Last week the Abbott Government introduced legislation to create the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund – it calls it a ‘game-changer’ for Australia and for Australians. This is hyperbole is misplaced unless some drastic measures are built in.
To explain, the Fund supposedly starts in August this year, subject to the passage of the legislation. It get an initial contribution of $1 billion from the Health and Hospitals Fund, plus savings from the Health portfolio until the Fund reaches a target of $20 billion. Over $400 million is likely to be distributed to researchers over the next four years.
The problem is at two levels. The first is that in a tight budget environment, the squirreling away of $20 billion will adversely impact on funding for science education, which is the base of the whole pyramid. The second problem is that most of our research successes will continue to disappear into the pockets of foreign pharmaceutical and biotech companies because of our weak industry-research collaboration. Countless reports (see table below) have identified the problem, but there’s been no acknowledgement by the Government or the Opposition about measures to address it.