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Selection Report: ARC Centres of Excellence 2020



The ARC Centres of Excellence scheme aims to enhance and develop Australia’s research excellence through highly innovative and collaborative research, as well as build Australia’s human capacity in a range of research areas.

The ARC Centres of Excellence are prestigious foci of expertise through which high-quality researchers maintain and develop Australia’s international standing in research areas of national priority.  

Through the ARC Centres of Excellence, significant collaborations occur between universities, publicly funded research organisations, other research bodies, governments and businesses in Australia and overseas, all to support outstanding research.

Selection process

Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for ARC Centres of Excellence commencing in 2020 opened on 23 May 2018 and closed on 4 July 2018. Shortlisted EOIs were invited to submit full applications, which opened on 10 October 2018 and closed on 19 December 2018. EOIs and full applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines recommendations from the selection process for that round.

The recommendations are based on advice from a Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) which: 

  • assessed EOIs, reviewed assessments made by independent readers and reviewed applicants’ comments on assessor reports
  • shortlisted EOIs for submission of full applications
  • assessed full applications, reviewed assessments made by independent readers and reviewed applicants’ comments on assessor reports
  • interviewed applicants
  • ranked each application relative to the others on the basis of the application, the assessor reports, applicants’ responses to those assessments and interview performance
  • assessed and recommended budgets;

and advice from the ARC Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the SAC or independent assessors. 

This report reflects the outcomes approved by the Minister. 

Assessment criteria

Assessment criteria and corresponding weights for EOI applications are:

  • Research program - Quality and Innovation (70%)
  • Investigators (30%)

Assessment criteria and corresponding weights for full applications are: 

  • Research program - Quality and Innovation (20%)
  • Investigators (20%)
  • Institutional Support (20%)
  • Governance, leadership and mentoring (20%)
  • Outcomes and linkages (20%)

The ARC assessment and reporting process for ARC Centres of Excellence used a panel of 18 SAC members during the EOI phase and 15 SAC members during the full application phase and was managed in RMS. A total of 258 independent assessor reports were submitted to the ARC for EOI applications and 67 for full applications. 

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received 93 EOIs and invited 20 EOIs to submit full applications. Of the 20 ARC Centres of Excellence applications submitted, nine were recommended for funding. 

As shown in Table 1, the overall success rate was 45 per cent, which was the same percentage for the previous ARC Centres of Excellence 2017 round.  

Table 1. Number of EOIs, applications and success rates for ARC Centres of Excellence 2020 by discipline panel

Panel*EOIs consideredEOIs shortlistedEOI success rate (%)Applications consideredApplications approvedApplication success rate (%)

*BSB = Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC = Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences; HCA = Humanities and Creative Arts; MPCE = Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences; SBE = Social, Behavioural and Economics Sciences 

Outcomes of approved ARC Centres of Excellence

Table 2 lists summary information on the approved ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020.

Table 2.  Details of approved ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020*

ARC Centres of Excellence TitleAdministering OrganisationCentre DirectorTotal Allocated Funding
ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and SocietyRMIT UniversityProfessor Julian Thomas$31,783,576
ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle PhysicsThe University of MelbourneProfessor Elisabetta Barberio$35,000,000
ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of MineralsThe University of NewcastleProfessor Kevin Galvin$35,000,000
ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical SystemsThe Australian National UniversityProfessor Dragomir Neshev$34,935,113
ARC Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein ScienceThe University of QueenslandProfessor David Craik$35,000,000
ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Success in Nature and AgricultureThe University of QueenslandProfessor Christine Beveridge$35,000,000
ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital ChildQueensland University of TechnologyProfessor Susan Danby$34,934,591
ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life CourseThe University of QueenslandProfessor Janeen Baxter$32,137,007
ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic BiologyMacquarie UniversityProfessor Ian Paulsen$35,000,000

*May include indicative funding amounts

Outcomes by Administering Organisation  

Administering Organisations in seven Australian States and Territories submitted applications for ARC Centres of Excellence. In addition to ARC funding, significant contributions are made by participating organisations as shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Numbers of EOIs and full applications, success rates and approved ARC funding for ARC Centres of Excellence applications for funding in 2020 by Administering Organisation*#

Administering Organisation    EOIs consideredEOIs shortlistedEOI success rate
Applications consideredApplications approvedApplication success rate
Total allocated funding amountParticipating organisation contributions (cash & in-kind for approved applications)
Australian Capital Territory6233.32150.0$34,935,113$34,402,574
The Australian National University

















New South Wales36411.14250.0$70,000,000$88,981,288
Australian Catholic University200.0-----
Macquarie University5120.011100.0$35,000,000$61,062,693
The University of New South Wales7114.3100.0--
The University of Newcastle6116.711100.0$35,000,000$27,918,595
The University of Sydney1119.10100.0--
University of Technology, Sydney200.0-----
University of Wollongong200.0-----
Western Sydney University100.0-----
Griffith University100.0-----
James Cook University100.0-----
Queensland University of Technology2150.011100.0$34,934,591$32,239,197
The University of Queensland9333.333100.0$102,137,007$162,287,239
South Australia6120.0100.0--
The University of Adelaide5120.0100.0--
Flinders University100.0-----
University of Tasmania200.0-----
Deakin University100.0-----
La Trobe University200.0-----
Monash University7114.3100.0--
RMIT University11100.011100.0$31,783,576$39,344,634
Swinburne University of Technology2150.0100.0--
The University of Melbourne15640.06116.7$35,000,000$90,389,437
Western Australia200.0-----
Curtin University200.0-----

* Participating Organisations include the Administering Organisation, Other Eligible Organisations and Partner Organisations.
# Participating Organisation contributions are shown by organisation type in Table 4.

Participating organisation contributions by organisation type

As shown in Table 4, contributions to ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020 from Partner Organisations total over $151 million, 40 per cent of the total organisation contributions to successful ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020.

Table 4. Participating organisation contributions by organisation type for approved ARC Centres of Excellence applications for funding in 2020 

Organisation typeOrganisation contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (recommended applications)
Administering Organisation$128,754,602
Other Eligible Organisation$168,728,562
Partner Organisation$151,161,205

Partner Organisation contributions by sector

Partner Organisations were identified as either Australian, international, government, non-profit, industry or overseas higher education organisations. 

Leverage of ARC funding

Of the 20 applications considered, nine were approved with a total funding, over the life of these projects, of $308,790,287. There are 154 Partner Organisations involved, committing a total of $151,161,205 in cash and in-kind funding. This represents $0.49 from Partner Organisations for every dollar of funding from the ARC.

The Partner Organisation contributions in these categories for applications approved for funding in 2020 are shown below in Table 5.

Table 5. Partner Organisation contributions by sector for approved ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020

Type Cash In-kind Total 
Industry Body 
Australian  $4,544,00039.47$10,808,9077.74$15,352,90710.16
International  $1,054,8009.16$38,691,66527.71$39,746,46526.29
Australian  $2,947,78325.6$4,842,0263.47$7,789,8095.15
International $00$350,0000.25$350,0000.23
Australian state, territory and local government$1,003,1138.71$1,855,9451.33$2,859,0781.89 
International $00$350,0000.25$350,0000.23
Australian Federal Government$1,120,0009.73$9,581,8606.86$10,701,8607.08 
Other $591,0005.13$13,594,6009.73$14,185,6009.38
International $252,0002.19$59,573,48642.66$59,825,48639.58

Note: All totals and percentages are shown using rounded figures, and as such may not sum.

Science and Research Priorities

As shown in Table 6, all applications for ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020 selected a Science and Research Priority. 

Table 6. Approved funding for ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020 by Science and Research Priority

Science and Research PriorityApplications submitted*Applications approvedSuccess Rate (%)Allocated Funding
Advanced manufacturing9444.4$139,935,113
Total within Science and Research Priorities15746.7$241,718,689
Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)75.077.8 78.3

Outcomes by Field of Research Categories

Table 7. Application data by Field of Research category for ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020

Field of Research categoryApplications submittedApplications approvedAllocated FundingParticipating Organisation contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (approved applications)
Mathematical Sciences10$0$0
Physical Sciences31$35,000,000$90,389,437
Chemical Sciences11$35,000,000$53,997,836
Biological Sciences42$70,000,000$136,313,769
Studies in Human Society31$32,137,007$33,038,327
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences20$0$0
Language, Communication and Culture11$31,783,576$39,344,634
Philosophy and Religious Studies10$0$0


A total of 599 participants were named on applications considered in this round. Of these, 389 were male and 207 were female and three were unspecified. The success rates for male and female participants in this round are 44.9 per cent and 47.8 per cent respectively. Of the nine funded Centre Directors, four are female and five are male.

International collaboration

International collaboration is an important component of ARC Centres of Excellence. Overall, the approved applications indicate collaboration with 26 countries. Data relating to international collaboration is shown in Table 8.

Table 8.  Instances of International Collaboration on approved ARC Centres of Excellence for funding in 2020 applications

CountryNumber of submitted applications with international collaborationNumber of approved applications with international collaboration
China (excluded SARs and Taiwan)117
Hong Kong (SAR of China)61
Korea, Republic of (South)32
New Zealand52
South Africa10
United States of America199
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