Applying for and managing ARC Large Investments

National Competitive Grants Program

Graphical representation of schemes in the ARC's National Competitive Grants Program. Each scheme is a rectangle with the area of the rectangle representing  ARC funding (new and ongoing projects) for 2016.

Area of box represents ARC funding by scheme (new and ongoing projects) for 2016*. 

*LP16 figures not including Continuous Linkage.

National Competitive Grants Program

The ARC Centres of Excellence—2017 objectives

  • Undertake highly innovative and potentially transformational research that aims to achieve international standing in the fields of research envisaged and leads to a significant advancement of capabilities and knowledge
  • link existing Australian research strengths and build critical mass with new capacity for interdisciplinary, collaborative approaches to address the most challenging and significant research problems
  • develop relationships and build new networks with major national and international centres and research programs to help strengthen research, achieve global competitiveness and gain recognition for Australian research
  • build Australia’s human capacity in a range of research areas by attracting and retaining, from within Australia and abroad, researchers of high international standing as well as the most promising research students
  • provide high-quality postgraduate and postdoctoral training environments for the next generation of researchers
  • offer Australian researchers opportunities to work on large-scale problems over long periods of time
  • establish Centres that have an impact on the wider community through interaction with higher education institutes, governments, industry and the private and non-profit sector.

What does an ARC Centre normally include?

  • Multi-institutional participation (national and international)
  • Multi-disciplinary research (blue sky and applied)
  • Leveraged funding arrangements and complex third party collaborative agreements
  • Significant public investments with expectations of excellent research impact and public outcomes
  • ARC expects best practice entity management

Previous process of applying for a 2017 Centre of Excellence

Competitive three stage process for applications

1. Expressions of Interest

  • external expert assessment/rejoinder 
  • shortlisted by Selection Advisory Committee (SAC)

2. Full Proposal

  • external expert assessment/rejoinder 
  • SAC shortlists Proposals for interview phase

3. Interviews in Canberra with SAC (including ARC ED)

  • Proposed Centre Director, key researchers
  • DVCR

The SAC will make recommendations to ARC CEO for Ministerial approval

The previous selection criteria

  • One set of selection criteria but—there are different weightings for EOIs and Full Proposals
  • The selection criteria have been revised

Expression of Interest

Selection Criteria

EOI Weighting

A. Research program – quality and innovation


B. Investigators



Full Proposal

Selection Criteria


A. Research program – quality and innovation


B. Investigators


C. Institutional support


D. Governance, leadership and mentoring


E. Outcomes and linkages


Previous Centres stats for 2017 

  • EOIs Received = 97 
  • EOIs Shortlisted for full proposal stage = 20
  • Centres funded = 9

ARC budget was increased from up to $28 million to up to $35 million per Centre

The Centre’s key participants


  • Organisations
  • Administering Organisation
  • Other Eligible Organisations
  • Partner Organisations

The collaboration of these organisations must form a national research entity, not a distributed network.


  • Centre Director
  • Chief Investigators 
  • Partner Investigators

A Centre may also involve other participants with more informal arrangements (for example, Associate Investigators)

Centre personnel (from 2017 Rules)

  • Centre Directors 
    • commit a minimum of 70% (0.7 FTE) of their time; and
    • be employed by Administering Organisation at time of Centre commencement 
  • A Centre Director can only be nominated for that role on one EOI/full Proposal
  • A Centre Director must demonstrate outstanding leadership

Personnel matters (2017 Rules)

  • Chief Investigators and Partner Investigators
    • CI must be an employee for at least 20% (0.2 FTE) at an Eligible Organisation
    • CI must commit a minimum of 20% (0.2 FTE) to the activities of the Centre
  • What will be the contribution of the Centre Director, Chief Investigators and Partner Investigators to the proposed research program and do they have appropriate capacity and commitment to the Program?

Tips for new applicants

Common issues in ARC Centres of Excellence applications:

  • Read the rules
  • Think about scale
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Commitments to proposed Centre are real
  • How
  • Governance

Other tips for new applicants

  • Track records: success is important. The ARC is looking for the best people to conduct research and capacity building in the future
  • Collaborations, linkages, networks: the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts
  • Objectives of the scheme: think carefully about the objectives and how you address them. This is a Research Centre starting in year 2020 and concluding in 2027 – consider the research problems in that context
  • Research program: it should be integrated, well thought out and developed – consider workshopping with relevant parties long before writing an application

Insights on successful establishment of a Centre

  • Research Leadership
  • Strategic planning and risk management
  • Enabling integration
  • Capacity building

Common Challenges for Centres

  • Managing People and working together
  • Managing Organisations and collaborations
  • Managing change
  • Implementing governance and administrative policies


Effective Governance

  • The Administering Organisation
  • Benchmarking science
  • Benchmarking entity management
  • National entity
  • Central administration
  • Centre Directors and management team may need mentoring
  • Futureproof advice