Overview

The Industrial Transformation Research Hubs scheme engages Australia's best researchers to develop collaborative solutions to Industrial Transformation Priorities. Research Hubs support joint research activity, between the Australian higher education sector and industry, designed to focus on strategic outcomes that cannot be realised independently of each other. 

The objectives of the Industrial Transformation Research Hubs scheme are to:

  • support collaborative research projects between universities and organisations outside the Australian higher education sector that involve cutting-edge research on new technologies; and 
  • leverage national and international investment in targeted industry sectors, including from industry and other research end-users.

Selection process

Applications for funding commencing in 2020 opened on 4 October 2019 and closed on 11 December 2020. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines outcomes from the selection process for that round.
These recommendations are based on advice from the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) which: 

  • assessed applications and reviewed assessments made by independent assessors
  • reviewed applicants’ comments on assessors’ reports
  • ranked each application relative to the others on the basis of the application, the assessors’ reports and applicants’ responses to those assessments
  • assessed and recommended budgets
  • recommended application feedback;

and, advice from the ARC’s National Competitive Grants Program Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the members of the SAC or independent assessors
  • where required, sought advice from the ARC's Medical Research Advisory Group
  • made recommendations to the CEO in respect of ineligible applications.

This report reflects the outcomes approved by the Minister. 

Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria and corresponding weights for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs applications are:
a. Investigator(s)/Capability (20%)

  • demonstrated Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) of the proposed team including: 
    • evidence of experience in managing distributed and/or collaborative industrial and end-user focussed research 
    • evidence of significant outcomes on industry related projects; and
    • evidence of experience in and capacity to provide effective supervision, support and mentoring for HDR candidates and postdoctoral researchers over the life of the Research Hub
  • appropriateness of team research track record to achieve the Research Hub’s goals; and
  • time and capacity of the team to undertake and manage the proposed research in collaboration with the Partner Organisation(s). 

b. Project Quality and Innovation (30%)

  • the aims, concepts, methods and outcomes will drive growth, productivity and competitiveness within relevant sectors
  • conceptual/theoretical framework is genuinely integrated, cross-disciplinary, innovative and original; and 
  • project draws together high quality innovative national and international partnership(s) into an integrated Research Hub. 

c. Feasibility and Commitment (20%)

  • extent to which the proposed Research Hub represents value for money 
  • appropriateness of the design of the Research Hub and the expertise of the participants to ensure the project can be completed within the proposed budget and timeframe (including identified risks and mitigation strategies)
  • proposed level of collaboration to support the research project, including national and international networks and linkages
  • high-quality intellectual support provided for the Research Hub by the research environment of the participating organisations 
  • availability of and access to necessary facilities required to support the proposed research (physical, technical, access to infrastructure, etc)
  • commitment by each Partner Organisation(s) to collaboration in the Research Hub;
  • adequacy of the budget, including cash and in-kind Contributions pledged by participating organisations; and
  • extent to which the proposed Research Hub engages, and will continue to engage, meaningfully with the relevant industry experts including Industry Growth Centres. 

d. Benefit (30%)

  • the extent to which the research clearly addresses one or more of the Industrial Transformation Priorities 
  • the economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits for relevant Australian research end-users (including relevant industry sectors) 
  • the extent to which the proposed Research Hub supports clearly identified market opportunity(ies) and intended transformation for Australian industry or other end users
  • the extent to which the proposed Research Hub will build research capacity in the Partner Organisation(s)
  • the extent to which there are adequate strategies to encourage dissemination, promotion, and the commercialisation of research outcomes
  • the potential contribution of the proposed research to addressing the needs of industries and communities as articulated in Australia’s Industrial Transformation Priorities; and 
  • where relevant, the extent to which the applicants have identified the freedom to operate in the Intellectual Property and patent landscape to enable future benefits to industry.

Assessment process

The ARC assessment and reporting process for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs 2020 involved a panel of 12 SAC members and was managed in RMS. A total of 59 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs 2020. 

Funding levels and duration 

Funding of between $500,000 and $1 million per annum for between three to five consecutive years may be awarded for each Industrial Transformation Research Hub.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received 16 applications for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding commencing in 2020. All applications met eligibility requirements.

As shown in Table 1, five applications were approved for funding by the Minister. The overall success rate is 31.3 per cent. A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 2.

Table 1.  Approved applications for the Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020

Research Hub Title

Administering Organisation

Hub Director

Approved funds over project life

ARC Research Hub for Australian Steel Innovation

University of Wollongong

Dr Paul Zulli

$5,000,000

ARC Research Hub for Transforming Energy Infrastructure Through Digital Engineering

The University of Western Australia

Professor Phillip Watson

$5,000,000

ARC Research Hub for Transformation of Reclaimed Waste Resources to Engineered Materials and Solutions for a Circular Economy

RMIT University

Professor Sujeeva Setunge

$5,000,000

ARC Research Hub for Innovative Nitrogen Fertilisers and Inhibitors

The University of Melbourne

Professor Deli Chen

$4,950,000

ARC Research Hub in New Safe and Reliable Energy Storage and Conversion Technologies

Deakin University

Professor Ying Chen

$5,000,000

Table 2. Comparison of application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Industrial Transformation Research Hubs applications for funding in 2019 and 2020*

Funding year

Applications considered

Applications approved for funding

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life

- all applications

Requested funds over project life - approved applications

Funds allocated over project life

 

Allocation as a percentage of request (%)

2019

13

4

30.8

$58,728,902

$18,104,299

$18,104,299

100.0

2020

16

5

31.3

$72,284,569

$25,000,000

$24,950,000

99.8

Outcomes by discipline

A summary of outcomes by discipline grouping is shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Number of applications, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved Industrial Transformation Research Hubs 2020 applications by discipline

Discipline*

Applications considered

Applications approved for funding

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over project life for all applications considered ($)

Requested funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Return Rate for approved applications (%)

BEM

1

0

0.0

5,000,000

0

0

0.0

ET

12

4

33.3

54,316,120

20,000,000

20,000,000

100.0

HSE

1

0

0.0

4,9698,281

0

0

0.0

PMI

2

1

50.0

7,999,168

5,000,000

4,950,000

99.0

Total

16

5

31.3

72,284,569

25,000,000

24,950,000

99.8

*BEM – Biological Sciences, Biotechnology, Environmental, Medical and Health Sciences; ET – Engineering and Technology; HSE – Humanities and Creative Arts, Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences; PMI – Physical, Mathematical and Information Sciences

Outcomes by Administering Organisation  

Institutions across four Australian States and Territories submitted applications for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020. In addition to ARC funding, significant contributions are made by participating organisations as shown in Table 4.

Table 4. Numbers of applications, success rates for approved Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved for funding

Success rate (%)

Funding over project life (approved applications)

Participating organisation*# contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (approved applications)

Australian Capital Territory

1

0

0.0

$0

$0

The Australian National University

1

0

0.0

$0

$0

New South Wales

8

1

12.5

$5,000,000

$23,431,694

The University of New South Wales

4

0

0.0

$0

$0

The University of Newcastle

1

0

0.0

$0

$0

The University of Sydney

2

0

0.0

$0

$0

University of Wollongong

1

1

100.0

$5,000,000

$23,431,694

Victoria

5

3

60.0

$14,950,000

$44,233,106

Deakin University

2

1

50.0

$5,000,000

$17,086,569

RMIT University

1

1

100.0

$5,000,000

$16,294,351

The University of Melbourne

2

1

50.0

$4,950,000

$10,852,186

Western Australia

2

1

50.0

$5,000,000

$20,143,440

The University of Western Australia

2

1

50.0

$5,000,000

$20,143,440

Total

16

5

31.3

$24,950,000

$87,808,240

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

Participating organisation contributions by organisation type

As shown in Table 5, contributions to Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020 from Partner Organisations total over $48 million, 55.2 per cent of the total organisation contributions to successful Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020.

Table 5.  Participating organisation contributions by organisation type for approved applications for the Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020

Organisation type

Organisation contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (approved applications)

Administering Organisation

$25,837,524

Other Eligible Organisation

$11,999,307

Partner Organisation

$48,495,694

Other Organisation

$1,475,715

Total

$87,808,240

Partner Organisation contributions by sector 

Partner Organisations were identified as either Australian, international, government, non-profit or industry. The Partner Organisation contributions in these categories for applications approved for funding in 2020 are shown below in Table 6.

Table 6. Partner Organisation contributions by sector for approved applications for the Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020 

Type

 

Cash

In-kind

Total

 

 

$

%

$

%

$

%

Industry Body

 

Australian

 

$20,281,117

83.14

$18,642,215

77.35

$38,923,332

80.26

International

 

$2,455,000

10.06

$2,377,288

9.86

$4,832,288

9.96

 

Sub-total

$22,736,117

93.20

$21,019,503

87.21

$43,755,620

90.22

Non-Profit

 

Australian

 

$400,000

1.64

$200,000

0.83

$600,000

1.24

 

Sub-total

$400,000

1.64

$200,000

0.83

$600,000

1.24

Government

 

Australian state, territory and local government

 

$475,000

1.95

$850,000

3.53

$1,325,000

2.73

Australian Federal Government

 

$0

0.0

$828,429

3.44

$828,429

1.71

 

Sub-total

$475,000

1.95

$1,678,429

6.97

$2,153,429

4.44

Other

 

Other

 

$782,285

3.21

$1,204,360

5.00

$1,986,645

4.10

 

Sub-total

$782,285

3.21

$1,204,360

5.00

$1,986,645

4.10

 

Total

$24,393,402

100.0

$24,102,292

100.0

$48,495,694

100.0

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

Leverage of ARC funding

Of the 16 applications considered, five were approved with total funding, over the life of these projects, of $24.95 million. There are 61 Partner Organisations involved, committing a total of $48.5 million in cash and in-kind funding. This represents $1.94 from Partner Organisations for every dollar of funding from the ARC.

Industrial Transformation Priorities

As shown in Table 7, applications for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020 were submitted in all Industrial Transformation Priorities.

Table 7. Instances of identified Industrial Transformation Priorities in Industrial Transformation Research Hubs applications approved for funding commencing in 2020

Industrial Transformation Priorities

Instances in applications considered*

Instances in applications approved*

Advanced Manufacturing

7

2

Cyber Security

3

0

Food and Agribusiness

4

1

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

2

0

Mining Equipment, Technology and Services

1

0

Oil, Gas and Energy Resources

4

2

Total

21

5

* A single application may select multiple Industrial Transformation Priorities

Outcomes by Science and Research Priorities 

As shown in Table 8, all applications for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020 selected a Science and Research Priority. 

Table 8. Approved funding and success rate for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020 by Science and Research Priority
 

Priority area

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds (over project life)

Advanced manufacturing

6

2

33.3

$10,000,000

Cybersecurity

2

0

0.0

$0

Energy

2

1

50.0

$5,000,000

Food

2

1

50.0

$4,950,000

Resources

3

1

33.3

$5,000,000

Soil and water

1

0

0.0

$0

Total

16

5

31.3

$24,950,000

Total within Science and Research Priorities

16

5

31.3

$24,950,000

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

100%

100%

-

100%

Field of Research Categories

Table 9. Application data by Field of Research category for Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020

Field of Research category

Applications considered

Applications approved for funding

Funding over project life (approved applications)

Participating Organisation contributions (cash & in-kind) over project life (approved applications)

Chemical Sciences

1

1

$4,950,000

$10,852,186

Earth Sciences

1

0

$0

$0

Environmental Sciences

1

0

$0

$0

Information and Computing Sciences

1

0

$0

$0

Engineering

11

4

$20,000,000

$76,956,054

Built Environment and Design

1

0

$0

$0

Total

16

5

$24,950,000

$87,808,240

Gender

A total of 477 participants were named as a Hub Director, Chief Investigator or Partner Investigator on applications considered in this round. Of these, 377 are male, 99 are female and one participant chose not to specify their gender. The success rates for male, female and unspecified participants are 43.5 per cent, 34.3 per cent and 100.0 per cent respectively.

International collaboration

As shown in Figure 1, ten countries are participating in the successful Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020.

Figure 1. International collaborations by location in approved Industrial Transformation Research Hubs for funding in 2020 applications