Overview

The Linkage Program—Special Research Initiative: PFAS (per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances) Remediation Research Program is a Commonwealth initiative to fund research to facilitate the development of innovative technologies and investigate and remediate PFAS contaminated areas, including soil, groundwater waterways and marine systems.
The objectives of the PFAS Remediation Research Program are to: 

  • develop technologies which will do one or more of the following:
    • immobilise PFAS and prevent its movement in the environment
    • remove PFAS from soil, water and/or waste
    • breakdown PFAS by destroying the carbon-fluorine bonds, to form environmentally benign products with limited adverse environmental outcomes.
  • establish the potential for relevant technologies developed to be deployed in the field to treat contaminated soil, waterways, waste, debris and/or large volumes of groundwater
  • develop technologies that can be scaled up for efficient and effective field deployment. 

Selection process

Applications for projects commencing in 2019 opened on 10 October 2018 and closed on 14 February 2019. Applications were submitted through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Management System (RMS). This report outlines recommendations from the ARC Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
These recommendations are based on advice from the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) that met on 22 May 2019 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 Eligibility Committee which:

  • considered eligibility issues identified by ARC staff, 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. 

Selection criteria

Selection criteria and corresponding weighting for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two applications are:

  • Research Project – Quality and Innovation (30%)
  • People and Partners (30%)
  • Feasibility (20%)
  • Benefit and Outcomes (20%).

The ARC assessment and reporting process for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two used a panel of 10 SAC members and was managed in RMS. A total of 128 independent assessor reports were submitted to the ARC for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two.

Summary of Outcomes

The ARC received 22 applications for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding commencing in 2019. There were no withdrawn applications. 

As shown in Table 1, the overall success rate was 18.2 per cent, lower than the success rate for the previous round of 29.0 per cent.

Table 1.  Comparison of application numbers, success rates, requested and allocated funds for approved applications PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding in 2018 and 2019

Funding year

Applications considered

Applications approved

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 (%)

2018

31

9

29.0

$28,093,158

$9,749,480

$8,166,350

83.8

2019

22

4

18.2

$16,329,733

$2,872,044

$2,664,878

92.8

Approved PFAS Remediation Research Projects for Funding

Table 2 lists summary information on the approved PFAS Remediation Research Projects for funding commencing in 2019.

Table 2.  Details of approved PFAS Remediation Research Projects for funding commencing in 2019

Project Title

Administering Organisation

Chief Investigator

Approved funds over project life

PFAS Harvester: A Technology for Destruction / Resource Recovery from PFAS

The University of Newcastle

Prof Behdad Moghtaderi

$820,000

Combination of electrochemistry with sono to destroy and detoxify PFAS

The University of Newcastle

Dr Cheng Fang

$589,007

Integrated platform technologies for remediation of PFAS contaminated water

University of  South Australia

Prof John Hayball

$497,638

Plasma Bubble Column for one step remediation of PFAS

The University of Sydney

Prof Patrick Cullen

$758,233

Selection outcomes by Administering Organisation  

Administering Organisations in six Australian States and Territories submitted applications for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding in 2019. In addition to ARC funding, significant contributions are made by participating organisations. For all approved applications this contribution represents more than one and a half times the ARC approved funding as shown in Table 3.

Table 3.   Numbers of applications, success rates and approved funding for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding commencing in 2019 applications by Administering Organisation

Administering Organisation

Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

ARC approved funding over project life (approved proposals)

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

Australian Capital Territory

1

0

0

$0

$0

The Australian National University

1

0

0

$0

$0

New South Wales

8

3

37.5

$2,167,240

$2,606,066

Charles Sturt University

1

0

0

$0

$0

Southern Cross University

1

0

0

$0

$0

The University of Newcastle

3

2

66.7

$1,409,007

$1,885,744

The University of Sydney

2

1

50

$758,233

$720,322

University of Technology Sydney

1

0

0

$0

$0

Queensland

4

0

0

$0

$0

The University of Queensland

4

0

0

$0

$0

South Australia

2

1

50

$497,638

$1,400,802

The University of Adelaide

1

0

0

$0

$0

University of South Australia

1

1

100

$497,638

$1,400,802

Victoria

4

0

0

$0

$0

Monash University

1

0

0

$0

$0

Swinburne University of Technology

1

0

0

$0

$0

The University of Melbourne

1

0

0

$0

$0

Victoria University

1

0

0

$0

$0

Western Australia

3

0

0

$0

$0

Murdoch University

2

0

0

$0

$0

The University of Western Australia

1

0

0

$0

$0

Total

22

4

18.2

$2,664,878

$4,006,868

 *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 4, contributions to PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding commencing in 2019 from Partner Organisations total over $1.95 million, 48.67 per cent of the total organisation contributions to successful PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding commencing in 2019.

Table 4.    Participating organisation contributions by organisation type for approved PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding commencing in 2019 applications

Organisation type

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

Administering Organisation

$1,733,070

Other Eligible Organisation

$281,698

Partner Organisation

$1,950,100

Other Organisation

$42,000

Total

$4,006,868

Partner Organisation contributions by sector 

Partner Organisations were identified as either Australian, international, government, non-profit, industry or overseas higher education organisations. The Partner Organisation contributions in these categories for applications approved for funding commencing in 2019 are shown below in Table 5.

Table 5.    Partner Organisation contributions by sector for approved PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two for funding commencing in 2019 applications

Type

 

Cash

In-kind

Total

 

 

$

%

$

%

$

%

Industry Body

 

Australian

 

$550,000

100.00

$1,400,100

100.00

$1,950,100

100.00

International

 

$0

0

$0

0

$0

0

 

Sub-total

$550,000

100.00

$1,400,100

100.00

$1,950,100

100.00

Non-Profit

 

Australian

 

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

 

Sub-total

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

Government

 

Australian state, territory and local government

 

$0

0

 

$0

0

$0

 

0

Government

 

$0

0.00

$0

0

$0

0.00

Australian Federal Government

 

$0

0

$0

0

$0

 

0.00

 

Sub-total

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

Other

 

Other

 

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

 

Sub-total

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

Education

 

International

 

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

 

Sub-total

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

$0

0.00

 

Total

$550,000

100.00

$1,400,100

100.00

$1,950,100

100.00

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

Leverage of ARC funding

Of the 22 applications considered, four were approved with a total of $2,664,878 in funding over the life of these projects. There are seven Partner Organisations involved, committing a total of $1,950,100 in cash and in-kind funding. This represents $0.73 from Partner Organisations for every dollar of funding from the ARC.

Discipline Statistics 

Approved funding for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two applications by discipline groups are shown in Table 6. 

Table 6  Selection Outcomes by Discipline

Discipline†

 Applications considered

Applications approved

Success rate (%)

Requested funds over life of project (approved applications)

Approved funds over project life

Allocation as a percentage of request (%)

BSB

4

0

0.0

$0

$0

0.0

EIC

11

3

27.3

$2,283,037

$2,075,871

90.9

MPCE

7

1

14.3

$589,007

$589,007

100.0

Total

22

4

18.2

$2,872,044

$2,664,878

92.8

† BSB – Biological Sciences and Biotechnology; EIC – Engineering, Information and Computing Sciences, MPCE – Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Budget Breakdown 

The budget breakdown across the forward years is shown in Table 7.

Table 7  Budget Breakdown by Financial Year

 

2018-19

2019-20

2020-21

2021-22

Total

Proposed Project Funding

$502,077

$1,021,268

$830,362

$311,171

$2,664,878

Total

$502,077

$1,021,268

$830,362

$311,171

$2,664,878

Field of Research

Application data by Field of Research category for PFAS Remediation Research Program, Round Two are shown in Table 8.

Table 8 Selection Outcomes by Field of Research Category

Field of Research category

Applications considered

Applications approved

ARC funding over project life (approved applications)

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

Chemical Sciences

3

0

$0

$0

Earth Science

1

0

$0

$0

Environmental Sciences

4

0

$0

$0

Engineering

14

4

$2,664,878

$4,006,868

Total

22

4

$2,664,878

$4,006,868

Gender

A total of 123 participants were identified as Chief Investigators or Partner Investigators  on all applications considered in Round Two. Of these, 94 were male and 29 were female. 

The success rates for male and female participants in this round is 20.2 per cent and 10.3 per cent respectively.