How did science and research stack up in the 2024 Federal Budget?

May 14, 2024

The strategic examination of Australia’s research and development (R&D) system announced in tonight’s Federal Budget is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to power up R&D in Australia that the Australian Academy of Science has been calling for since 2018.

Academy President, Professor Chennupati Jagadish, said science and technology is central to the government’s signature policy – Future Made in Australia.

“Significant investments in net zero industrial transformation, and technologies like quantum, are testament to the opportunities that science can offer the nation,” he said.

“However, needed re-investments in discovery science – the basic feedstock of a Future Made in Australia and the government’s net zero ambitions – are fundamentally missing. 

“Addressing this missing component of the Australian Government’s vision for science will be the essential task of the strategic examination of the R&D system.

“Our national investment in science and research – by all governments, industry and universities – continues to decline.  

“That is why the Academy strongly welcomes the announcement of a strategic examination of the national R&D system as a necessary step towards the urgent development of a national action plan for science,” Professor Jagadish said.

As outlined in Budget paper no. 1 (p. 201), the science system faces challenges as the Australian Government will need to address funding cliffs such as the expiration of national research infrastructure measures.

Also missing from this budget were any substantial investments in Australia’s sovereign AI capability so that our nation can remain competitive.

Nevertheless, the budget makes several welcome investments in developing science and technology spillovers in quantum, battery technology, renewable energy, green steel and hydrogen – all of which build on investments in discovery research made 10 to 20 years ago.

The imperative to enable the participation of all the available STEM talent is recognised with an investment of $38.2 million over eight years to respond to the Pathways to Diversity in STEM report recommendations.

There are necessary infrastructure investments in science agencies, with funding for Australia’s nuclear medicine enterprise at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), and modernising the dilapidated facilities at the National Measurement Institute.

The budget also makes several key investments in recognition of the value that science brings to the nation, including:

  • $1.7b Future Made in Australia Innovation Fund to support innovative green technologies and $1.5b to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to supercharge investments in renewable energy
  • $566.1m to Geoscience Australia to map Australia’s resources and critical minerals
  • $523.2m to establish the Battery Breakthrough Initiative
  • an additional $290.5m over five years to continue delivery of the Australian Antarctic Program
  • $95m for the Square Kilometre Array, reallocated to help address Australia’s obligations to the ongoing construction in Murchinson, WA.

The budget notes the intended establishment of the Australian Tertiary Education Commission, a key recommendation of the Australian Universities Accord Final Report.

Federal Budget 2024–25 science and research snapshot

The Academy has published an interactive data report that provides a snapshot of the Australian Government’s science and research expenditure estimated in the Federal Budget.

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science