Why Queensland secures less funding for health and medical research

28 April 2022

Health Translation Queensland has commissioned a new report confirming what Queensland researchers have long suspected – their State secures less Commonwealth government funding for health and medical research than others.

Health Translation Queensland Executive Director David Bunker, explained that the team analysed the outcomes for two main funding sources – the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF).

“We found Queensland receives less funding than anticipated based on its population size and contribution to Australia’s GDP,” Mr Bunker said.

“From the NHMRC, Queensland receives less than 14 per cent of the funding, and for the MRFF, it’s less than 12.9 per cent. Yet, we represent 20 per cent of the population and contribute 19 per cent to GDP.

“We calculated this gap in funding equates to a loss for Queensland of $43 million per annum and roughly 300 to 400 skilled workers.

“To our surprise, we realised that this shortfall only relates to health and medical research – Queensland performs well in the non-medical research space. For example, the State receives 20 per cent of Australian Research Council funding, which goes to non-health and medical research projects.”

Report authors Professor Frank Gannon and Dr Celia Webby also explored some potential explanations for the funding shortfall.

“We identified several contributing factors, including that Queensland submits fewer applications and has significantly fewer clinician-researchers. Again, this led us to ask why,” Professor Gannon said.

“We also looked at State Government strategies related to research, the contribution of philanthropic funding in different states and Queensland’s representation on funding bodies such as the NHMRC Council and Grants Committee.

“This is the first independent analysis of the health and medical research funding that Queensland receives.

“It is a reasonable expectation that health and medical research funding is comparable to a state’s population size and GDP contribution, but for Queensland, this is not the case,” Professor Gannon said.

“Investment in health and medical research directly impacts the quality of the state's healthcare and its access to technology, infrastructure and clinical trials.

“Researchers also spend large proportions of their time preparing applications for funding, which takes them away from their research, and universities secure secondary funding from the Federal Government based on their research income.

“If we don’t address our State’s funding performance, the pattern is self-perpetuating, and Queensland will continue to lag behind other states,” he said.

However, Mr Bunker points out there are no quick fixes to the funding shortfall.

“Health Translation Queensland has begun to workshop several recommendations for the future of health and medical research funding in Queensland.

"Addressing this challenge will take time and a united effort across research partners and institutions.

“Ultimately, we need less competition and more collaboration across Queensland to secure better health research translation outcomes for our State,” Mr Bunker said.

For more information, see The Health and Medical Research Analysis Report.

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