Medical research is good for Australia and Australians with an impressive return on investment

Chris Schilling PhD, Associate Director, Economics

Medical Research matters, not only for its obvious results such as improved medications, eradication of disease (just think Human Papilloma Virus and cervical cancer) and improved wellbeing (cochlear implants for the hearing impaired) but also the significant boost it gives to Australia’s welfare, economy and future potential.

KPMG Economics were recently engaged by the Association of Australian Medical Research Institute (AAMRI) to complete a detailed analysis of the economic return from medical research.

The analysis found Australia’s GDP was $2.6 billion larger today because of medical research conducted between 1990 and 2004. Welfare, an economic measure of how well off we are as a population, is $1.5 billion higher today than it would have been in the absence of medical research.

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) President Professor Tony Cunningham AO describes this as, “for every dollar invested in medical research, we gain a $3.90 return to the economy”. An enviable return on investment of near 4-to-1 far higher than the level needed to secure government funding for just about any other investment in infrastructure.”

Today the medical research sector – including the downstream medical technology and pharmaceutical sector – employs more than 110,000 people and the health gains that flow from medical research result in a larger and more productive national workforce, preventing injury and illness, or, if they do occur, getting people back to work faster.

While the study was historical in focus, it has strong implications for further funding of medical research, including through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) which has a translational focus. Translational research is specifically designed to improve health outcomes

Given that the Commonwealth Government is the single largest investor in medical research in Australia, it is critical that the full benefits of medical research are understood. Currently, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) invests over $800 million per annum in medical research, and the government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) will invest a further $1 billion per annum from 2020−21.

Medical research is an integral factor in Australia’s wider economy. It continues to deliver treatment and prevention initiatives that deliver health benefits, and in-turn economic benefits, for the entire population. An increased focus on translational research will help to realise the gains of Australia’s stock of research built up over the past three decades.

Medical research provides tangible results. It is safe to say every Australian benefits from the investment.

Read the full report, Economic Impact of Medical Research in Australia

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