$180m in funding to advance 132 research projects

Friday, 03 August, 2018

$180m in funding to advance 132 research projects

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham has announced a $180.4 million funding boost for 132 new projects to advance developments in key research areas from energy storage, robotics and advances in medical implants through to coastal management and crop disease prevention.

Delivered through Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships, Australian Laureate Fellowships, Linkage Projects, and Industrial Transformation Research Hubs and Training Centres, Birmingham said the funding will support research that would make a difference to Australians and deliver real social and economic benefits.

“This research will improve the lives of everyday Australians and encourage research partnerships that address real-world challenges,” Birmingham said.

“This new funding will allow some of our best and brightest researchers to progress ideas that are essential to expanding Australia’s knowledge base and research capacity, and that support our economy and help create employment opportunities.”

The latest round of the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program includes:

  • 100 Fellowships, worth $84.7 million over four years, under the Future Fellowships scheme.
  • 16 Fellowships, worth $46.4 million over five years, under the Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme.
  • Seven Training Centres, worth $28.9 million over five years, under the Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme.
  • Four Research Hubs, worth $18 million over five years, under the Industrial Transformation Research Hubs scheme.
  • Five new research grants, worth $2.4 million, under the Linkage Projects scheme.

Future Fellowships

“Through the ARC Future Fellowships scheme, we are supporting Australia’s next generation of research leaders,” said ARC CEO Professor Sue Thomas. “These new Future Fellowships are awarded to outstanding mid-career researchers, who will receive funding support for the next four years to undertake their innovative research in Australia.”

Some of the 2018 Future Fellows and their projects include:

  • Associate Professor Karin Nordstrom from Flinders University will investigate the neural and behavioural mechanisms that allow insects to efficiently detect moving targets in visual clutter, despite being equipped with small brains and low-resolution eyes.
  • Dr Mary Tolcos from RMIT University will develop novel tools for analysing brain development, to improve our fundamental understanding of the biological mechanisms that drive folding of the cerebral cortex during development of the brain.
  • Dr Raffaella Demichelis from Curtin University will investigate new chemical pathways able to produce clean energy, characterising the rich mineral chemistry observed on ocean floors and in extraterrestrial environments that naturally produce fuel through harvesting carbon dioxide.

Australian Laureate Fellowships

“The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme aims to attract and retain outstanding Australian researchers and research leaders of international repute, so they can undertake their groundbreaking, internationally competitive research here in Australia,” said Prof Thomas.

“These prestigious fellowships, highly coveted in the Australian research sector, provide support to some of our best and brightest researchers to focus on their important areas of research, essential to expanding Australia’s knowledge base and research capacity.

“Australian Laureate Fellows also perform a vital role in nurturing excellent research training environments, to develop and mentor our early-career researchers who will learn from their experience.”

Some of the 2018 Australian Laureate Fellows and their projects include:

  • Professor Christine Beveridge (2018 Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow) from The University of Queensland will discover the genes and processes that control plant shoot architecture, a major driver of yield in field, horticultural and forestry crops.
  • Professor Hong Hao from Curtin University will use new green materials and techniques to develop the next generation of resilient structures to advance the construction of sustainable infrastructure.
  • Professor Madeleine van Oppen from The University of Melbourne will develop microbes that are able to enhance the climate resilience of corals, for more climate-resilient coral stock in reef conservation and restoration initiatives.
  • Professor James Whisstock from Monash University will further develop new instrumentation and approaches to enable direct visualisation of large macromolecular structures in cells.

Research Hubs and Training Centres

The ARC Industrial Transformation Research Program (ITRP) will support four new ARC Research Hubs and seven new ARC Training Centres that will be led by Australian universities and involve significant collaboration with industry.

Prof Thomas said the funding will support research innovation in Australia that is targeted to areas that will make a difference to Australians and lead to tangible outcomes and economic benefits, encouraging “important research partnerships between university-based researchers and with industry to address ‘real-world’ challenges”.

The ARC Research Hubs and Training Centres will focus on important innovations including: advancing artificial intelligence to improve farming efficiency; developing smart materials for safer and more durable road construction; and supporting the growth of the Australian native food industry.

Furthermore, the Research Hubs and Training Centres will receive additional co-funding of $64.4 million from partner organisations, which represents $1.37 investment for every Australian Government dollar.

Linkage Projects

“The Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects scheme supports university-based researchers to engage in essential collaborations with other parts of the innovation system, including industry partners and community organisations,” said Prof Thomas.

“These important collaborations with their research partners allow researchers in Australian universities to work towards practical solutions to ‘real world’ industry and community challenges, in practical settings.

“These five projects, to be carried out over the next five years, will involve cash and in-kind support of a further $6.8 million from 12 partner community and industry organisations, in addition to this substantial Australian Government funding support.”

The grants will fund research to find novel ways to recover metals from waste and electronics; develop guidelines for the installation of offshore wind turbines; and create new food business opportunities to empower vulnerable communities.

For more information about the funding outcomes, including full project details, visit the ARC website.

Image credit: ©fabioberti.it/Dollar Photo Club

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