Researchers have expressed disappointment over the federal government's decision to cut funding under the University Research Block Grants scheme by $328.5 million over four years from 2018-19 in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
The program provides grants to universities to support the costs of higher research not supported directly through competitive and other grant programs.
The cuts come on top of the federal government's move to reduce spending on the R&D Tax Incentive program.
"While it is encouraging to see an injection in funding for regional universities, it is unfortunate that this has been achieved by reducing the University Research Block Grants scheme," said Professor John Shine AO, President of the Australian Academy of Science and until recently the chair of CSL Limited.
"The Academy notes that research and development funding are in decline and at the lowest levels in 40 years. Economic growth and prosperity will not be achieved by cutting research, a driver of the knowledge economy.”
According to MYEFO, "The Government will adjust the growth in funding available under the Research Block Grants scheme, achieving savings of $328.5 million over four years from 2018-19.
"The Research Block Grants scheme will provide $1.9 billion in 2019, and will continue to increase on an annual basis reaching $2.0 billion in 2022."
It added, "The savings from this measure will be redirected by the Government to fund Education portfolio policy priorities."
According to Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, “Every day, Australians right across the country – from farmers to families with young children – benefit from research breakthroughs.
"These cuts are the wrong decision for Australia’s future — and they will rob Australians of life-saving treatments, research to help prevent floods and bushfires, and advances in almost every aspect of people’s lives."
Ms Jackson continued, "The Budget is forecast to return to surplus and yet the Government has decided to cut funds to research which drives economic growth. This makes no sense."