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ARC Centres of Excellence (2005 cohort)
2008 Extension Reviews - Selection Report for funding commencing in 2010

Overview

In 2002, the Australian Research Council (ARC) established the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme to create the scale and focus necessary to maintain and develop Australia’s international standing in areas of research priority.  An initial group of ARC Centres of Excellence commenced operation in 2003.  A second selection round was opened for applications in September 2004.

Following a competitive selection process, 11 ARC Centres of Excellence (Centres) were established commencing in 2005.  Provision was made for the Centres to be funded for an initial five-year period from mid-2005 to mid-2010 inclusive.

In drafting the Funding Rules for the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme, the ARC recognised that innovative research leading to outstanding international recognition takes several years to be fully realised.  Accordingly, the ARC Centres of Excellence Funding Rules for funding commencing in 2005 state that “In the case of exceptional performance by an ARC Centre of Excellence and subject to the availability of funding, the ARC may consider making a recommendation for financial assistance for an additional period of up to five years.”  Reviews of the 11 ARC Centres of Excellence from the 2005 cohort were undertaken in 2008 to assess their performance with a view to funding a number for an additional three and a half years (to 2013).

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Objectives

The objectives of the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme are to:

  • undertake highly innovative research at the forefront of developments within areas of national importance, with a scale and a focus leading to outstanding international and national recognition;
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in designated National Research Priorities.  In 2003, the Australian Government designated the following areas as National Research Priorities for Commonwealth-funded research:
  • Research Priority 1: An Environmentally Sustainable Australia
  • Research Priority 2: Promoting and Maintaining Good Health
  • Research Priority 3: Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries
  • Research Priority 4: Safeguarding Australia;
  • promote research that will enhance Australia’s future economic, social and cultural wellbeing;
  • link existing Australian research strengths and build new capacity for interdisciplinary, collaborative approaches to address the most challenging and significant research problems;
  • build Australia’s human capacity in a range of research areas by attracting, from within Australia and abroad, researchers of high international standing as well as the most promising research students;
  • provide high-quality postgraduate and postdoctoral training environments for the next generation of researchers in innovative and internationally competitive research;
  • offer Australian researchers access to world-class infrastructure and equipment, and to key research technologies;
  • develop relationships and build new networks with major international Centres and research programs that help achieve global competitiveness and recognition for Australian research; and
  • establish Centres of such repute in the wider community that they will serve as points of interaction among higher education institutions, Governments, industry and the private sector generally.

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Review Process

The ARC invited the 2005 cohort of Centres to participate in the 2008 review and to submit extension proposals.  All 11 of the 2005 Centres accepted the ARC’s offer to participate.

The aim of the Centre reviews was to:

  • assess each Centre’s past performance against its own objectives and those of the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme;
  • assess each Centre’s proposed future research plan; and
  • determine whether a funding extension of up to three and a half years beyond the original five-year term should be recommended.

The assessment of Centre performance for the 2008 Centres reviews was based on submissions prepared by the Centres which, having regard to the key result areas and performance measures outlined in the Funding Agreement, outlined:

  • the extent to which the Centre has met the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme objectives;
  • the extent to which the Centre has met its original aims and objectives as set out in the initial funding application, as adjusted by any subsequent agreements with the ARC;
  • a strategic plan, including plans for dealing with the continuation of the Centre following cessation of Centre funding;
  • the progress of the Centre towards becoming independent of the ARC Centres of Excellence scheme for funding;
  • the extent to which the Centre interacts with, and is visible to, the private sector, state/territory and Commonwealth governments as appropriate;
  • the robustness of the Centre’s management and structure, including the leadership role of the Director and the extent to which high-quality staff and students are attracted to the Centre; and
  • the development of commercialisation strategies.

Centre site visits were conducted from 3 July to 18 November 2008 inclusive.  A Review Panel was employed for each Centre, comprising assessors with appropriate expertise.  The Panels consisted of a distinguished academic as Chair, two ARC Executive Directors and two members of the ARC College of Experts.

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Selection Criteria

Assessment of the extension proposals for the 2008 Centres reviews was based on the following criteria:

  1. Research program and investigators
    1. the creative and innovative nature of the proposed research program;
    2. the degree to which the Centre will provide coordinated scale and focus of research in the particular field(s) of research during the proposed extension;
    3. the adequacy of the underlying conceptual framework, design, methods and analyses and their integration into the aims of the research programs during the proposed extension;
    4. the track records, relative to opportunity, for the Centre researchers, as indicators of their potential to contribute to the Centre’s extended research program; and
    5. the commitment of Chief and Partner Investigators to the extended research program.
  2. Research training and professional education
    1. the future contribution of the Centre to research training at the Honours, postgraduate and postdoctoral levels; and
    2. the value of the education and outreach programs in professional and technical training through the extension period.
  3. National benefit
    1. the extent to which the Centre will continue to expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability;
    2. the Centre’s potential to continue to enhance innovation in Australia; and
    3. the Centre’s potential to underpin further economic, cultural, environmental or social benefits for Australia during and after the period of the proposed extension.
  4. International, national and regional links and networks
    1. the potential of the Centre to build upon its current standing relative to major international centres during the period of the proposed funding extension;
    2. the potential for further enhancement of international interaction and linkages;
    3. the potential for further enhancement of links with Australian researchers in universities and other research organisations working in the field(s) of research; and
    4. the level of commitment and the mechanisms proposed to provide a national and regional intellectual focus for the field(s) of research.
  5. End-user links
    1. the adequacy of plans to optimise the participation of end-users in research planning and Centre governance;
    2. where applicable, the adequacy of plans and strategies for facilitation of technology transfer, including fostering a culture of innovation; and
    3. the adequacy of organisational arrangements and plans relating to ownership of intellectual property and/or use or commercialisation of research during the proposed extension period.
  6. Organisational support
    1. the commitment of the Administering and Collaborating Organisations to provide basic infrastructure, including provision of space, equipment, administrative and technical staff support, telecommunications and computing facilities, library and other key resources, over the proposed extension period; and
    2. the provision of funding to support the Director and key investigators to execute their research leadership roles over the period of the proposed extension.
  7. Governance
    1. the Director’s ongoing capacity for leadership, vision, management and strategic planning;
    2. the adequacy of proposed management arrangements and responsibilities, including the organisational structure of the Centre, its reporting arrangements both internally and externally, its financial systems, and its business and strategic plans which should include milestones for achievement of objectives; and
    3. the relevance of any proposed revisions to the performance measures (as listed in the Centre’s Funding Agreement) to the Centre’s objectives and their pertinence for assessing the Centre’s performance during the period of the proposed extension.

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Summary of Selection Outcomes and Funding Duration

Subject to parliamentary appropriation and the provisions of the ARC Act, funding extensions have been approved for three and a half years over the period 2010-13 inclusive.  Eleven extension proposals were considered, seeking $98,121,899 of ARC funds.  Eight Centres will receive three and a half additional years of funding.  The remaining three Centres have also been approved for extension, but these extensions will be subject to the outcome of a further review in late 2009.  Centres approved for extension funding, and the total approved funding, are listed in Table 1.  This represents a total ARC commitment to extension funding of $82,250,000 (2008 dollars) over the financial years 2010-11 to 2013-14.  On the basis of this approval, the overall success rate is 100%.  Funding, number of proposals considered and approved, and success rates by discipline group are shown in Table 2.

Table 1: ARC Centres of Excellence approved funding extensions

Centre
Amount of additional funding ($2008)
Years of extended funding
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies 9,800,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology 9,800,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology 9,800,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits 9,450,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals 8,050,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coherent X-ray Science 7,700,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science 7,700,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation 5,950,000 2010-13
ARC Centre of Excellence in Structural and Functional Microbial Genomics 5,250,000 2010-13*
ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science 5,250,000 2010-13*
ARC Centre of Excellence for Antimatter-Matter Studies 3,500,000 2010-13*
Total 82,250,000  

*Funding beyond mid-2010 subject to conditions being met at later review.

Table 2: Funding and numbers requested, approved and success rates for ARC Centres of Excellence extensions, by discipline group

Discipline*
Total funding requested over extension period
Approved extension allocation ($2008)
Total approved funding as % of funding requested
Extension proposals received
Extension proposals approved
Success rate %
BSB 36,298,445 30,100,000 82.9 4 4 100
EE 21,621,418 15,750,000 72.8 2 2 100
HCA 5,711,317 5,950,000 104.2 1 1 100
MIC - - - - - -
PCG 34,490,720 30,450,000 88.3 4 4 100
SBE - - - - - -
Total 98,121,899 82,250,000 83.8 11 11 100

*BSB = Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EE = Engineering and Environmental Sciences;
HCA = Humanities and Creative Arts; MIC = Mathematics, Information and Communication Sciences; PCG = Physics, Chemistry and Geoscience; SBE = Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences

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National Research Priorities

All of the Centre extension proposals addressed one or more of the National Research Priority areas, with the primary priority falling into three areas:  An Environmentally Sustainable Australia, Promoting and Maintaining Good Health and Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries, as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Numbers of proposals and success rates for ARC Centres of Excellence extensions by National Research Priority

Priority area
Extension proposals received
Extension proposals approved
Success rate %
Funding approved over extension period ($2008)
An Environmentally Sustainable Australia 2 2 100 19,250,000
Promoting and Maintaining Good Health 2 2 100 15,050,000
Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries 7 7 100 47,950,000
Safeguarding Australia - - - -
None selected - - - -
Total 11 11 100 82,250,000

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Outcomes by Organisation

The number of proposals considered and approved, and funding requested and approved, by organisation is shown in Table 4.

Table 4: ARC Centres of Excellence extension proposals by Administering Organisation:  total requested and approved funding over life of the project

Administering Organisation
Total funding requested over extension period
Approved extension allocation ($2008)
Extension proposals considered
Extension proposals approved for funding
Success rate %
James Cook University 9,790,829 9,800,000 1 1 100
Monash University 19,989,613 13,300,000 2 2 100
Queensland University of Technology 5,711,317 5,950,000 1 1 100
The Australian National University 14,180,209 8,750,000 2 2 100
The University of Melbourne 16,941,514 17,500,000 2 2 100
The University of Tasmania 12,243,997 9,450,000 1 1 100
The University of Western Australia 9,473,590 9,800,000 1 1 100
University of Wollongong 9,790,831 7,700,000 1 1 100
Total 98,121,899 82,250,000 11 11 100

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Scheme Budget

The allocations from the ARC Centres of Excellence budget approved for the Centre extensions are shown in Table 5.

Table 5: Approved allocations for ARC Centres of Excellence extensions, for funding commencing in 2010
2010 (half year)
2011
2012
2013
Total
Total 11,750,000 23,500,000 23,500,000 23,500,000 82,250,000
Content Last Modified:

17/02/09

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