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Steady Budget for Science and Technology

Science and Technology wins and losses in the 2017 Federal Budget.

The 2017 Federal Budget holds few surprises for science and technology and has left the sector waiting for further announcements on major reviews and roadmaps, Science & Technology Australia said today.

“We welcome strong new investment in researching and developing new advanced manufacturing technology, including a $20 million injection into the important Cooperative Research Centres program,” STA CEO Kylie Walker said following the release of the Budget.

“We also welcome a boost to Australia’s astronomy research program, which will ensure Australia is poised to better collaborate and participate in important international research, the creation of a new proton beam facility, and reassurance that our Antarctic scientists will continue to be able to access the research facility on Macquarie Island.

“But it’s disappointing that after recent cuts and a two-year salary freeze, our biggest national research agency, CSIRO, will suffer a decrease over four years of $13.6 million. Though small, this represents a continued erosion of their budget in real terms.

“We’re also disappointed that the Australian Research Council (ARC) funding won’t keep pace with inflation, meaning grant allocations will fall in real terms.”

While the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) budget also slipped slightly, the promised Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF) will begin disbursements in the coming year of $65.9 million for preventative health research and translation, advanced health translation centres, clinical trials and breakthrough research investments.

The Budget included no allocations for capital expenditure on major national research infrastructure.
“We hope the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap will be released soon, along with plans to achieve its recommendations,” Ms Walker said.

“We also look forward to learning of how the Government will respond to the recommendations made in the review of the R&D Tax Incentive.”

Science and technology Budget wins:

  • $100m to establish the Advanced Manufacturing Fund to boost innovation, skills and employment through a growth fund and centre, a Cooperative Research Centre, innovation labs.
  • $26.1m for astronomy through a strategic partnership with the European Southern Observatory (astronomical research and instrumentation) - ongoing annual indexed commitment of $12m to 2027-28
  • $7m increase in Business Research and Innovation Initiative
  • AMSI internships program supported as promised in MYEFO
  • MRFF starting disbursements as expected with $65.9 million in year one for preventative health, advanced health translation, clinical trials and breakthrough research investments
  • SA Proton beam facility as announced yesterday $60m
  • $115 million for mental health research and services
  • $49.8 million to operate and enable access to the Macquarie Island Antarctic research facility

Science and technology Budget losses:

  • CSIRO – small reduction of $13.6m over four years
  • Higher education cuts – 2.5% efficiency dividend to universities (as foreshadowed)
  • ARC – will fall behind inflation in forward years so its funding will go backwards in real terms
  • NHMRC – will fall behind slightly in forward years

Source: Science and Technology Australia