The Australian Government's provision of research block grant (RBG) funding to eligible higher education providers' (HEPs) is enabled by the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA), which provides for “grants to support research by, and the research capability of, higher education providers” and “grants to support the training of research students”. Thus, the purpose of RBG is to reward the success of HEPs in obtaining competitive grants and supporting them to continue to undertake research and research training activities.

In December 2015 the Commonwealth Government announced the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The agenda includes a drive for greater research-industry collaboration by introducing new research block grant funding arrangements for universities that will give equal emphasis to success in industry and other end-user engagement, and to research quality.

Part of the agenda is new  research funding arrangements for Universities effective 1 January 2017. The new arrangements will reduce the current suite of six research block grants down two programmes: Research Support Programme (RSP) and Research Training Programme (RTP).

Both the new Research Support and Research Training funding programmes will only use research income data from the Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC). As a result, the collection of research publications data has been removed from the 2016 HERDC Specifications.

Information about the New research funding arrangements for universities, can be found at Australian Government National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Research Support Programme (RSP) will provide around $879 million in 2017 to Australian universities as a flexible funding stream to support the systemic costs of research.

It will combine the Research Infrastructure Block Grants, Sustainable Research Excellence and Joint Research Engagement Grants (JRE).

The competitive grants (Category 1) and business and end-user research income (Categories 2, 3, and 4) will be given equal weighting, with each driving 50 per cent of funding. Student load and publications would not be included in the funding formulas. The proposed new RBG model seeks to achieve a better balance between rewarding increased engagement and sustaining the quality of the broad spectrum of university research. The JRE Engineering Cadets Scheme will also be discontinued, with funding rolled back into the Research Support programme.

Research Training Programme (RTP) will provide around $1.01 billion in 2017 to support the training of the next generation of researchers and innovators.

It will combine the current Research Training Scheme, Australian Postgraduate Awards and the International Postgraduate Research Scheme, using 50 per cent student completions, 25 per cent competitive grants (Category 1) and 25 per cent business and end-user research income (Categories 2, 3, and 4). Publications would not be included in the funding formula.