Over $416 million for almost 1000 new projects


By LabOnline Staff
Wednesday, 02 November, 2016


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Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham has announced $416.6 million in funding as part of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) National Competitive Grants Programme. The funds will cover 989 research projects across five different schemes, investing in what Minister Birmingham called “a wide variety of fundamental and applied research projects”.

Project highlights include a laser system for satellite tracking and mitigating the impacts of space debris, investigating how smartphones can assist people with a disability to navigate essential services and developing high-performance batteries for electric vehicles. More on each scheme and its funded projects can be found below.

Discovery Projects

$234.7 million will be allocated to 630 projects funded through the ARC Discovery Projects scheme, which provides funding to support excellent basic and applied research projects to be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams. Some of the Discovery Projects that will commence in 2017 include:

  • Professor Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas at The University of Melbourne will use $376,000 to improve the coverage, mobile access, miniaturisation, bandwidth and networking of optical wireless systems.
  • Associate Professor Blake Johnson at Macquarie University will use $338,000 to understand how children acquire language by studying speech production in the developing brain, for insights into speech and language problems that affect health and quality of life.
  • Associate Professor Menna Jones at the University of Tasmania will use $297,500 to investigate approaches for suppressing invasive prey and predators that could be scaled up to conserve threatened native wildlife in unfenced landscapes.

Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

$71.7 million will be allocated to 200 projects through the ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme, which provides promising early-career researchers the opportunities and resources to advance their research and build diverse career pathways.

Each DECRA recipient will receive salary support of around $97,000 per year for three years and up to $40,000 in additional funding per year for other costs essential to their project. Some of the DECRA projects commencing in 2017 include:

  • Dr Martin Ploschner from Macquarie University will lead a project to develop the world’s smallest microscope for seeing inside the body, to improve the diagnosis and treatment of brain conditions.
  • Dr Jayakumar Bose at The University of Adelaide will lead a project to discover the genes for developing crops with enhanced salt tolerance.
  • Dr Ana Martins Sequeira from The University of Western Australia will lead a project using satellite tracking data to understand global movement of marine megafauna for sustainable exploitation of marine resources while conserving biodiversity.

Discovery Indigenous

$4.6 million will be allocated to 11 projects through the ARC Discovery Indigenous scheme, which develops and supports the expertise of Indigenous Australian researchers. Some of the Discovery Indigenous research projects commencing in 2017 include:

  • Dr Christopher Lawrence from The University of Melbourne will use $473,000 to investigate culturally appropriate social technologies to improve connectedness and wellbeing among Indigenous Australians.
  • Professor Rhonda Marriott from Murdoch University will use $371,000 to examine the development of resilience and wellbeing in Indigenous youth, to better understand the connections between age, cultural identity, resilience, wellbeing and risky behaviours.
  • Professor Lester Rigney from the University of South Australia will use $337,000 to examine how teachers in mainstream middle-school classrooms can teach young Indigenous Australians in a culturally sensitive way and improve attendance and learning outcomes.

Future Fellowships

$77 million will be allocated to 100 new Future Fellows, representing some of Australia’s most outstanding mid-career researchers. As explained by Acting ARC CEO Leanne Harvey, “The Future Fellowships scheme encourages research in areas of national priority, with preference given to those researchers who can demonstrate a capacity to build collaboration across industry, with other research institutions and with other disciplines.”

Each Future Fellow recipient will receive between $147,000 and $210,000 per year in salary support for four years and up to $50,000 in additional funding per year for other costs essential to their project. Some of the new Future Fellows and their projects include:

  • Dr Wei Pang from The University of Wollongong will lead a project to develop innovative technologies for high-performance lithium-ion batteries for portable electronic devices, including electric vehicles.
  • Dr Bing-Jie Ni from The University of Queensland will undertake research to extract high-value liquid products from wastewater with minimised greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, and clean water, to improve sustainable wastewater treatment.
  • Associate Professor Ilya Shadrivov from The Australian National University will lead a project to develop user-friendly smart materials for metadevices for use in light control, high-bandwidth wireless communication and security.

Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities

$28.6 million will be allocated to 48 projects through the ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) scheme, which enables collaboration between higher education providers and partner organisations to develop and support expensive research infrastructure.

“These 48 new LIEF research projects will commence next year, involving collaboration with 56 organisations and industry partners from across the globe,” said Harvey. “These collaborating organisations will provide a further $31.1 million in cash and in-kind contributions to these projects.”

Some of the research projects set to receive funding in the LIEF funding round to commence in 2017 include:

  • Monash University will use $1,800,000 to establish a transmission electron microscope facility to analyse the atomic level structure of natural world and advanced materials.
  • The Australian National University will use $502,453 to create a laser system for the first laser guide star for use in astronomy, satellite tracking and mitigation of the threat of space debris.
  • Swinburne University of Technology will use $458,000 for a 3D printing facility using concrete for rapid automated creation of construction materials.

To view a snapshot of the funding by scheme, state and institution, visit the ARC website.

Image credit: ©fabioberti.it/Dollar Photo Club

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