Linkage Projects—The University of  Sydney
7 September 2016
Dr Laura Dan

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National Competitive Grants Program

National Competitive Grants Programme

Graphical representation of schemes in the ARC's National Competitive Grants Program. Each scheme is a rectangle with the area of the rectangle representing amount funded over the period 2011–2015.

Area of box represents amount funded over the period 2011–2015.

N.B.

  • Centres of Excellence, SRIs, not awarded in every year.
  • ITRP and DECRA only funding since 2012

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ARC NCGP funding by scheme 2008–2015

ARC funding by scheme

Stacked area chart showing ARC funding by scheme 2008–2015 with Discovery Projects being the largest through this period, but significant growth in Future Fellowships.

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Linkage Program objectives

  • Support excellent collaborative research initiatives involving partnerships between higher education organisations and with other sectors in Australia and internationally.
  • Foster research training and career opportunities that enable researchers and research students to gain experience working in industry settings.
  • Support collaborative research in priority areas that will deliver national benefits.
  • Enhance capacity to deliver national benefits by investing in large-scale collaborative research programs.

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The objectives of the Linkage Projects scheme 

  1. support the initiation and/or development of long-term strategic research alliances between higher education organisations and other organisations, including industry and other research end-users, in order to apply advanced knowledge to problems and/or to provide opportunities to obtain national economic, commercial, social or cultural benefits
  2. provide opportunities for internationally competitive research projects to be conducted in collaboration with organisations outside the higher education sector, targeting those who have demonstrated a clear commitment to high- quality research
  3. encourage growth of a national pool of world-class researchers to meet the needs of the broader Australian innovation system 
  4. build the scale and focus of research in the national Science and Research Priorities.

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Linkage Projects—return and success rates

Linkage Projects - return and success rates

This chart shows the number of proposals received and funded, and the success and return rate for the Linkage Projects scheme for the years  2003–2016.

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National Innovation and Science Agenda

  • In December 2015 the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) was announced
  • ARC measures within NISA:
    • Continuous Linkage Projects scheme (opened 1 July)
    • Research Engagement and Impact Assessment

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Continuous application, assessment and funding process

 

  1. Proposal submitted to ARC
  2. Assessment/Rejoinders Process
  3. Overall Score Calculated
  4. Score compared to LP16 April list
  5. Preliminary Screening Meeting
  6. Ranking
    1. High 
    2. Low
  7. Selection Meeting
  8. Funding Recommendations to the Minister
  9. Announcement
  10. Projects start

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LP17 Selection Criteria

Investigator(s) 25%

  • Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) 
  • potential to engage in collaborative research with end-users 
  • time and capacity to undertake and manage the proposed research in collaboration with the Partner Organisation(s)

Project Quality and Innovation 25%

  • Significance and Innovation 
  • Approach and Training 
    • Are the conceptual framework, design, methods and analyses adequately developed, well integrated and appropriate to the aims of the Project? 
    • Where relevant, is the intellectual content and scale of the work proposed appropriate to a higher degree by research? 
    • How appropriate is the proposed budget?

Feasibility 20%

  • Is there an existing, or developing, supportive and high-quality environment for this research both within the Administering Organisation and in the Partner Organisations? 
  • Are the necessary facilities available to conduct the proposed research? 
  • Is there evidence that each of the Partner Organisations is genuinely committed to, and prepared to collaborate in, the research Project? 
  • Is the budget justification for Cash and in-kind Contributions adequate?

Benefit 30%

  • Will the proposed research encourage and develop strategic research alliances between the higher education organisation and other organisations? 
  • Will the proposed research maximise economic, commercial, environmental and/or social benefit to Australia? Are there adequate strategies to encourage dissemination, commercialisation, if appropriate, and promotion of research outcomes? 
  • Is it demonstrated that, where relevant, the applicants have identified the freedom to operate in the Intellectual Property and patent landscape to enable future benefits to end-users and/or industry? 
  • Does the Project represent value for money?

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LP17 Participant roles

  • Roles that may be nominated in a Proposal are:
    •   Chief Investigator (CI)
    •   Partner Investigator (PI)
  • The Proposal must nominate at least one CI from an Eligible Organisation. The first named CI must be from the Administrating Organisation and will be the Project Leader.
  • The Proposal may nominate a PI from each Partner Organisation. A PI who is representing a Partner Organisation on the Proposal is required to have a role within that Partner Organisation.

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Eligibility Criteria for a Chief Investigator

  • As at 1 January 2017 a researcher nominated on a Proposal as a CI must meet at least one of the following criteria:
  • be an employee for at least 0.2 FTE (20 per cent of Full Time Equivalent) at an Eligible Organisation; or
  • be a holder of an Emeritus Appointment (as defined in A3) at an Eligible Organisation.

Scheme limits must be observed!

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LP17 Level and Period of Funding

The minimum level of funding provided by the ARC under Linkage Projects scheme is $50,000 per year of funding and the maximum is $300,000 per year of funding per Project, for each year of the Project.

A Project may be applied for and awarded funding for a minimum of two to a maximum of five consecutive years. 

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LP17 Budget items supported

  1. salary support for research associates and assistants, technicians and laboratory attendants at an appropriate salary level, including 30 per cent on-costs, for the Administering Organisation 
  2. stipends for Higher Degree by Research students, in whole or in part, at an appropriate level for the Administering Organisation or the relevant industry sector. 
  3. teaching relief for CIs up to a total value for the Project of $50,000 per year

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Partner Organisation Contribution Requirements

  • The Proposal must demonstrate that the combined Partner Organisation eligible contributions for a Proposal (i.e. the total of the cash and/or in-kind eligible contributions of the Partner Organisation) must at least match the total funding requested from the ARC. 
  • The combined Partner Organisation eligible Cash Contribution must be at least 25 per cent of the total funding requested from the ARC except for Proposals where all Partner Organisation are Exempt Partner Organisation

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Partner Organisations exempt from Cash Contribution Requirements

  • Exempt Archive and Public Record Office 
  • Exempt Charity 
  • Exempt Herbarium 
  • Exempt Museum and Collecting Organisation 
  • Exempt Non-Profit Organisation 
  • Exempt Small Business 
  • Exempt Start-up.

Proposals in which all Partner Organisations are exempt from the Cash Contribution requirements do not have to meet the minimum 25% Cash Contribution requirement, but must still match the total requested from the ARC.

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What are assessors seeking in an application?

  • Compelling Project Description
  • Sound Methodology
  • Strong performance evidence, highly appropriate to the Project
  • Increasingly a robust Budget Justification

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Establishing a relationship and designing the project

  • There is a problem to be solved but industry wants 100% ownership of Intellectual Property and full control of benefits—see Contract Research or Consultancy
  • There is a problem to be solved with immediate and longer term benefits, and IP to be shared between the University, industry and researchers—see Linkage Projects as a research project grant
  • There is a more industry-wide problem and the benefits may have system-wide industry solutions - blue-sky research plus serious capacity building involved—see Industrial Transformation Research Program investments
  • There is a longer term problem, requiring a interdisciplinary approach, the scale of national centre with international level of research excellence and translation to multiple end users—see ARC Centres of Excellence

 

Triage result—Proceed to next step

Triage result—Not now thanks

Proceed—but be aware of your university deal breakers and principles of engagement— don’t overpromise, don’t over-compromise

Consider a future collaborative relationship, or identify/solve other business problems

Consider the different perspectives…

Researcher focus

End user focus

Research outputs and outcomes

Outcomes as they can be applied and potential commercial benefits

 

  • Both parties’ needs must be met for a research project to be successful
  • Be clear about what is expected to be gained from the partnership
  • Don’t assume everyone understands research concepts or business concepts 

 

The Project concept emerges…

Clearly articulate the challenge/solution and describe potential project activity (what may be possible both in the project time frame and perhaps beyond)

 

Think about: 

  • who will be doing the work 
  • how each party will be involved
  • what contributions the parties will make in cash and in-kind and the likely expenditure involved
  • The intellectual property expectations (ownership and use)
  • what the specific outputs are and when they are expected to be delivered
  • about gender equity in your capacity building.

Consider a form of term sheet or heads of agreement, which will save you time and much angst later.

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Here comes the ARC grant application process 

  • The Research Office staff are your best friends!
  • Be clear what each party will, will not, or cannot, compromise upon (IP grumbles can begin here if not dealt with early)
  • Prepare a ‘finalised’ budget allowing plenty of time for any internal approvals in the university and the industry partner.
  • Share the application form—industry partners are sometimes forgotten here and do not appreciate not seeing the draft and final versions
  • The early bird catches a Linkage Projects partner support letter—industry partners do not appreciate 24-48 hours to sign off letters of support

Also think about:

  • Agreement on the distribution of funds and a contingency plan of what can be changed if the grant is successful, including if the amount of funding awarded is reduced – the impact affects all parties.
  • During the ARC assessment process stay in touch with parties and the Research Office – address the rejoinder process constructively!

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The ARC grant is awarded!

  • The University is the Applicant—DVCR signs the ARC Funding Agreement
  • Some university research offices provide a checklist of key documents, policies and responsibilities for researchers to sign off
  • The road to a Collaborative Research Agreement
  • written agreement between all the partners must be signed before you spend any ARC funding—Your early work with a term sheet will now pay off! (Do not send written agreements to industry that are the size of an Encyclopaedia Britannica volume…)
  • The Research Office will assist you with ethical approvals—You cannot commence research work without clearances.

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 Managing the project

Some governance is needed - have a project steering committee, Management Committee or Advisory Committee – the structure would depend on the scale and risk of the investment

Be clear:

  • About how all parties are explicitly involved in the project from start to finish
  • That a translation plan is needed (know what to do when success starts to occur)
  • That everyone has some sense of ownership 
  • That the project remains focused on end-user needs. Look for quick wins too! 
  • That issues are to be dealt with quickly, rather than allowed to linger 
  • That when research students are involved in a project the expectations of the student, the requirements of their research degree and their aspirations for the future should be explicitly discussed, and try to give them the broadest opportunities for professional development including industry placements
  • About gender equity and family friendly workplaces when recruiting
  • About how to deal with project scope creep or losing focus when you leverage success.
  • That RO staff need to be informed about changes in the staffing or scope of the project.

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Partner Organisations say that Linkage provides

  • A long-term professional relationship—the contacts and ongoing relationships developed through the project often led to other projects or the ability to discuss issues and keep in contact: this was highly valuable to each party
  • Important research outcomes—these included new knowledge or solving particular problems through the research project(s)
  • Building capacity—training and developing skills was an important factor identified by universities and their academic staff. Student placements are beneficial as potential new recruits or emerging researchers that know industry issues very well
  • Better connected and leveraged research capability—the projects brought together different expertise, knowledge and /or resources that would not have been available to the individual parties involved

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Partner Organisation Views: Why Use LP Scheme ?

 

Chance of success is reasonably high—47% Important, 10% not important

Possible to obtain larger grants—76% Important, 2% not important

Access to highly skilled research personnel—88% Important, 2% not important

Opportunity to build long term relationships with university researchers—92% Important, 2% not important

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Issues with Partner Organisations

  • are unable to meet their cash-contributions. This is being reported to the ARC before, during and after the Project has been completed.
  • are dissatisfied with the level of collaboration and inclusion in the Project. This is reported to the ARC both via the Research Office and from Partner Orgs.
  • relationships which break down due to poor ongoing engagement and management with researcher(s).
  • have IP disagreements, don’t understand that the project commencement is deferred because of long contract negotiations, and also have trouble understanding how student placements work.
  • refuse to complete final reports because the university spent the ARC funds first but the research project is still continuing with PO funds.

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