Good outcomes for science in Budget 2018

May 08, 2018

The 2018 Federal Budget contains good news for Australian scientists and research institutions with welcome investments in critical national research infrastructure and medical research.

The budget also includes new initiatives to support women in STEM, an Australian space agency and funding to conserve and protect the Great Barrier Reef.

“This is a good budget for science,” said Professor Andrew Holmes, President of the Australian Academy of Science.

“It reflects the long-term and strategic approach that is needed for Australia to benefit from science and innovation at a global scale."

A 12-year National Research Infrastructure Investment Plan will commit $1.9 billion to critical national research infrastructure, including $140 million for upgrades to the two most powerful computing facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Australia’s national supercomputers give scientists across government, industry and universities the processing power for the complex scientific computations needed in an advance society including accurate weather forecasts, drug development, and large-scale astronomy,” Professor Holmes said.

Medical research is also a centrepiece of the Budget, with a new $1.3 billion National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan that will play to Australia’s strengths in medical science and technology.

This plan includes a 10-year $500 million Genomic Health Futures Mission to develop ‘precision medicine’ approaches to a wide range of diseases.

It also includes 10-year investments of $248 million for rare cancers and diseases and $125 million for the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission to support more research and better diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

The Budget includes a $41 million space agency and investment program, $4.5 million in new measures to encourage girls and women to pursue STEM education and careers, and a $29.9 million research initiative on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

“We have a long way to go as a nation, particularly on big issues like STEM education and training at school and university and climate change,” said Professor Holmes.

“But we are moving forward together and the Government has made a clear commitment in this Budget to working collaboratively with the science sector to maximise the benefits for all Australians.”

Science budget highlights

  • A 12-year $1.9 billion National Research Infrastructure Investment Plan - $393 million over five years from 2017-18. Investments will be guided by the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, developed by Australia’s Chief Scientist, and will require co-investment by industry and other institutions.
    • Initial investments include $140 million upgrades to the National Computational Infrastructure in Canberra (announced December 2017) and the Pawsey Centre in WA.
  • Science and Technology Growth Plan that will support:
    • $26 million over four years to establish an Australian space agency, together with investment of $5 million per annum for three years to engage in international space research projects and attract investment to Australia.
    • $4.5 million for a suite of new measures to encourage girls and women to pursue STEM education and careers, including a decadal plan for women in science, a toolkit to encourage girls into STEM studies, and a new National Women in STEM Ambassador.
    • A $25 million research initiative on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning including new collaborative research delivered through the Cooperative Research Centres program, and a strategic roadmap and an ethics framework led by CSIRO’s Data61.
  • A 10-year $1.3 billion National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan, supported by proceeds from the Medical Research Future Fund. This plan includes:
    • $500 Million Genomic Health Futures Mission that will develop new ‘precision medicine’ approaches to a wide range of diseases.
    • $240 million for a Frontier Science program aiming to support innovative medical research, devices and treatments.
    • $248 million for research on rare cancers and diseases.
    • $125 million for the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission to support more research and better diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. 
  • Changes to the R&D Tax Incentive that will improve transparency and accountability of the Government’s largest single research program, and provide better incentives for Australian and international companies to invest in cutting-edge research and innovation in Australia.
  • $260 million investment in satellite positioning and imaging infrastructure through Geoscience Australia. This will improve GPS location accuracy to within 10cm throughout Australia, and to 3-5cm when combined with mobile phone infrastructure in urban areas.
  • A $20 million Asia Innovation Strategy supporting Australian business and researchers to collaborate in our region. This includes funding to extend the Australia-India strategic research fund for a further four years.
  • A welcome return to indexation of ARC Discovery and Linkage schemes after several years of flat funding, and stable funding for other major Australian research agencies including CSIRO, ANSTO, and Geoscience Australia.
  • Continued funding to engage Australians in STEM through the Inspiring Australia program.
  • New and continued funding of $536 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef. A large part of this funding will be delivered in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, with a focus on improving water quality, funding research into coral restoration and adaptation and combating crown-of-thorn starfish.

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