Budget contains science measures but misses opportunity to secure research base

March 29, 2022

The 2022–23 Federal Budget contains some welcome measures for science but falls short on the vision needed to support Australia’s economic recovery and protect our future.

The Australian Academy of Science welcomes funding of $5.3m over two years to improve the National Science and Technology Council provision of evidence-based advice to government.

Academy President Professor John Shine said it was pleasing to see that mechanisms that bring science to the service of government will not be lost during or after Australia’s recovery from the pandemic.

“This must continue to be an important part of our future preparedness,” Professor Shine said.           

The ongoing provision of evidence-based advice to independently inform government decisions was recommended in the Academy’s pre-budget submission.

Academy President Professor John Shine said the Academy also notes the Budget’s focus on space, mRNA manufacturing, medical research and funding for the University Research Commercialisation Fund.

“Research translation, commercialisation and acceleration will be crucial for keeping Australia safe,” Professor Shine said.

“But this Budget falls short of the vision needed to put Australia on a strong footing in an uncertain future.

“It is disappointing that fundamental science capability is not recognised as the first essential step in the commercialisation effort, and there are no measures to boost basic research investment.

“This at a time when science is at the heart of every major issue being faced by our nation: the pandemic response; national security, mitigating and adapting to climate change; and recovering from flood and other extreme events,” said Professor Shine.

“Advanced industrial societies depend on a secure and active science sector to help deliver high-wage jobs and high-value industries to maintain the standard of living for their people and to propel economic growth. Australia is no different.”

“For scientists, the pandemic in Australia has brought about both great purpose and great uncertainty. Too many have been affected by reduced funding, job losses, increased workloads, and declining morale.

“Despite one-off funding for research and science during the pandemic, in 2021 the Australian Government’s investment in science was 0.56% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—which is lower than comparable nations—and less than R&D investment in 2010,” Professor Shine said.

The Academy welcomes the following measures announced in this Budget:

  • $2b for a Regional Accelerator Program
  • $1.3b for Australia’s space sector
  • $83.1m for Australia’s circular waste economy
  • $66.3m new funding for AIMS
  • $50.5m for a virtual Critical Minerals R&D Centre 
  • $37.4m for research translation at CSIRO  
  • Expansion of the patent box tax concession to low emissions and agricultural technologies
  • Continuing support for women in STEM, across the career pipeline.
  • Continuing support for the Modern Manufacturing Strategy

© 2022 Australian Academy of Science