Unifying to improve dementia research

In 2014 the Commonwealth Government announced the Boosting Dementia Research initiative, which included the establishment of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) National Institute for Dementia Research (NNIDR). The NNIDR’s purpose is to target, coordinate and translate the national dementia research effort.

There are three existing Dementia Collaborative Research Centres (DCRCs):brain scans stock image

  • the Australian National University (ANU) – which hosts the Early Diagnosis and Prevention (EDP) DCRC
  • the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – which hosts the Carers and Consumers (CC) DCRC, and
  • the University of New South Wales (UNSW) – which hosts the Assessment and Better Care (ABC) DCRC

As part of this new strategy, the three DCRCs will transition to a single program under the strategic direction of the NNIDR as a DCRC Network. This transition will happen over an 18-month period from January 2016 to June 2017. However, the full transition process and the bedding down of a new dementia research environment may continue beyond this time.

NHMRC has extended the current DCRC funding arrangements until 30 June 2017 to provide funding certainty for existing research activity during the period of transition.

The new operating model adopts a centralised approach to setting dementia research priorities which will provide the framework for research activities, as suggested by the DCRCs.

The unitary program may evolve in the future to include other DCRC sites as demand requires.

This future model has the potential to achieve savings through the consolidation of functions within the NNIDR which could be redirected to dementia research activity.

This centralised and priority-driven approach to dementia research will also place the dementia research community on a strong footing to attract ongoing Government investment into the future.

The ultimate aim of the unitary program is to support high-quality dementia research and translation to help dementia prevention efforts and improve the quality of life of people with dementia, their families and carers.

The unitary program will provide opportunities to undertake research across a balanced portfolio of projects of different sizes that align with national priorities. The unitary program also aims to develop the capacity of researchers, from early career researchers to experienced investigators.

Funding for dementia research under the unitary program will change in an effort to better suit the needs of researchers. The goal is to deliver more long-term, certain and predictable funding. The unitary program will seek to leverage Commonwealth funding with co-funding from other sources where possible.

Dementia Australia’s is the legal entity contracted by the NHMRC to provide the services and functions of the NNIDR and is very pleased to see consumers will be better engaged across all stages of dementia research, from the setting of research priorities, through to the design and delivery of research projects. Consumers will be engaged in these processes through their representation on existing governance and advisory bodies such as the NNIDR’s Expert Advisory Panel and any new governance bodies that are established to provide advice on dementia research.