Overview

The Special Research Initiatives 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.

 

Objectives

As indicated in the Funding Rules for this scheme, the objective of the Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science is the delivery of a programme of activities that support research in stem cell science that will:

  • undertake highly innovative and internationally competitive research with a strategic focus on fundamental stem cell science;
  • participate in significant interdisciplinary collaboration including development of national and international networks and linkages with leading researchers and institutions;
  • build Australia’s human capacity in this area by attracting researchers of high international standing as well as the most promising research students;
  • strengthen capability by providing high-quality postgraduate and postdoctoral training environments for the next generation of researchers;
  • engage with stakeholders to identify and explore opportunities for translation and development of stem cell research and deliver benefits to Australia; and
  • facilitate the transfer of knowledge through public education of stem cell technologies and research outcomes and provide support for policy development.

 

Selection process

The closing date for Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science was 30 July 2010. The Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science selection round was conducted through the following competitive process.

Proposals were reviewed by an ARC Selection Advisory Committee (SAC). The SAC was informed and advised by assessments provided by Australian and International assessors who had relevant expertise in stem cell science. The SAC:

  • reviewed each Proposal;
  • ranked the Proposal relative to others on the basis of the Proposal and the assessor reports;
  • shortlisted Proposals for interview;
  • considered the shortlisted Proposal on the basis of the assessor reports and the interview; and
  • prepared funding recommendations, including recommended budgets.

The ARC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) made funding recommendations to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and these recommendations were subsequently approved. Unless otherwise specified, figures presented in this report exclude withdrawn proposals.

 

Selection criteria

Selection criteria and corresponding weights for Proposals:

Research programme (40%)
Investigators (30%)
Linkages (20%)
Outcomes (10%)

 

Funding levels and duration

The Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science offered minimum funds of $1 million per year up to a maximum of $3 million per year over seven years (subject to Parliamentary appropriations), commencing in July 2011.

 

Summary of Outcomes

A total of three Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science proposals were submitted to the ARC. One Proposal was subsequently withdrawn by the Administering Organisation. Consequently only two Proposals were considered for funding, with one shortlisted to progress to interview. Following the interview process, one Proposal was approved for funding, giving an overall success rate of 50 per cent.  Please note that within this Selection Report approved funding may include indicative funding amounts.

 

Approved funding

Table 1. Approved Proposalfor the Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science for funding commencing in 2011

Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science Administering Organisation Programme Leader Total approved funds over project life
Stem Cells Australia The University of Melbourne Professor Martin Pera $21,000,000

 

Collaboration

The Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science encourages collaboration between university researchers at the Administering and Collaborating Organisations and researchers and end-users at Partner Organisations, both within Australia and internationally. The approved Proposal involves one Administering Organisation, three Collaborating Organisations and four Partner Organisations.

Table 2. ARC funding and cash and in-kind commitments from Contributing Organisations* for the approved proposal for the Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science for funding commencing in 2011

Administering Organisation ARC Approved Funding Contributing Organisations*
Cash In-Kind
The University of Melbourne $21,000,000 $11,270,000 $31,277,309

*Contributing Organisations include Administering Organisation, Collaborating Organisations and Partner Organisations.

 

International collaboration

International collaboration is an important component of the Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science. The funded proposal includes international collaboration with France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

 

Summary of Approved Project: Stem Cells Australia

Stem Cells Australia will deliver fundamental scientific breakthroughs required to seed development of innovative biotechnology approaches and medical treatments using stem cell therapies. Close ties with Australian and international clinical researchers will ensure that research outcomes are suited to rapid translation into practice, cementing Australia’s reputation in this field. This will build Australia’s capacity in stem cell biology, and deliver significant long term health and economic benefits. An integrated education, ethics, law and community awareness unit will work with the community to facilitate well informed, robust debates on policy, health and ethical issues of stem cell use in human applications.

 

Gender

Table 3. Proportion of male and female ProgrammeLeaders on Proposals considered for the Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science for funding commencing in 2011

Programme Leader Proposals considered Proposals approved
Male 1 1
Female 1 0

 

National Research Priorities

The Australian Government has identified four National Research Priorities and, within these, 21 National Research Priority goals. Both considered Proposals addressed the National Research Priorities of Promoting and Maintaining Good Health and Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries.