NHMRC is Australia’s leading national investor in health and medical research. In 2016-17 alone, NHMRC awarded over $800 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 illness, dementia and diabetes.
Despite this significant investment, NHMRC receives more research proposals each year than it is able to fund. Many of these are high quality and well-suited to funding through third parties.
NHMRC also recognises that support from individuals, industry, other government agencies and the wider public and private sectors is crucial to delivering improvements in individual and population health. This support can take many forms such as philanthropy (donations and bequests), contributing to the development of health guidelines, promoting standards in ethics and the conduct of research, and identifying research priorities through participation in committees and expert groups, amongst others.
The following sections outline how you can work with NHMRC in funding health and medical research, along with the benefits of doing so.
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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. Running your own grant program can also be time-consuming and costly.
How can NHMRC 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 focussed 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.
There are a number of factors to consider when providing funding to health and medical research. Apart from defining your area of research interest, it is important to be clear about:
- 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.
NHMRC offers a range of funding pathways, depending on your objectives, funding amount, timeframes and other preferences. Some common approaches together with their key characteristics are outlined below.
Note: While the case studies included below reference NHMRC’s existing grant schemes, opportunities to support health and medical research through NHMRC will continue to exist under NHMRC’s new grant program, as summarised in the table below. NHMRC will be working with existing funding partners during 2018-19 to ensure a smooth transition, and welcomes enquiries about how the new funding streams align with and can support your health and medical research goals.
1. Support a specific research project
- Organisations involved with health care policy and service delivery can partner with researchers on a specific NHMRC grant application under NHMRC’s Partnership Projects 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.
- Indicative timeframe from inception to award: 6 to 9 months.
1A. Funded through an NHMRC Partnership Grant, the Cancer Data and Aboriginal Disparities (CanDAD) project aimed to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for Aboriginal Australians. Supporters of this research included the University of South Australia, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, S.A. Department of Health and Ageing, Cancer Council S.A., the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, and BreastScreen S.A. In addition to financial assistance, supporters provided in-kind contributions such as population datasets, strategic advice, research development, industry insight, written publications and expertise.
2. Support an existing NHMRC grant program
- 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.
- 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 has partnered with NHMRC to boost the scale of three NHMRC fellowships schemes, with NHMRC conducting the peer review and grant administration and the Department contributing funds from the Medical Research Future Fund. Further details: Next Generation Clinical Researchers website.
2B. Cancer Councils and Cancer Australia have partnered with NHMRC’s 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. In their shared support of young clinical researchers, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has partnered with NHMRC to provide “top-up” funds to select recipients of NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarships. Through a number of supplementary Awards of Excellence, RACP grants an additional $10,000 per annum, for up to three years. Further details: Royal Australasian College of Physicians 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 (e.g. Targeted Call for Research (3A) or Joint Call for Research (3B)) or recurring (e.g. annual scholarship) call for grant applications to address a specific health issue.
- 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. beyondblue has partnered with NHMRC to design and co-fund a Targeted Call for Research into depression, anxiety and suicide among elderly Australians. Further details: NHMRC website. beyondblue is also working with NHMRC in a co-funding arrangement in childhood adversity under the Centres of Research Excellence scheme.
3B. The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) entered into an agreement with NHMRC to run a Joint Call for Research to Enhance Prediction and Improve the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes in China and Australia. This included establishing a joint panel for the review of applications and co-funding supported projects. Further details: NHMRC website.
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).
- You retain responsibility for, and control over, all other program elements (e.g. objectives, eligibility, review criteria, funding decisions, grant administration, publicity, branding, announcements).
- Indicative timeframe from inception to award: 3 to 9 months.
4A. In 2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) partnered with NHMRC to align the NHMRC’s Northern Australia Tropical Disease Collaborative Research Program with the DFAT Tropical Disease Research Regional Collaboration Initiative. This arrangement allowed applicants to apply for separate funding from DFAT under the Tropical Disease Research Regional Collaboration Initiative, using NHMRC’s application processes. NHMRC conducted the peer review of applications on behalf of DFAT to identify applications suitable for their funding. Details, including peer review outcomes, of all applications that were considered fundable and relevant to DFAT objectives were provided to DFAT. The decision to award DFAT funding, and grant administration, remained the responsibility of DFAT. Further details: DFAT website.
5. Support health and medical research through a non-specific 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. These can be 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. In the case of unconditional gifts and bequests, expenditure of the MREA is used to support a variety of grant types, including Project Grants, Development Grants, Partnership Projects, a range of scholarships and fellowships, Centres of Research Excellence, Targeted Calls for Research and several collaborative schemes with international partners.
- 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.
Opportunities under NHMRC’s new grant program
From late 2018, NHMRC will be rolling out its new grant program consisting of four distinct funding streams. Similar to NHMRC’s existing grant schemes, the new 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 new grant program offers a broad range of opportunities that will meet the needs of most prospective supporters. Alternatively, if your needs cannot be met via the four available streams NHMRC can work with you to design a custom call (e.g. the new Strategic and Leveraging Grants stream includes an enhanced Targeted Calls for Research scheme). Further information on the four streams is provided below in Table 1.
Table 1: Overview of new grant program and associated funding opportunities
|Synergy Grants||Ideas Grants||Strategic and Leveraging Grants|
To support the research programs of outstanding researchers at all career stages
To support outstanding multidisciplinary teams to work together to answer major questions that cannot be answered by a single researcher
|To support focussed innovative research projects addressing a specific question||To support research that addresses identified national needs|
|Duration||5 years||5 years||Up to 5 years||Varies with scheme|
|Number of Chief Investigators||
|1-10||Dependent on individual scheme|
Research support package (RSP) plus optional salary support
|Grant of a set budget ($5 million)||Based on the requested budget for research support||Dependent on individual scheme|
 Donations or bequests to NHMRC are not tax deductable.