Federal Parliament has passed legislation to establish the Abbott Government’s landmark Medical Research Future Fund with an amendment that requires a newly formed Advisory Board to have expertise in philanthropy.
Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey said the establishment of the fund would significantly strengthen Australia’s standing as one of the global leaders in the field of medical research.
He said the Fund was the largest of its kind in the world and would support research that enables game-changing medical innovations and improves the health of Australians.
“The Medical Research Future Fund will provide stability and predictability in funding for medical research and innovation into the future, with the capital of the Fund preserved in perpetuity,” he said.
“The Fund will receive an initial contribution of $1 billion from the uncommitted balance of the Health and Hospitals Fund and will eventually provide around $1 billion per annum in additional funding for medical research and medical innovation.
“The remaining contributions into the Fund will come from 2014-15 Budget savings in the health portfolio which have passed, or will pass through the Parliament in the future, until the balance in the Fund reaches $20 billion.
“The first $10 million in additional medical research funding will be distributed in 2015-16 and over $400 million is estimated for distribution over the next four years.
He said the Medical Research Future Fund will be administered by an independent expert advisory board.
“The advisory board will consist of eight members with expertise across medical research and innovation, health policy, commercialisation, experience and knowledge in philanthropy and in consumer issues and translation of research into applications in front-line medical practice.
“The CEO of the NHMRC will have a permanent seat on the advisory board to support coordination of approaches. Members of the advisory board will be announced shortly by the Minister for Health.”
The move has been welcomed by donor peak body, Philanthropy Australia which recommended the need for philanthropic expertise in a submission to an inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee.
The submission said Philanthropy Australia recommends that at least one Board member with a background in philanthropy be appointed along with another board member with expertise in impact investment.
“In this regard, given that the Government has established the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership in order to advise the Government on strategies to grow philanthropy in Australia, there may be merit in an initial cross appointment of a member of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership onto the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board.
Philanthropy Australia said it was pleased with the outcome and there was great potential for collaboration.
“We note that the Board will determine the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy and the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Priorities, which will guide the provision of financial assistance from the MRFF.
In particular, Philanthropy Australia said it welcomed the inclusion that the Board must take into account “how to ensure that financial assistance provided under this Act complements and enhances other financial assistance provided for medical research and medical innovation”.
“We regard this as a strong indication of the Government’s desire to use the MRFF to combine and leverage both public and private funding sources.”
The Director of Western Australia’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Professor Peter Leedman described the establishment of the fund as “a transformational and landmark event in the history of medical research in Australia.”
“It is essential that we have adequate support for our dedicated researchers to take their work well beyond just the next grant cycle.”
“It is accepted internationally that a major foundation for an excellent, high quality health care system is a robust and sustainable medical research industry. Vibrant health and medical research cultures within hospitals and primary care lead to great medicine, with the best outcomes. With the establishment of the Medical Research Future Fund, we have an extraordinary opportunity to foster this across the entire sector,” he said.