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FUNDING CUTS RISK LIFE-CHANGING RESEARCH: AS R&D SPEND PLUNGES

Government investment in research and development in Australia is projected to plunge next year to its lowest level as a share of our economy in four decades – setting loud alarm bells ringing.

The forecast fall – calculated from Government figures in Budget papers – would see Government investment in R&D fall to just half a percent of GDP in 2018-19. That’s lower than in 1978.

The stark warning comes ahead of Monday’s mid-year Budget update, which is expected to outline the total size of cuts to Australia’s university research funding foreshadowed last month.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson urged the Government to rethink the research funding cuts anticipated in MYEFO and “make the right decision for Australia’s future”.

“Cuts to university research funding are cuts to Australia’s ability to deliver desperately-needed research breakthroughs, cures, treatments and life-changing programs,” she said.

“Every patient group, every family with a child falling behind at school, every farming community - indeed every single Australian – has a stake in keeping the uni research breakthroughs coming.”

“It’s folly for the Australian Government to cut uni research funding again when its own Budget data already forecasts a plunge to a four-decade low in its R&D investment as a share of GDP.”

Smart nations are lifting their overall investment in R&D – yet Australia’s has fallen to 1.88 per cent of GDP. The average is 2.36 per cent across the world’s advanced economies.

The dire forecast comes as a new campaign is launched today to tell the stories of everyday Australians whose lives have or will be transformed by Australian university research.

The campaign – #UniResearchChangesLives – features Australians talking about how their lives, and the lives of others just like them, have been improved.

It includes research breakthroughs that developed a vaccine to eradicate cervical cancer, simpler processes for family violence survivors in the courts, and ways to heal brain injuries.

Ms Jackson said the campaign would also encourage other Australians to share their stories of how university research has saved or improved their lives.

Family violence survivor Helen, who has told her story in one of the first videos of the campaign, said “I think university research is absolutely critical”.

"It shines a light that demonstrates the need for change. We were the clever country, we need to continue to be the clever country,” she said.

Stroke survivor and retiree Kevin English said if uni brain injury research had been available when he had his stroke, he would have had much better recovery from paralysis in his arm.

“University research is particularly good for fundamental research and working on things that don’t immediately have a commercial outcome,” he said.

“Having the freedom to investigate things over a more extended period of time is very valuable.”

Watch the #uniresearchchangeslives videos here.

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Universities Australia Media Contacts

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James Giggacher
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