Low-cost solar cells, gumtree management, space access and crocodile vaccines are among 61 projects to share in $29 million in federal research grants announced on Wednesday, two months later than researchers were expecting.
The competitive funding grants are through the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Linkage Projects program, which part-funds projects between researchers and business, industry, community organisations and other publicly funded research agencies.
The projects will also receive an additional $59 million in cash and in-kind support from more than 200 partner organisations.
Advanced manufacturing and environmental change projects were the most successful applicants, with each category having nine funded projects in the third and final round of the Linkage Projects 2021.
Queensland was the most successful state with 18 funded projects, including eight at the University of Queensland the most successful institution in the round.
Engineering was the field of research with the most projects at 15, more than double the next placed agriculture and veterinary services field.
The project to receive the most funding was an ANU five-year investigation of snow gum dieback in the New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory high country, including forecasts and mitigation options. The project received more than $1.2 million from the ARC and is also being backed by state governments and a Swedish university.
A University of Southern Queensland space project also received more than $1 million. The investigation of optical diagnostic tools and techniques for space access technologies.
The project summary says it will accelerate “the research and development pathways for Australian enterprises and designating Australia as a prime destination for international aerospace businesses”.
The ARC also funded a University of New South Wales project on new material for low cost solar cells with an almost $800,000 contribution.
The University of Queensland landed almost $600,000 for a greener iron making process and another $879,000 for four years’ work on effective strategies to prevent West Nile virus infection in farmed saltwater crocodiles in northern Australia.
“The projects funded today will serve as a foundation for the integration of cutting-edge research into industrial and commercial applications,” ARC chief executive Judi Zielke said in a statement.
Applicants for the Linkage Projects need to include a National Interest Test (NIT) statement, explaining the extent to which the research contributes to Australia’s national interest through its potential economic, commercial, environmental, social or cultural benefits.
The NIT has slowed down the assessment process, with applicants routinely asked to reword the brief statements to a point that satisfies the ARC chief executive, who recommends applicants to the Education minister for final approval.
Amongst researchers the requirement has become known as “NIT picking” with the community frustrated by the process and the power wielded by a bureaucrat in determining career altering funding amounts.
The ARC’s grant calendar had an anticipated announcement month for the Linkage Projects 2021 Round three of June, but the successful applicants were not revealed until Wednesday.
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