First ‘Industry PhD’ candidates funded in commercialisation push

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

University researchers will partner with resource companies, manufacturers, state departments and the Australian Navy in the first round of the $296 million ‘Industry PhD’ program announced on Monday.

More than 30 projects were funded with a combined $5 million in the inaugural round, 18 months’ after the program was unveiled by the former Coalition government.

The National Industry PhD Program aims to build a bedrock of research talent skilled in university–industry collaboration over the next decade by funding doctoral programs designed with an industry application.

It has been planned since 2021 and was announced by the former Coalition government in early 2022 as part of its 11-year, $2 billion research commercialisation package. The package was backed by the Albanese government, which passed underlying legislation in March with wide support.

The National Industry PhD program is underway 18 months after being announced.

Round one recipients were announced on Monday by assistant minister for education Anthony Chisholm.

“Collaboration between industry and universities is key to harnessing our world-class research and translating it into real and tangible benefits,” Mr Chisholm said.

“I look forward to seeing industry and researchers working together and encourage any potential candidates to apply for Round 2 which is now open.”

The full list of recipients is available here.

32 projects were funded under the program’s “industry linked’ and ‘industry researcher’ streams.

The ‘linked’ stream funds PhD candidates research projects that are co-designed by universities and industry, aiming to embed the outcomes in industry settings.

The ‘researcher’ stream funds industry professionals supported by their employer to undertake PhD studies while retaining employment.

National Industry PhD Program funding goes to universities’ administrative costs and top ups to candidates’ stipends while industry partners receive up to $41,400 a year to subsidise employees’ time studying while also working.

Participating universities and industry partners are required to enter into a collaborative agreement covering IP arrangements, confidentiality, funding amounts and other arrangements.

The first round received 86 applications across both streams, resulting in a relatively high approval rate compared to the main arm of the university research commercialisation package – Australia’s Economic Accelerator – which was swamped with applications for the pilot phase.

The inaugural round of the National Industry PhD Program will see a diverse range of work undertaken.

The University of Canberra will work with the HMAS Albatross Fleet Air Arm on reducing the prevalence of spinal injuries in helicopter crew, with Navy Personnel undertaking PhD studies.

Monash University will team with Woodside on decommissioning industrial equipment and plastic waste recycling, aiming to create a new recycling network of partners to keep 50,000 tonnes of material out of landfill.

The program is also supporting projects linking universities with state departments, including Charles Darwin University working with Territory’s Industry department on animal disease spread and surveillance.

Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries will also have its staff undertake a PhD on natural enemies of the Diamondback Moth – a key pest of canola.

“The program is supporting Australia’s next generation of researchers, creating diverse job opportunities, and bolstering Australian industry,” Mr Chisholm said.

“Importantly, it is also supporting our overall well-being and resilience in critical areas such as climate change and food security.

Round two of the National Industry PhD Program is open now and closes August 4.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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