Future Fellowships: 100 researchers share $94m in govt funding

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

100 mid-career researchers will share in $94 million of federal funding to conduct their four-year projects, the Australian Research Council announced on Tuesday.

Advanced manufacturing projects and New South Wales based researchers were the most successful applicants in the Future Fellowships Round.

Only 16 per cent of more than $645 million in requested funding was approved in the competitive grants process, with more than 500 mid-career researchers’ applications rejected in the round.

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100 mid-career researchers have been awarded Future Fellowship grants

Recipients of the Future Fellowships were announced on Tuesday by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The program is designed to support excellent mid-career researchers in areas of national and international benefit, with up to 100 grants awarded each year.

Applicants are asked to identify which, if any, of the national Science and Research Priorities their project addresses. In the 2022 round, a quarter of successful applicants identified advanced manufacturing, more than double any of the other priorities identified. A third of the successful applicants didn’t specify a priority.

New South Wales was the most successful state for the Future Fellowships round, with 40 approved projects. The University of New South Wales was the most successful university, with 15 of its mid-career researchers landing funding.

The funding, typically just under $1 million, is used for researchers’ salaries, with additional funding for project costs like extra personnel, equipment, travel and field research costs often awarded to the administering organisation.

Professor Renae Ryan of the University of Sydney received the most funding of $1.44 million for a project exploring how a membrane protein that transports chemical messengers in the brain functions and how it is influenced.

The University of Melbourne’s Professor Margaret Young was funded for the first ever detailed study on the laws relating to the ‘Blue Economy’ – the new economic opportunities of the sea.

Dr Wengui Li received a Future Fellowship to study robust cement-based sensors for use in smart infrastructure. The new sensors are expected to more accurately assess structural health, monitor traffic-flow, decrease the costs of operation and maintenance.

An Australian National University project led by Dr Sean Hodgman will use ultracold helium atoms to test quantum entanglement. The expected benefits are “new theories that attempt to unify quantum mechanics with general relativity and will be relevant for emerging quantum technologies such as more powerful quantum computing or quantum simulation of complex systems”.

ARC chief executive Judi Zielke announced the 2022 Future Fellowships recipients.

“The ARC Future Fellowships scheme attracts and helps retain the best and brightest mid-career researchers, as they undertake research in areas of national importance,” Ms Zielke said in a statement.

“These new Future Fellowships are awarded to outstanding mid-career researchers, who will receive funding support for the next 4 years to undertake innovative research in many exciting areas, with many potential benefits for Australians.”

Later on Tuesday, the ARC published its full list of grant recommendations for the month of August, which included the 100 Future Fellowships, 61 Linkage Projects, and the 16 ARC Laureate Fellowships announced last month.

It came a day after Education minister Jason Clare told the Senate the list had been published but was within the reporting requirements of the senate order.

The list confirms the new minister had not rejected any of the ARC’s funding recommendations, something the previous Coalition government had done.

Mr Clare announced a review into the ARC as one of his first moves as Education minister, after mounting criticism of the ARC administration and political interference in grants by the former government.

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