R&D spending in Australia is continuing to rise and drug majors Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline are making a major contribution to that increase.

Invest Australia, a government agency, has just published figures which show that the country’s business expenditure on R&D (BERD) rose to a record A$10.1 billion, around $8.32 billion, in 2005-06, the seventh successive annual increase and up 16.6% on 2004-05.

B-MS has been one of the major contributors to the rise, having doubled its investment in Australian R&D in the last two years alone, “making it one of the largest investors in clinical research in the Australian medicines industry”. The agency noted that as well as making the country a centre for research “and a strategic manufacturing location”, B-MS has now based its financial and information services for the Asia-Pacific region in Australia.

GSK spends more than A$30 million annually on R&D in Australia, and the agency claims that the firm “has found it to be an ideal place to conduct its diverse pharmaceutical operations”. This data is “a strong indicator of the performance and stability” of the economy, “as BERD delivers new products, processes and services to Australia's domestic market and drives growth in productivity”, said Nicola Watkinson, senior investment commissioner for Europe at Invest Australia. She added that “with innovation the driving force behind the growth strategies of many multinational companies, Australia's focus on R&D will ensure its ability to continue to compete on a global scale” and play an important role in building innovative domestic firms.

Ms Watkinson concluded by saying that further growth in BERD is expected over the next few years due to the recent changes to government policies and programmes designed to encourage investment in R&D. This includes the changes to the 175% R&D tax concession, the introduction of ‘industry productivity centres’ and reforms to venture capital.