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Australian Budget announces increased focus on smart economy and medical sector

Australian Budget announces increased focus on smart economy and medical sector

With the Budget 2018-19, announced on 8 May 2018, the Australian
Government aims to maximise the benefits of a tech focused economy with
increased spending in science, medical research, technology, and skills.

It plans to invest A$2.4 billion over the
next 12 years to boost Australia’s public technology infrastructure. With the
intention to build a smarter economy and equip Australians with the necessary
future-ready skills, it will benefit the growing research, science, and
technology sectors. This disbursement will include additional funding for the Australia’s
National Research Infrastructure
(NRI), and the Australian
Technology and Science Growth Plan that will deliver cutting edge digital
infrastructure to boost the economy.

To enable improved access to digital
economies the National
Broadband Network
is estimated to reach 75% rollout by end of 2018 and
achieve completion by 2020.

A further A$1.9 billion has also been set
aside to improve the NRI over 12 years from 2017-18 with the aim of providing
researchers and businesses the right tools to develop and commercialise first-to-market
products and services. This brings total expenditure in national research
infrastructure through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure
Strategy to $4.1 billion over 12 years.

Establishing
future-ready infrastructure

The infrastructure investment is expected
to support the creation
of new businesses
to generate more jobs in the science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. The Australian Government also
expects that this will have a trickle-down effect on traditional industries —
allowing them to improve efficiencies, increase their access to global markets,
and make them more competitive.

To further aid STEM industries, a reformed Research
and Development Tax Incentive (R&DTI)
has also been announced. Targeted
at larger companies, this incentive aims to better focus the program to encourage
higher spending in R&D. In response to the 2016 review of the policy, the
government will now target the R&DTI through a new R&D premium for
companies with turnover of $20 million or more. A cap of A$4 million will also
be imposed on cash refunds. These changes, which will come into effect on 1
July 2018, are estimated to have a gain to the budget of A$2.0 billion over the
next four years.

Investment in supercomputing will continue
with a A$140 million earmarked for the upgrading of two supercomputers at the Pawsey
Supercomputing Centre in Perth
and the National Computational
Infrastructure facility at the Australian National University. This will
advance medical research, nanotechnology, mining, construction and urban
planning with high-speed calculations. It will also aid Australia’s nascent
space program and energy department by supporting supports research to maximise
combustion in supersonic engines and model the physics of extreme waves to
capture energy.

A
renewed focus on medical research

Medical
research
has been given a boost with A$1.3 billion under the 21st Century
Medical Industry Growth Plan for the progress of medical technology,
biotechnology and pharmaceuticals while improving health outcomes for all
Australians through investments in medical innovation.

A$707 million from the A$20 billion Medical
Research Future Fund
(MRFF) will go to support the Frontier Health and
Medical Research program. A$93 million will be used for Biomedtech programs and
Industry Researcher Collaborations to increase biomedical research and
strengthen links between Australian researchers and industry. Data sharing
capabilities will also be upgraded with a further A$30 million to improve data
access for Australian research networks.

The MRFF will give $240 million to the
Frontier Health and Medical Research Program to support new ideas and
discoveries, and A$125 million for research into chronic conditions with a focus
on diabetes and heart disease. A$2.4 billion has also been set aside for
investment in new medicine.

The Fund will also include A$500 million, spread
over 10 years, for the Genomics
Health Futures Mission
. The program is predicted to have the potential to
revolutionise health care by enabling more accurate diagnosis and treatment. In
coming years, the genomics program will create personalised medicines by
tailoring drugs to patients, improve the prevention and control of disease by
enabling specific screening, and increase awareness of the susceptibility of individuals
to disease. Plans have already been drawn for the A$20 million first project — Mackenzie’s Mission — a
pre-conception screening trial for rare and debilitating birth disorders
including Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Fragile X and Cystic Fibrosis.