2020-21 Budget Research Package


The Treasurer, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, announced the Research Package on 6 October 2020, as part of the 2020-21 Budget.

This package will provide over $1.2 billion towards the research sector to ensure the ongoing capability and excellence of Australian research. The package consists of the following measures:

  • Putting a Ballast into Research Funding
  • Strategic University Reform Fund
  • Research Infrastructure Investment Plan
  • Scoping Study for University Research Commercialisation Scheme
  • Centre for Augmented Reasoning at the University of Adelaide

Putting a Ballast into Research Funding

The Government will invest an additional $1 billion in research program funding in 2021 to alleviate 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) which provides support for the indirect and systemic costs of research. Funding will be allocated in line with the recommendations of the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements report (2015) which recognises and rewards greater engagement with Industry within the funding formula.

With this additional funding, a total of $3 billion in research funding will be delivered in 2021 through the two research block grants programs. A total of $1.93 billion will be allocated through RSP, and $1.06 billion through the Research Training Program (RTP).

Universities are expected to receive the additional funding from January 2021. More information is available on the Research Block Grants page.

Strategic University Reform Fund

The Government will invest $40 million over four years to create a Strategic University Reform Fund (SURF). This initiative will encourage universities to undertake novel projects in areas of Government priority. SURF will enable universities to develop targeted and innovative solutions that are focused on local communities.

The projects to be supported will create strong links between higher education institutions and business and industries in key regional communities – enhancing collaboration between universities and local employers and improving commercialisation of applied research. SURF will enable the Government to work with the sector to continue to respond to localised priorities.

The SURF measure builds on industry linkage pilot projects funded in 2019-20 MYEFO to incentivise greater university and business collaboration in research innovation and workforce preparation. This includes the University of Wollongong Industry 4.0 Hub in Nowra, Deakin University Warrnambool Hydrogen Transition Centre, Swinburne University Industry 4.0 and Applied Technologies, and Flinders University Naval Shipbuilding.

Guidelines and eligibility criteria for applications to this initiative will be available on the department’s website in the coming weeks.

Research Infrastructure Investment Plan

The Government has announced the 2020 Research Infrastructure Investment Plan. This plan will provide continued support for Australia’s national research infrastructure (NRI) facilities and invest in emerging research priorities identified in the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap.

The $157 million 2020 Investment Plan provides:

  • Funding of $96 million in 2022-23 for 20 projects currently funded through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).
  • Funding of $61 million over 2020-21 to 2022-23 for new NRI capabilities:
    • $36.3 million for the expansion of the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) operated by the Australian Institute of Marine Science 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.

More information is available on the 2020 Research Infrastructure Investment Plan page.

Scoping Study for University Research Commercialisation Scheme

The Government has announced its commitment to establish a University Research Commercialisation Scheme to enhance the translation and commercialisation of research at Australian universities. This Scheme will help ensure that Australia remains at the cutting edge of innovation and productivity by funding translational research and supporting partnerships between universities and businesses.

A $5.8 million scoping study will develop options for the establishment of the University Research Commercialisation Scheme, drawing on advice from universities, industry and other experts.

Centre for Augmented Reasoning at the University of Adelaide

The Government will invest $20 million over four years to enable the University of Adelaide to establish the Centre for Augmented Reasoning (the Centre). The Centre will develop machine-learning technologies capable of using 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 and machine reasoning. The capability developed will be applicable across the economy in areas such as agriculture, optimising business processes, customer service as well as in factories and warehouses.

The Centre will directly create 30 new positions in South Australia and include a focus on addressing the gender imbalance in the computer science industry. Prospective students will be offered attractive four-year scholarships at $40,000 pa to complete a PhD, with a focus on the representation of women. 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 and leveraging of strategic opportunities to extend impact and reach.