The leaders of seven Australian health and biotech industry groups have joined forces to press both sides of politics to preserve and strengthen support of research and development.
In particular, the groups want a common approach to bolstering the R&D tax incentive scheme as “the most critical centrepiece program” for increasing business investment in research.
In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the heads of AusBiotech, Medicines Australia, Medical Technology Association of Australia, Biomedical Research Victoria, ARCS Australia, BioMelbourne Network, and Research Australia said that R&D investment was critical to driving ongoing improvement in the entire health system.
“[We] urge all political parties to adopt a common approach to R&D and to take action to support health and medical research by supporting the conditions that allow industry to do its part,” the statement said.
The group says more than 230,000 people are employed within the Australian life sciences sector, generating more than $4b in gross value per annum from 2010-2015.
With falling business expenditure in R&D over recent years, the collective voice of biotech wants action toward boosting R&D investment.
“AusBiotech’s 2019 research also shows that over the past 12 months there has been a ‘stinging’ drop in the industry’s confidence that the operating environment (economic conditions and public policy) was conducive to growing a biotech business (37 per cent to 14 per cent) and a strong increase in the view that the operating environment was working against the industry (16 per cent to 26 per cent),” it said.
The sector wants a target of 3 per cent of GDP to be invested in research and development, in line with Labor’s stated commitments.
“Increasing expenditure in R&D will benefit the full health and medical research pipeline,” the group said.
“Australia will be able to facilitate innovative technological developments and capitalise on the benefits the technologies bring if it further enhances the current R&D and business conditions that exist here.”
The statement calls for preservation of the R&D tax incentive scheme as “the most critical centre-piece programme” for increasing business investment, and urges the adoption of a proposed Australian Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) incentive scheme to support the development and retention of intellectual property created through R&D initiatives.
Separately, Medicines Australia welcomed Labor’s plan for a collaboration premium to be introduced to the R&D tax incentive.
“A collaboration premium to foster stronger links between industry and researchers is a positive step toward strengthening Australia’s medical and pharmaceutical research capacity,” Medicines Australia chief executive Liz de Somer said.
“As an industry, we invest approximately $1 billion in collaborative partnerships, many of which are with research institutes and universities.”
“Strong R&D incentives are a key driver to a knowledge-based economy. They encourage primary investment, but they also have very important secondary benefits, like expanding Australia’s knowledge base, attracting and retaining academic and research talent, and strengthening our regional trade capabilities.
“The pharmaceutical industry is highly reliant on a policy environment that strongly supports innovation, R&D and commercial translation to at least the same levels as competitor nations. Without policies such as the R&DTI, there will be limited incentive for ongoing in-vestment into Australia,” Ms de Somer said.
“Medicines Australia has long advocated for a strengthened R&D Tax incentive that encourages investment from large companies.
“We have sought a bipartisan commitment to retain the R&D tax incentive in a form that supports clinical trials and removes the requirement for an intensity threshold for research driven medicines and therapies.
The full list of signatories to the joint statement from the Australian health and biotech industry associations included: Lorraine Chiroiu, CEO, AusBiotech; Elizabeth de Somer, CEO, Medicines Australia; Ian Burgess, CEO, MTAA; Prof Jan Tennent, CEO, Biomedical Research Victoria; Shanny Dyer, CEO, ARCS Australia; Lusia Guthrie, Chair, BioMelbourne Network; and Nadia Levin, CEO and Managing Director, Research Australia.