Overview

The Linkage Projects scheme supports projects which initiate or develop long term strategic research alliances to apply advanced knowledge to problems, acquire new knowledge and as a basis for securing commercial and other benefits of research.

The objectives of the Linkage Projects scheme are to:

  • support the development of long-term strategic research alliances between higher education organisations and industry and other research end-users, in order to apply advanced knowledge to problems;
  • provide opportunities for internationally competitive research projects to be conducted in collaboration with organisations outside the higher education sector; and
  • enhance the scale and focus of research in Australian Government priority areas.

Selection process

Applications for Linkage Projects 2020 Assessment Round 3 opened on 13 August 2020 and closed on 17 December 2020. Applications were submitted using a continuous application process, this is the third and final of the three assessment rounds for this scheme. 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 outcomes are based on advice from the ARC Selection Advisory Committees (SAC) which:

  • assigned independent assessors to review the applications
  • 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;

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

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, the members of the ARC College of Experts 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. Unless otherwise specified, data presented in this report exclude withdrawn applications.

Assessment criteria

All applications that meet the eligibility criteria for Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) were assessed and merit ranked using the following assessment criteria:

Investigator(s)/Capability (25%)

Describe the quality of the candidates’ Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence (ROPE) including evidence of:

  • potential to engage in collaborative research with end-users;
  • experience in research training, mentoring and supervision; and
  • time and capacity to undertake and manage the proposed research in collaboration with the Partner Organisation(s).

Project quality and innovation (25%)

Describe the extent to which the project is significant and innovative including:

  • any new methods or technologies to be developed that address a specific market opportunity;
  • how the anticipated outcomes will advance the knowledge base to address an important problem and/or provide an end-user and/or industry advantage;
  • how the project’s aims and concepts are novel and innovative; and
  • how the project will significantly enhance links with industry and/or other organisations outside the Australian publicly-funded research and higher education sectors.

Describe the research approach and training including:

  • the conceptual framework, design, methods and analyses, demonstrating these are adequately developed, well integrated and appropriate to the aims of the project; and
  • the intellectual content and scale of the work proposed is appropriate to a higher degree by research student where relevant.

Feasibility and commitment (20%)

Describe:

  • the extent to which the project represents value for money;
  • the supportive and high quality environment for this research in the Administering Organisation and the Partner Organisation(s);
  • the availability of the necessary facilities to conduct the research;
  • the commitment of each Partner Organisation to collaboration in the research project and capacity to implement the outcomes of the research; and
  • the adequacy of the budget, including cash and in-kind contributions pledged by the participating organisations.

If the project involves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research describe:

  • the strategies for enabling collaboration with Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where appropriate (for example, dialogue/collaboration with an Indigenous cultural mentor); and
  • any existing or developing, supportive and high quality research communities.

Benefit (30%)

Describe:

  • the new or advanced knowledge resulting from outcomes of the research;
  • the economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits for relevant Australian research end-users (including relevant industry sectors);
  • the potential contribution to building capacity in the Australian Government’s National Science and Research Priorities and other priorities identified by Government;
  • benefits of the research for Partner Organisation(s) and other relevant end-users;
  • the contribution of the research to developing strategic research alliances between the higher education organisation(s) and industry and/or other organisation(s);
  • strategies to encourage dissemination, commercialisation, and if appropriate, the promotion of research outcomes; 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 and/or end-users.

Assessment process

The ARC assessment process for Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) involved 17 SAC members as part of one multidisciplinary panel and was managed in RMS. A total of 1040 independent assessors’ reports were submitted to the ARC.

Funding levels and duration

Funding of between $50,000 and $300,000 per annum for up to five years may be awarded for each Linkage Projects application.

Summary of outcomes

The ARC received a total of 277 applications for Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3), one of which was withdrawn.

The overall success rate for Linkage Projects for funding applied for in 2020 (Round 3) is 24.3 per cent.

Of the unsuccessful applications, 12 were found to not meet eligibility requirements.

A comparison of success rates and funding amounts is shown in Table 1.

Table 1.    Comparison of application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved Linkage Projects applications from 2019 and 2020 (Rounds 1, 2 and 3)

Scheme Round

Applications considered

Applications
approved

Success rate (%)

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

Requested funds over project life for approved applications ($)

Funds allocated over project life for approved applications* ($)

Return rate for approved applications (%)

2019

432

175

40.5

$217,620,359

$92,200,635

$78,187,269

84.8

2020 (Round 1)

180

61

33.9

$87,268,182

$30,685,046

$26,881,001

87.6

2020 (Round 2)

259

67

25.9

$138,269,232

$36,054,450

$30,666,575

85.1

2020 (Round 3)

276

67

24.3

$140,742,080

$36,563,401

$31,724,738

86.8

*May include indicative funds 

Outcomes by discipline

A summary of outcome by discipline is shown in Table 2.

Table 2.    Application numbers, success rates and requested and allocated funds for approved Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) applications by discipline

Discipline*

Applications considered

Applications approved

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

51

6

11.8

$31,013,568

$3,814,140

$2,913,126

76.4

ET

80

24

30.0

$40,604,815

$12,997,016

$11,016,371

84.8

HSE

87

26

29.9

$38,245,744

$12,955,923

$11,957,409

92.3

PMI

58

11

19.0

$30,877,953

$6,796,322

$5,837,832

85.9

Total

276

67

24.3

$140,742,080

$36,563,401

$31,724,738

86.8

*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 Science and Research Priorities

A summary of outcomes by Science and Research Priorities is shown in Table 3.

Table 3.    Approved funding and success rate for Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) applications by Science and Research Priorities

Science and Research Priorities

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Approved funds over project life ($)

Advanced Manufacturing

63

16

25.4

$7,068,103

Cybersecurity

12

0

0

-

Energy

21

8

38.1

$4,146,851

Environmental Change

32

11

34.4

$4,797,235

Food

17

5

29.4

$2,985,837

Health

28

5

17.9

$2,397,057

Resources

12

5

41.7

$2,172,841

Soil and Water

12

0

0

-

Transport

11

4

36.4

$2,054,562

None selected

68

13

19.1

$6,102,252

Total Applications

276

67

24.3

$31,724,738

Total Applications within Science and Research Priorities

208

54

26.0

$25,622,486

Percentage within Science and Research Priorities (%)

75.4

80.6

 

80.8

Leverage of ARC Funding

Of the 276 applications considered, 67 were approved with a total approved funding, of $31.7 million over the life of these projects. There are 172 unique Partner Organisations involved with these projects and they have pledged a total (cash and in-kind) of $52.0 million. This represents $1.64 from Partner Organisations for every dollar funded by the ARC.

Outcomes by Administering Organisation

A summary of outcomes by Administering Organisation is shown in Table 4.

Table 4.    Numbers of applications, success rates, ARC approved funding and Partner Organisation contributions for approved Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

ARC approved funding over project life (approved applications)

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

Australian Capital Territory

11

3

27.3

$1,496,974

$2,301,119

The Australian National University

9

2

22.2

$1,152,272

$1,895,288

University of Canberra

2

1

50.0

$344,702

*

New South Wales

80

18

22.5

$8,579,452

$14,038,460

Australian Catholic University

1

0

0

-

-

Macquarie University

13

3

23.1

$1,441,809

$2,328,070

Southern Cross University

1

0

0

-

-

The University of New South Wales

23

6

26.1

$3,193,626

$4,750,863

The University of Newcastle

5

0

0

-

-

The University of Sydney

13

3

23.1

$1,438,118

$3,135,208

University of Technology Sydney

12

2

16.7

$970,408

$1,619,254

University of Wollongong

8

1

12.5

$418,601

*

Western Sydney University

4

3

75.0

$1,116,890

$1,593,065

Northern Territory

2

0

0

-

-

Charles Darwin University

2

0

0

-

-

Queensland

50

12

24.0

$4,941,698

$6,767,243

Griffith University

5

1

20.0

$384,924

*

Queensland University of Technology

15

2

13.3

$843,854

$1,105,993

The University of Queensland

29

8

27.6

$3,284,379

$4,810,270

The University of Southern Queensland

1

1

100.0

$428,541

*

South Australia

20

8

40.0

$3,952,172

$6,523,278

Flinders University

5

2

40.0

$1,218,653

$1,635,000

The University of Adelaide

10

4

40.0

$1,965,291

$3,741,576

University of South Australia

5

2

40.0

$768,228

$1,146,702

Tasmania

3

1

33.3

$242,783

*

University of Tasmania

3

1

33.3

$242,783

*

Victoria

94

21

22.3

$10,202,727

$15,240,633

Deakin University

10

2

20.0

$925,256

$1,462,375

Federation University Australia

1

0

0

-

-

La Trobe University

2

1

50.0

$561,297

*

Monash University

20

5

25.0

$1,960,023

$2,988,855

RMIT University

15

1

6.7

$338,595

*

Swinburne University of Technology

8

5

62.5

$2,630,426

$3,343,611

The University of Melbourne

36

7

19.4

$3,787,130

$6,089,933

Victoria University

2

0

0

-

-

Western Australia

16

4

25.0

$2,308,932

$6,886,941

Curtin University

2

1

50.0

$396,000

*

Edith Cowan University

1

0

0

-

-

Murdoch University

2

0

0

-

-

The University of Western Australia

11

3

27.3

$1,912,932

$6,353,174

Total

276

67

24.3

$31,724,738

$52,018,787

* For confidentiality reasons, total contributions by Partner Organisations are not shown in instances in which Administering Organisations are associated with one approved application only. The Table 4 total does, however, include the total contributions by Partner Organisations on approved Projects associated with those Administering Organisations.

Partner Organisations were identified as Australian, international, government, non-profit, industry or overseas higher education organisations. The Partner Organisation contributions in these categories for Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) applications approved for funding are shown below in Table 5.

Table 5.    Partner Organisation contributions by sector for approved Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) applications

Type

 

Cash

In-Kind

Total

   

$

%

$

%

$

%

Government

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Federal

 

$375,000

2.4

$1,372,426

3.8

$1,747,426

3.4

Australian state, territory and local

 

$696,000

4.4

$4,887,289

13.4

$5,583,289

10.7

 

Sub-total

$1,071,000

6.8

$6,259,715

17.2

$7,330,715

14.1

Industry Body

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian

 

$11,176,546

71.4

$16,989,433

46.7

$28,165,979

54.1

International

 

$2,161,801

13.8

$3,745,736

10.3

$5,907,537

11.4

 

Sub-total

$13,338,347

85.2

$20,735,169

57.0

$34,073,516

65.5

Non-profit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian

 

$891,147

5.7

$6,707,094

18.4

$7,598,241

14.6

International

 

$130,000

0.8

$208,000

0.6

$338,000

0.6

 

Sub-total

$1,021,147

6.5

$6,915,094

19.0

$7,936,241

15.3

Higher Education

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International

 

$0

0.0

$537,051

1.5

$537,051

1.0

 

Sub-total

$0

0.0

$537,051

1.5

$537,051

1.0

Other

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other

 

$222,000

1.4

$1,919,264

5.3

$2,141,264

4.1

 

Sub-total

$222,000

1.4

$1,919,264

5.3

$2,141,264

4.1

 

Total

$15,652,494

100

$36,366,293

100

$52,018,787

100

Note: All percentages are shown using rounded figures, and as such may not sum to 100%.

Partnerships

Linkage Projects applications represent partnerships between researchers, higher education organisations and other organisations, as well as collaborations between Partner Organisations within projects. There are a total of 174 instances of collaboration with Partner Organisations (including multiple collaborations with a number of organisations) in Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) giving an average of 2.60 Partner Organisations involved in each application. These partnerships form congruent and/or complementary linkages in Fields of Research (FoR). A summary of the FoR categories identified by applicants of approved applications and the total Partner Organisation contributions are shown below in Table 6.

Table 6.    Application data by Field of Research category for Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3)

Field of Research category

Number of applications approved#

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

Physical Sciences

3

$2,257,617

Chemical Sciences

4

$3,851,546

Earth Sciences

1

*

Environmental Sciences

2

$1,505,770

Biological Sciences

1

*

Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences

3

$2,271,345

Information and Computing Sciences

3

$2,241,490

Engineering

19

$14,181,500

Technology

5

$3,664,077

Built Environment and Design

2

$788,000

Education

3

$1,542,320

Economics

2

$1,893,888

Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services

5

$3,083,293

Studies in Human Society

4

$2,486,288

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences

2

$1,505,959

Studies in Creative Arts and Writing

2

$672,061

Language, Communication and Culture

4

$3,086,860

History and Archaeology

2

$5,738,195

Total

67

$52,018,787

# Based on the primary FoR
*For confidentiality reasons, total contributions by Partner Organisations are not shown in instances in which FoR codes are associated with one approved application only. The Table 6 total does, however, include the total contributions by Partner Organisations on approved Projects associated with those FoR codes.

Career age and gender

Of the 987 Chief Investigators (CIs) in this round, 352 were female, 631 were male and 4 chose not to specify their gender. The success rate for female, male and unspecified CIs in Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) is 27.0 per cent, 24.2 and 50.0 per cent respectively. 

Success rates of CIs by career age and gender in Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) are presented in Figure 1. CIs who did not provide gender information (0.4 per cent) and CIs who did not specify the date of completion of their PhD (or equivalent) or who do not hold a PhD (1.1 per cent) are not represented in the figure below.

Figure 1.   Participation and success rate of Chief Investigators (CIs) in Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) by gender and career age*

*Career age is calculated as years since PhD (or equivalent). The earliest PhD award date was used where there was more than one PhD.

International collaboration

In the 276 applications considered, applicants foreshadowed 221 instances of collaboration with researchers in 44 overseas locations. Of the applications approved for funding, 36 foreshadowed 56 instances of collaboration with researchers in 23 overseas locations (Figure 2).

Figure 2.   International collaborations by location on approved Linkage Projects 2020 (Round 3) applications*

*The top 11 international collaboration locations are listed in Figure 2 and the remaining locations are grouped in the ‘Other’ category.