The case for getting on with the Medical Research Future Fund‏

Commentary by Tony Peacock, CRC Assocation CEO.

Even though Cooperative Research Centres took a hit in the recent Federal Budget, I have argued in our latest edition of KnowHow magazine that it is in the national interest to move forward with the Medical Research Future Fund.

Australia’s research intensity has improved over the past thirty years. We have got up towards the European average. But the trouble is, other countries are moving faster and in an economy in transition like ours, there is a strong case for greater research spending overall in Australia.

Of course, as CEO of the Cooperative Research Centres Association, I would love to see more spent in our highly effective program. But I don’t think the science and innovation community can ignore the opportunity the government has presented in the Medical Research Future Fund. If you look at the history of the Howard government, increases in the NH&MRC budgets following the Wills and Grant Reviews were followed by increases in funding to other programs. For example the Backing Australia’s Ability program doubled funding the the ARC and increased CRC Program funding by 80% (unfortunately for us, the CRC boost was a terminating program).

Obviously the MRFF has the complexity of being tied to the Medicare copayment. But I feel many medical research people are being almost too polite about the fact that medical research is getting singled out. As a non-medical researcher, I personally don’t have concerns that medical research is getting singled out – I’m thinking of it as “first cab off the rank” instead. Yes, in the coming CRC Review, we will be making the case as strongly as possible that the CRC Program needs a boost – but I don’t see that as a reason for not getting behind the MRFF.