First Industry Fellowships revealed in $24m round

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Water supply, quantum chips, Bogong moths and Indigenous language are among 25 research projects to receive federal funding in a highly competitive first round of a new scheme for mid-career researchers to work with industry.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) on Monday announced 25 Mid-Career Industry Fellowships would share in around $24 million to help solve industry defined challenges.

314 applications seeking more than $303 million were submitted last year to the inaugural round of the scheme – making a success rate of just eight per cent for both projects and total requested funding.

The new Mid-Career Industry Fellowship scheme aims to build researchers’ industry collaboration, commercialisation and translation skills, encourage uptake of a wider range of career options for established researchers, and deliver “actionable outcomes” for industry.

The ARC run scheme is a key plank in the former government’s $2.2 billion Research Commercialisation Action Plan and runs alongside similar industry focused programs for early-career researchers and Laureates.

Engineering projects dominated the inaugural funding round, with Monash and UNSW the most successful universities. Funding amounts ranged from around $760,000 to $1.1 million for project between two and four years in length.

A UNSW project led by Dr Kok Chan investigating a scalable semiconductor quantum processor with “flip chip” bonding technology was awarded $764,472. Dr Chan’s team will work with industry partner DIRAQ, a quantum startup spun out of the university last year to build full-scale quantum computers.

Western Sydney University’s Dr Kate Umbers received more than $1 million to develop a conservation model for the iconic bogong moth. While famous for their long migration to the Australian Alps, the moth’s distribution and flyways are unknown, which hampers conservation efforts.

Dr Umbers will work with several conservation groups, a Swedish university and Zoos Victorian on the project aiming to identify and mitigate threats to the insect.

Another project will investigate the reuse of stormwater, including the suitability of urban lakes and wetlands for stormwater harvesting. Dr Bojan Tamburic from UNSW was awarded an $865,628 grant for the project with the Melbourne Water Corporation.

Monash University Associate Professor Alice Gaby received an $863,952 grant for her project, ‘Unlocking the archive: reuniting Indigenous languages and their communities’.

In partnership with the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity, the Monash linguist’s team aims to develop innovative and enduring resources for community-driven language maintenance and revitalisation, including an evaluation of existing strategies for language revitalisation and Indigenous people’s perceptions of language change.

ARC chief executive Judi Zielke announced the recipients for the Mid-Career Industry Fellowships scheme, noting industry partners can include governments and not for profits as well as company’s.

“For example, one of the ARC’s fellowships awarded today will assist Australia’s not-for-profit sector in aligning services for the disadvantaged more appropriately and at the right time for their clients,” she said.

“Another will build capacity in urban stormwater reuse to future-proof water supplies and reduce the demand on Australia’s river system particularly during drought.”

Announcements for the corresponding Early-Career Industry Fellowships and Laureate Industry Fellowships are expected next month.

The Education minister has final approval of Industry Fellowship grants. A review of the ARC released last week recommended government ministers be removed from the approval process.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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