On 6 October 2020, the Treasurer, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, announced the Research Package as part of the 2020-21 Budget. The Package provides over $1.2 billion towards the research sector. There are 5 measures in the package. Together, these will ensure the ongoing capability and excellence of Australian research.

Funding to support the impacts of COVID-19

An additional $1 billion in research program funding will be invested in 2021 to ease the immediate financial pressures on universities caused by COVID-19.

The additional $1 billion in research funding will be delivered through the Research Support Program (RSP). Universities should receive this additional funding from January 2021.

This means a total of $3 billion in research funding will now be delivered in 2021. This will be allocated through the two research block grants programs:

  • $1.93 billion through the RSP
  • $1.06 billion through the Research Training Program (RTP)

Funding will be allocated in line with the recommendations of the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements report (2015) The Review recognises and rewards greater engagement with Industry within the funding formula.

Strategic University Reform Fund

$40 million will be invested over 4 years to create a Strategic University Reform Fund (SURF).

This initiative will encourage universities to undertake novel projects. SURF will enable universities to develop targeted and innovative solutions that are:

  • Focused on local communities
  • In areas of Government priority

SURF projects will:

  • Create strong links between higher education institutions and business and industries
  • Enhance collaboration between universities and local employers
  • Improve commercialisation of applied research
  • Enable Government to work with the sector to respond to local priorities

The SURF measure builds on industry linkage pilot projects funded in 2019-20 MYEFO to provide incentives for greater university and business collaboration in research innovation and workforce preparation.

These pilot projects include:

  • University of Wollongong Industry 4.0 Hub in Nowra
  • Deakin University Warrnambool Hydrogen Transition Centre
  • Swinburne University Industry 4.0 and Applied Technologies
  • Flinders University Naval Shipbuilding

Guidelines and eligibility criteria for applications to this initiative are available on the department’s website.

Research Infrastructure Investment Plan

The Government has announced the 2020 Research Infrastructure Investment Plan. The Plan will continue to:

The 2020 Investment Plan provides a total of $157 million:

  • $96 million in 2022-23 for 20 projects currently funded through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).
  • $61 million over 2020-21 to 2022-23 for new NRI capabilities:
    • $36.3 million for the expansion of the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) to support research for protecting the Great Barrier Reef
    • $7.6 million to transform the existing Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS-NRI) to improve Australia’s weather, climate and earth system modelling capability
    • $8.3 million to establish a national synthetic biology research infrastructure capability (BioFoundry) that will increase automation and improve timeframes for products going to market
    • $8.9 million to develop targeted national Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) and Indigenous eResearch data tools and platforms to improve the way researchers discover, access, curate and analyse Australia’s social, cultural, heritage and Indigenous data

For more information, go to the 2020 Research Infrastructure Investment Plan.


Scoping Study for University Research Commercialisation Scheme

A University Research Commercialisation Scheme will enhance the translation and commercialisation of research at Australian universities. This will help make sure Australia remains at the cutting edge of innovation and productivity by:

  • Funding translational research
  • Supporting partnerships between universities and businesses

A $5.8 million scoping study will develop options for the scheme, drawing on advice from universities, industry and other experts.

Centre for Augmented Reasoning at the University of Adelaide

An investment of $20 million over 4 years will enable the University of Adelaide to establish the Centre for Augmented Reasoning (the Centre).

The Centre will develop machine-learning technologies that can use Australia’s large volume of data to improve the application of these technologies across a wide range of industries and areas. Machine learning is revolutionising economies globally and underpins business models, giving companies competitive advantages.

The Centre will carry out world-leading research in:

  • Natural language processing
  • Computer vision
  • Deep learning
  • Machine reasoning

The capability developed can be applied across the economy in areas such as:

  • Agriculture
  • Optimising business processes
  • Customer service
  • Factories and warehouses

The Centre will directly create 30 new positions in South Australia and prospective students will be offered four-year scholarships at $40,000 each year to complete a PhD.

The Centre will focus on increasing the number of women to address the gender imbalance in the computer science industry. This initiative aligns with measures under the Government’s Women’s Economic Security Statement.

This initiative also includes a $3.5 million Innovation Fund for investments in:

  • Collaboration opportunities
  • Strategic development of programs
  • Commercialisation
  • Leveraging strategic opportunities to extend impact and reach