Digital Health CRC granted extension to translate more research

Brandon How

The federal government has extended the life of the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre to ensure its R&D program can reach translation and commercialisation stages, but has committed no additional funding.

The 18-month unfunded extension will compensate the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) for disruptions during the pandemic.

Without the extension, several of its more recently commenced R&D initiatives would’ve ceased before significant translation and commercialisation activity could take place, according to DHCRC chief executive Annette Schmiede.

The end date of the Industry department’s $55 million funding agreement with the DHCRC, which focuses on improving the use of data and digital technologies to drive better health and aged care outcomes, will now end in December 2026.

The CRC has received $110 million worth of Commonwealth and university funding commitments since being established in 2018.

Digital Health CRC chief executive Annette Schmeide.

Ms Schmiede told that “substantially all of DHCRC’s R&D allocated funds have been committed to projects in delivery which will be spent throughout the remainder of the extended agreement as they progress”.

There are currently 44 DHCRC R&D projects ‘in-delivery’, with 21 already having been completed. It has also supported 48 PhD and Masters students.

Ms Schmiede also said that while the “unfunded extension was viewed as the best possible outcome”, it was “undetermined” what would’ve happened to unspent funds if the CRC had shuttered at the end of June 2025.

“When the DHCRC was established, no one foresaw the abrupt changes that would be forced onto the healthcare sector, and the economy more broadly, by a global pandemic,” Ms Schmiede said in a statement.

“Research was delayed as all resources were deployed to manage the pandemic. But equally, it demonstrated in real time the extraordinary benefits digital health can deliver in improving the health outcomes of all Australians.”

Outside of its R&D program, the DHCRC has upskilled 170 health workers in digital health through internships, research projects and scholarships.

It has also co-designed the University of Queensland’s graduate certificate in clinical informatics and digital health, as well as a healthcare design micro-credential course with RMIT Online.

Even if the DHCRC had shuttered at the end of its original funding agreement, Ms Schmiede said it would have already delivered significant value to “all participants and the Australian healthcare sector”.

“A number of projects evaluating new models of virtual care have already led to improvements and a better understanding of economic impact,” she said.

Round 25 of the government’s CRC program closed to applications on March 5, with the next batch of CRCs to be announced in November 2024 to commence funding agreements in July 2025.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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