kind support such as project management, database linkage, media promotion, office space, recruitment support, consumer consultation, study design support, and peer supervision.
2. Support an existing NHMRC grant program
- Suited to prospective funders whose interests (for example, career development or research into a specific disease or condition) align with the objectives of an existing NHMRC scheme.
- Options include:
- Co-funding — your funds are pooled with NHMRC’s funds to provide increased support for the next round of an existing program. NHMRC can manage all aspects of the funding cycle from application through to award (see Case Study 2A). You could be named as a co-funder and publicise the grants, alongside NHMRC. Indicative timeframe from inception to award: 9 to 18 months.
- Gap funding — NHMRC can supply you with a list of high quality applications following NHMRC peer review, which exceed NHMRC’s budget to fund. You can then choose what research or researchers to fund and at what level, as well as administer the grants if you wish (see Case Study 2B). Indicative timeframe from inception to award: 3 to 6 months.
- Top-up funding — you can separately provide funds to successful applicants in addition to the funds NHMRC has awarded. NHMRC administers the core grant and you are responsible for administration of the ‘top-up’ funding (see Case Study 2C).
2A. The Department of Health partnered with NHMRC to fund grants under the Partnership Project scheme for research into the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Obesity Prevention Research Special Initiative. The Special Initiative research grants supported collaboration between policy makers, program managers, service providers and researchers with experience or interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. It also provided the opportunity for community organisations that are contributing to health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop a relationship with a researcher to strengthen the evidence in FASD and Obesity Prevention Research.
2B. Cancer Councils and Cancer Australia have partnered with NHMRC’s Ideas Grants and Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies schemes (and former Project Grants scheme) to fund researchers investigating the causes, treatment and prevention of cancer who are assessed as fundable, but will not be funded by NHMRC. Further details: Cancer Council and Cancer Australia websites.
2C. The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) partners with NHMRC to provide “top-up” funds to high-ranked recipients of NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarships through The Douglas and Lola Douglas Scholarship in medical science. The Douglas and Lola Douglas Scholarship is awarded to support postgraduate researchers in the areas of Indigenous or Primary Health Care. AAS provides a maximum of two awardees an additional $7,000 initially for one year, with funding available for a maximum of two years. Further details: Australian Academy of Science website.
3. Co-design a grant program with NHMRC to address a specific issue
- A very flexible funding model, which can be tailored to your specific needs.
- You can work with NHMRC in developing a one-time (for example, Targeted Call for Research (3A) or Joint Call for Research (3B)) or recurring (for example, annual scholarship) call for grant applications to address a specific health issue that aligns with NHMRC’s mission.
- This may include assisting in specifying the scope and objectives of the research, application requirements and procedures, and the review criteria to be applied, and participating in the peer review.
- Overseas funders should refer to NHMRC’s International Engagement Strategy for other relevant considerations.
- Indicative timeframe from inception to award: 9 to 18 months.
3A. The Department of Health and Aged Care (DoHA) has partnered with NHMRC to design Targeted Call for Research to generate evidence to inform policies and strategies on increasing community participation in Australia’s Cancer Screening Programs. NHMRC administered the grant opportunity which was funded by DoHA.
3B. NHMRC partnered with Japan’s Agency for Medical and Research Development (AMED) on a co-funded collaborative research call to support dementia research. This included establishing a joint panel for the review of applications, and co-funding supported projects.
4. Use NHMRC systems and processes to support your own grant program
- Allows you to benefit from NHMRC’s well-established application and rigorous peer review processes (note: NHMRC may seek to recover costs of providing services from Government entities).
- You can retain responsibility for, and control over, all other program elements (for example, objectives, eligibility, review criteria, funding decisions, grant administration, publicity, branding, announcements).
- Indicative timeframe from inception to award: 3 to 9 months.
4A. NHMRC is working with the Department of Health and Aged Care to implement disbursements from the Medical Research Future Fund. This assistance will draw on NHMRC's application and assessment processes and the expertise available to NHMRC through the health and medical research sector and other sources.
5. Support health and medical research philanthropically through a gift or bequest
- In addition to the pathways listed above, individuals and organisations can support NHMRC’s activities by making a donation or nominating NHMRC as a beneficiary in their final testament.1 Gifts and bequests can be conditional, that is made to support specific types of research, or given unconditionally, depending on your preference. All gifts must be in accord with NHMRC’s functions, policies and abilities, and are subject to formal acceptance by NHMRC.
- Gifts and bequests received by NHMRC are placed in our Medical Research Endowment Account (MREA) for the purposes of the MREA (i.e. in order to provide assistance to institutions and people engaged in medical research and for medical research training), subject to any conditions (Note: unspent funds cannot be returned).
- In the case of unconditional gifts and bequests, NHMRC may choose to expend the funds through any grant opportunity under NHMRC’s grant program.
- 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.
- You may also wish to view NHMRC’s Prospectus for Philanthropic Organisations.
Opportunities under NHMRC’s grant program
NHMRC’s grant program provides opportunities for individuals, groups and organisations to support health and medical research by:
- funding across the spectrum of health and medical research
- investing in people with outstanding research achievements and promise
- supporting the most innovative research to solve complex problems, and
- meeting specific objectives.
The NHMRC grant program offers a broad range of opportunities that will meet the needs of most prospective partners. Alternatively NHMRC can work with you to design a custom call, for example NHMRC’s enhanced Targeted Call for Research scheme, or you can submit research topics via the Community Research Priorities Portal.