Medical Research Future Fund – latest info you need to know

Medical Research Future Fund – latest info you need to know

Last updated: 23 November 2021

 

This page provides an overview of what we know about the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF):

 

The MRFF reached its $20 billion target on 21 July, 2020

The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is a major new source of Australian Government funding for health and medical research, established in 2015. It is a sovereign fund, designed to provide funding for health and medical research and its translation from the dividends.

The Australian Government invested $3.2 billion into the MRFF on 21 July 2020, honouring their election promise. This final investment brings the fund’s capital to the target of $20 billion.

 

 

Figure 1. Building the MRFF to $20 billion.

Actual figures are indicated in blue boxes, all other figures are projected (Source: Department of Finance (2019) Portfolio Budget Statements). Figures will be updated according to the 2020 Budget in October (budget delivery has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

 

How to stay informed about the MRFF

For general information about the MRFF information about the strategy, governance and funding initiatives, see the Australian Government Department of Health’s:

  • MRFF NewsSubscribe here to receive the monthly newsletter from the Health and Medical Research Office (Australian Government Department of Health)
  • MRFF website – Find out about why the MRFF is important, the funding process and the 10-year investment plan for the fund.

For MRFF current grant opportunities, see:

  • AAMRI’s list of Current MRFF Grant Opportunities – a frequently updated summary of current and future MRFF grant opportunities with key dates and details of how to apply for funding. MRFF opportunities are added to this page when they are announced.
  • GrantConnect – all Australian Government MRFF competitive grant opportunities are advertised here. To receive regular email alerts about new MRFF grants, register for GrantConnect here.

For information about recipients of MRFF funding, see:

For information about MRFF grant assessment, see:

 

MRFF funding for COVID-19 research

The Australian Government’s research response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been supported through several initiatives in 2020, most funded through the MRFF, that are:

  1. Investing in a vaccine for COVID-19
  2. Investing in antiviral therapies for COVID-19
  3. Clinical trials of potential treatments for COVID-19
  4. Improving the health system’s response to COVID-19 and future pandemics

A summary of COVID-19 research funding and the recipients from the MRFF is available here.

 

The MRFF nearly doubles the health and medical research budget in Australia.

The MRFF is now at full capitalisation and providing approximately $650 million per year in medical research funding. Combined with the existing annual investment in health and medical research through the NHMRC, the MRFF will nearly double the Australian Government’s investment in health and medical research (Figure 2). Funding from the MRFF for health and medical research has been increasing over the last few years as the fund has been building to $20 billion (see Figure 1).

Figure 2. The MRFF significantly boosts the Australian Government’s investment in health and medical research. (Source: NHMRC, Dept of Finance)

 

While the NHMRC provides funding for investigator-led research every year, the MRFF is designed as a priority-driven fund that directs funding to health research areas of highest national priority. Priorities are set by the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board, AMRAB (see below).

In 2020, unexpected economic downturn due to COVID-19 led to lower than expected disbursements from the MRFF. On 17 December, the Minister for Health announced an additional $172.5M  will be provided by the Australian Government to ensure that the full $627.5M is available to fund all initiatives in the 10 year investment plan for 2021-22.

Proposed legislative changes in 2021 are seeking to ensure that there is not such a shortfall in the future. The Investment Funds Legislation Amendments bill 2021 was introduced to the House of Representatives on 25 August 2021, then referred for inquiry to the Senate Committee for Finance and Public Administration Legislation (report handed down 14 October 2021).

 

The MRFF Strategy and Priorities set out the vision, aims, objectives, impact measurement and strategic platforms of the fund.

The five year strategy and the two year priorities are designed to guide MRFF investments deliver the best healthcare benefits through translation of health and medical research, as set out in the Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015.  The Strategy and Priorities are developed by the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board (AMRAB) in consultation with the sector and the public. There has been one five year strategy (2016-2021)  and three sets of priorities (2016-2018; 2018-2020; 2020-2022-current) since the MRFF started funding medical research in 2016-17, designed to guide the MRFF initiatives announced to date.

On 8 November 2021, the new Strategy was introduced which will be in force until at least 2026. It was developed by AMRAB in consultation with the sector and the public in September 2021 (read the consultation report). AMRAB also developed draft priorities to align with the new strategy.

The current timing for the strategy and priorities means that the strategy is up for renewal while priorities, that sit below it, are still in force. If passed, the Investment Funds Legislation Amendments Bill 2021 introduced to the House of Representatives on 25 August 2021 will correct the mismatched timing such that the new strategy will be in force for six years (2021-2027) and new priorities will be in place for three years (2021-2024). If this legislation is not passed, the current timing will remain and the new priorities will be introduced in November 2022.

For further details of MRFF governance are provided on the Department of Health website.

Information about the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board’s members and their terms of reference for 2021-2026 are also available on the Department of Health website.

Information about how grants are assessed is available of the Department of Health website, including the roll of honor celebrating all those who have contributed to assessment of MRFF grants.

 

The 10-year investment plan for the MRFF is for large-scale health missions and a range of initiatives to address national health challenges.

The 10 year investment plan for the MRFF was announced in the 2019 Federal Budget (April, 2019) and is funding initiatives across four themespatients, researchers, research missions and research translation (Figure 3). MRFF snapshots have been made available for each MRFF initiative summarising early funding priorities, budgets and grant timelines.

 

 

 

Figure 3. The MRFF 10-year investment plan will fund research initiatives under four key themes.

 

Theme 1 – Patients

This theme aims to benefit patients and the public by funding research into new medical treatments for areas with unmet needs. Ongoing initiatives include:

 

Theme 2 – Researchers

 

This theme supports innovative research, fellowships and exchange opportunities for Australia’s health and medical researchers. Ongoing initiatives include:

 

Theme 3 – Research Translation

This theme supports research translation, the process of moving research ideas from discovery (e.g. from the lab) to clinics, ensuring that research findings become part of the clinical practice of GPs, other specialists and hospitals. Ongoing initiatives include:

 

Theme 4 – Research Missions

MRFF missions are large programs of work that bring together key researchers, health professionals, stakeholders, industry partners and patients to tackle big health challenges. Eight large scale research missions have been announced since October 2017.

Expert advisory panels have already been appointed for several of the research missions and will be responsible for developing the strategic roadmap that will provide the Minister for Health with advice on health, research and investment priorities for each research mission. Details of how each research mission will be awarding funding to researchers may vary by mission.

More information is available about MRFF Research Missions, MRFF Mission governance and MRFF funding processes on the Department of Health website.

 

The eight 10-year research missions are:

Research MissionFunding commitmentResearch AimsExpert Advisory PanelStrategic
Roadmap
Australian Brain Cancer Mission

administered by Cancer Australia
$131.2M

including $60.2M from the MRFF and $71M philanthropic contributions

Announced 29/10/2017
To supports research into brain cancer and aims to double the survival rate for brain cancer over the next 10 yearsStrategic Advisory Group established

For list of group members, see:
1. The Department of Health
2. Cancer Australia

Contact the panel
TBA
Genomics Health Futures Mission$500M

Announced 2018 Federal Budget
To supports genomic research to improve testing and diagnosis, personalise treatment options and reduce unnecessary interventions and health costsExpert Advisory Committee establishedCurrently being finalised
Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission$125M

Announced 2018 Federal Budget
To support a million Australians with mental health issues access new approaches to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery guided by adviceAdvisory Panel establishedWaiting for endorsement by Government
Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Research Mission $185M

Announced 18/10/2018
To invest in research that will support older Australians to maintain their health and quality of life as they age, live independently for longer, and access quality care when they need it.Expert Advisory Panel establishedDraft Roadmap developed for public consultation in early 2020

(see AAMRI’s submission here)
Cardiovascular Health Mission

administered by the NHMRC
$220M

Announced 25/2/2019
To invest in research to make transformative improvements in heart and vascular health and stroke for all AustraliansExpert advisory panel establishedDraft Roadmap developed for public consultation in mid-2019.

(See AAMRI’s submission here)
Traumatic Brain Injury Mission$220M

Announced 25/2/2019
To invest in research to make transformative improvements in heart and vascular health and stroke for all AustraliansTo be established

For more information, see the Department of Health
TBA
Indigenous Health Research Fund$160M

Announced 27/02/2019
A mission-scale initiative investing in Indigenous-led research to tackle health issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.Co-chairs have been appointed who will establish the expert advisory panelUnder development
Stem Cell Therapies Mission$150M

Announced 13/03/2019
To invest in research to develop innovative, safe and effective stem-cell based treatments accessible to all Australians who need them.Expert advisory panel established.Draft Roadmap was developed for public consultation in 2019.

(See AAMRI’s submission here)

A communique is available describing the most recent discussion on 12th March, 2020 about the progress of the eight MRFF missions. This meeting between the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board (AMRAB), the Minister for Health, the Chairs from the mission expert panels and staff from the HMRO (Department of Health) discussed areas such as Roadmap development, options for Missions to best reach their objectives and processes to manage any conflict of interest for Expert Advisory Panel members.

For information about what the MRFF has funded so far, download the full list on the MRFF website.

For more information about how to apply for MRFF funding through GrantConnect, see the MRFF website.

 

MRFF funding decisions are guided by sixteen principles.

The aim of the MRFF is transform health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability. On 6th December, 2017, AMRAB released sixteen principles that will underpin MRFF funding decisions going forward. Read the AAMRI/Group of Eight joint statement supporting the funding principles here.

The full list of sixteen principles fact sheet is available here: Medical Research Future Fund – Funding Principles Fact Sheet, Department of Health.