Denham Sadler
May 8, 2018

ScoMo greenlights national missions

Budget 2018

ScoMo greenlights national missions

Scott Morrison: Presses the go button on two national missions in innovation

The federal government is to go ahead with two $500 million, ‘groundbreaking’ national missions that were recommended by Innovation and Science Australia in its 2030 strategy.

As revealed in the federal budget, which was handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Tuesday night, the government will back the Australian Genomics Health Futures Mission along with a plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The genomics mission won’t cost the government any further money though, with the $500 million cash pile being drawn from the existing Medical Research Future Fund.

ISA’s 2030 report recommended the launch of highly ambitious, large-scale national missions to inspire the public and address some of the biggest challenges facing Australia.

The report said that the missions could add a “more ambitious chapter on innovation to our evolving national stories” and could “accelerate Australian innovation and encourage more collaboration across the innovation ecosystem”.

“They are powerful means to inspire innovators, develop solutions to big problems and generate national passion and pride in innovation and science achievements,” the ISA report stated.

“An Australian nation that can take on National Missions of this scale will proudly make innovation a core part of our national story and culture.”

The report identified genomics as an ideal candidate for such a national mission, as part of an effort to make Australia the “healthiest country on earth”.

The ISA strategy only sought $200 million in funding for the mission, but the budget has now upped this to $500 million.

The Australian Genomics Health Futures Missions is the centrepiece of the government’s new $1.3 billion National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan.

It will “help more than 200,000 Australians live longer and receive better treatment tailored to their medical needs”.

“This is about building another strong and competitive industry in Australia that will generate income and jobs, from the white coats in the labs to the workers making new medical devices on the shop floor,” the government said.

The funding for the “landmark” ten-year mission would come from the Medical Research Fund.

Genomics is the study of single genes and entire genetic makeups to explore how and why people react differently to diseases and treatment.

“The use of genomics has the potential to revolutionise healthcare to support more accurate diagnosis and treatment,” the government said in a factsheet.

“Genomics creates the potential for personalised medicines, by tailoring drugs to patients, improving the prevention and control of disease by enabling specific screening, and increasing awareness of the susceptibility of particular individuals to disease,” it said.

“This 10-year commitment would support a stronger economy through the creation of new jobs, as well as long-term research and improvements to health outcomes that will provide a legacy for Australians decades into the future.”

The first project to be funded under the national mission with the Mackenzie’s Mission, which will receive $20 million for a pre-conception screening trial for rare and debilitating birth disorders, including spinal muscular atrophy and cystic fibrosis.

Treasurer Scott Morrison pointed to the government’s 21st century medical industry plan in his budget address on Tuesday night.

“Our plan will provide more support for medical research projects, new diagnostic tools, clinical trials of new drugs, scientific collaboration, and development of new medical technologies that can be sold overseas,” Mr Morrison said.

“In particular we will back in Australian medical scientists through the largest single investment of the Medical Research Future Fund to date of $500 million over 10 years for Australia to become a world leader in genomic research.”

The government also announced last month that the budget would include $535.8 million over five years to deliver the Reef 2050 Plan program.

This national mission includes efforts to build the Great Barrier Reef’s resilience to coral bleeching and extreme weather events, the progression of a research and development program for science innovations, improvements to Reef health monitoring and reporting activities, the expansion of the Joint Field Management Program with the Queensland state government, and efforts to engage the community through a new communications campaign.

The funding for this mission is partially offset by redirecting future funding already allocated to the Reef 2050 Plan and Reef Trust.

Another candidate for a national mission proposed by the ISA report but yet to be adopted by the government is the decarbonisation of direct-combustion sector.

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