The Australian Health Department has released a consultant's report on The medical research commercialisation landscape.
The report states that Health
commissioned Allen + Clarke to undertake qualitative research on the sector’s views regarding the medical research commercialisation landscape since the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research – Better Health Through Research 2013, also known as the McKeon Review.
This report includes an overview of public and private funding that supports the development and commercialisation of medical research in Australia, and qualitative research that sought to obtain responses to four research questions:
1. What are the sector’s views regarding existing government funding support and gaps that remain unaddressed or are not sufficiently addressed, particularly in commercialisation and translation of research?
2. What are the sector’s views regarding the impact of MRFF initiatives to improve the capability and capacity of the medical research and innovation sector to commercialise research outputs, and any perceived gaps?
3. How have institutions positioned themselves to maximise commercialisation opportunities?
4. What are the sector’s views regarding other barriers to commercialisation of research outputs in Australia?
The findings presented in this report were prepared based on desktop research and document review, interviews with informants across the sector, and a sector questionnaire to broaden the perspectives gathered through the research.
The qualitative research is a representation of the views of people interviewed or surveyed as part of this process. The perspectives represent the views provided by people who participated in the process, and these views have not been validated for accuracy or correctness.
Overview of public and private funding
Funding for the development and commercialisation of medical research can come from many different sources, including public, private and non-government organisation (NGO) funding sources. Public funds tend to be used in the early stages of development (particularly for early research), and private sector funding tends to dominate the later stages of commercialisation.
Funding supports the development and commercialisation of medical research in different ways. For example, funds may be aimed at progressing a specific initiative or idea, they may provide support to an organisation in research and/or development activities, or funding may be directed to improving the capability and capacity within the system to support and facilitate the commercialisation and translation of research outputs. This range of approaches across the life cycle of medical research development and commercialisation is shown in Figure 1.
As well as providing funds, other support and resources are available to individuals and organisations developing and commercialising medical research. The provision of support and resources may be provided as part of a funding program – for example, mentoring is a feature of many government funding programs, such as the Accelerating Commercialisation program – or it can be provided independently of funding, such as the services and resources provided through TGA’s SME Assist.
Part 1 of the report further describes funding for the development and commercialisation of medical research, including funding from the Australian Government, state and territory government funding, non-government funding (including philanthropy, private sector investment, and self-financing), and government co-investment.
Qualitative research findings
Part 2 of the report presents the key themes for each research question. These key themes are based on the views of people interviewed or surveyed as part of this process.
In presenting the themes, there are some themes that are strongly held across the sector, while other themes that are of relevance to only specific groups, for example companies involved in the development of digital health innovations. Further, some stakeholders held different views to the themes presented in this report. These divergent views have been included in the report where relevant. The themes presented in this report are not independent items. The development and commercialisation of medical research exists as part of a broader ecosystem, and responding to one theme without responding to others may impact the shape and integrity of this ecosystem.
A summary of the main points that were strongly held by stakeholders follows.
The medical research commercialisation landscape has improved
There is strong support from the sector (through the survey and the interviews) that the medical research commercialisation landscape has improved in the last five years.
Government funding and industry growth has contributed to the improvement
The funding landscape is difficult to navigate
Government policy and funding could have a role in further addressing constraints in the commercialisation of medical research Stakeholders had mixed views on the factors that had contributed to the improvement. Government funding (including the MRFF) and the success of companies - such as CSL, ResMed and Cochlear - were seen as factors that had positively contributed to an improved medical research ecosystem. Stakeholders raised concerns about the complexity of the funding landscape and that it was difficult for individuals and applicants to navigate the system to find and obtain funding.
Stakeholders identified factors that constrain or are a burden to commercialisation. These include access to people with deep skills in commercialisation, access to research infrastructure and access to manufacturing capability. Further, there were systemic factors encumbering the commercialisation of medical research outputs that may be addressed through government policy and/or funding mechanisms, including systemic factors that discourage academic researcher engagement with industry and issues that increase the time and costs associated with the conduct of clinical trials.
Stakeholders pointed to specific barriers and constraints for clinical researchers to develop and commercialise medical research, including demands of clinical work, access to research infrastructure and support, and access to support or arrangements for progressing the commercialisation of research.
Funding for early stage medical research commercialisation has improved, but funding is regarded as insufficient and difficult to access
There remain gaps in existing government support. Stakeholders stated there were now more funds available for medical research commercialisation than previously, but there are still insufficient funds available for the pre-clinical and early clinical stages of medical research development and commercialisation. Stakeholders also noted the difficulty in accessing funds during early stages of medical research commercialisation - with infrequent funding rounds for programs cited as an issue.
The MRFF is seen as having made a positive impact to the sector
Stakeholders identified the MRFF as having a positive impact on sector capacity and capability through funding, facilitating and stimulating increased engagement between industry and researchers, and through improving clinical trial infrastructure.
There are factors that affects the ability of technology transfer offices to position themselves to maximise commercialisation opportunities As well as specific initiatives undertaken by institutions themselves to maximise commercialisation opportunities, stakeholders pointed to factors that they believed underpinned a technology transfer office’s (TTO) success. These factors include the commitment of the university to commercialisation, the TTO’s access to adequate and consistent funding, the skills and experience of the commercialisation and legal officers in the TTO, and the ability of the TTO to cover the vast scope of research within the university.
Clinical researchers face their own barriers in developing and commercialising research
Distance to markets and suppliers places Australian organisations at a disadvantage in commercialising research
Medical research commercialisation occurs within a global market. Stakeholders noted the impact of distance on commercialisation. The effect of distance is experienced most acutely by smaller universities and companies, and western states. The effect of distance is reported as placing Australian organisations at a disadvantage of accessing key industry players. Internet based communication and social media platforms (such as LinkedIn) and networking events and conferences have reduced the impact of this issue in recent years. ;