A new integrated medical research hub including all of Ballarat’s heaviest health hitters is a new lobbying priority in the lead up to the state election.
The Ballarat Innovation and Research Collaborative for Health (BIRCH) research facility will be hosted on the Ballarat Health Services’ Drummond Street site, to provide opportunities for medical research in Ballarat and to keep university students in the city during mandatory research projects.
A new lobby group led by City of Ballarat hopes to get a $20 million funding commitment for stage one of the BIRCH building prior to the November 24 Victorian election.
With construction flagged to begin in late 2019 if funded, the hub hopes to have 300 affiliated researchers within a decade.
It will create 118 jobs during construction.
Ballarat Health Services’ CEO Dale Fraser said while BIRCH’s final location on their campus is yet to be determined, it would need a prominent position in the hospital precinct.
“We want to be supporting local capacity, but attracting great new talent from around the world, and having Ballarat truly know as a health and knowledge city,” he said.
“This project is about creating a centre for innovation, so people physically have to be able to see it, you don’t want something in the bowels of an organisation. It has to have street presence.
“We want to be quite narrow in our sphere of research, and target those things we have capability for.”
BIRCH will have two to four academics researching across aged care, acute care, integrated care and social determinants of health.
BHS and St John of God Ballarat Hospital both back with plan, and six universities with Ballarat health training connections are onboard.
ACU Ballarat dean of campus Bridget Aitchison said they had put seed funding into the new hub, believing collaboration between the city’s health organisations achieves “far more”.
“The BIRCH initiative is a really important one for Western Victoria, there are a lot of health needs in rural and regional areas that aren’t necessarily addressed by larger, urban research institutes,” she said
The six projects – with a combined worth of $228 million – include the repair of Her Majesty’s Theatre, money to connect Ballarat Link Road to the Glenelg Freeway, and Warrenheip Station.
A $43 million ask for Sovereign Hill’s ‘Beyond Fifty’ upgrade and the Aviation Emergency Services Innovation Hub are also on the city’s funding wish list.
The renewed push for the projects is being driven by Australian Catholic University, Ballarat Health Services, City of Ballarat, Commerce Ballarat, Committee for Ballarat, Federation University, Sovereign Hill and Visit Ballarat.
The coalition have a combined 7000 employees.