Program 5: Science and Industry Endowment Fund

The highlights, deliverables and performance of The Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF).

SIEF – objectives and deliverables

The Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) is a separately constituted trust under the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926 and makes strategic investments in scientific research for the purpose of supporting scientific and industrial research for the benefit of Australia and its people.

The SIEF makes strategic investments in scientific research that addresses issues of national priority for Australia. The Fund invests in science that contributes to Australia’s sustainable future, such as:

  • fundamental research for sustainable resource use, environmental protection and community health
  • tactical research addressing solutions to national challenges
  • collaborative research that brings together organisations capable of working together on solutions to national challenges
  • scholarships that create and sustain young researchers capable of addressing national challenges.

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Recognising that science has been, and will be, a key driver of the economic, industrial, environmental, and cultural development of Australia, the SIEF invests in research that will contribute to the sustainable growth of Australia.

The Chief Executive of CSIRO, Dr Megan Clark, is the Trustee of the Fund. Dr Clark is assisted by the SIEF Advisory Council, which provides independent advice and recommendations to the Trustee in relation to the making of grants and funding of proposals out of the assets of the SIEF.

The Fund is managed by CSIRO on behalf of the Trustee.

Funding is awarded by the Trustee, with advice from Australian and international experts, to proponents from across the National Innovation System.

Some of the programs are operated on a competitive basis, and others are operated by invitation on the basis of identified needs of the Australian science community.

SIEF delivers funding via a number of programs:

  • Research Project Program (competitive)
  • Research Infrastructure Program
  • Special Research Programs
  • Promotion of Science
    • Joint Chair appointment (CSIRO/Macquarie University)
    • Fellowships and Scholarships (competitive).

SIEF – Program performance

The performance of SIEF is assessed through four performance indicators. Table 2.18 provides a summary of progress. More detailed analysis follows the Table.

Table 2.18: Performance indicators for Program 5 – SIEF47.
Key performance indicator48 2011–12 2012–13
Proportion of projects involving research in areas of national priority 100% Research Projects 76% Promotion of Science 100% Research Projects, Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs 83% Promotion of Science
Proportion of projects involving more than one organisation more than 85% more than 90%
Financial contributions of partners approximately 57% approximately 69%
Number of publications from SIEF projects 79 15849

Green shading: indicates positive progress for the year and the target has been achieved. Yellow shading: indicates some challenges have occurred during the year, but they were managed. Red shading: indicates challenges have affected progress and resulted in the target not being achieved. White/no colour: indicates that this is the first year results have been recorded for this indicator therefore no trend can be observed.

Key performance indicators for SIEF have been chosen to address the objectives of the early stages of this program. New performance indicators are being added in the future as the programs mature.

Proportion of projects involving research in areas of national priority

A key selection criterion for all funded programs is how the project will contribute to the nation’s response to the national challenges.

This criterion is given greater emphasis for the more substantial Research Projects grants (resulting in 100 per cent alignment with National Research Priority areas).

Examples include:

  • the Ngara Research Project has created a new generation of very high performance wireless technologies that can be used outdoors over large distances at very high data rates. They complement current fibre optic and cellular phone technologies and may offer better access to wireless communications for rural and remote Australians.
  • two Research Projects that address the effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: Solving the Energy Waste Roadblock, which aims to develop new materials and processes for the capture and utilisation of carbon dioxide; and the newly-commenced Forests for the future: making the most of a high CO2 world which aims to develop a new strategy that rapidly identifies tree species that exhibit a strong, positive growth response to elevated carbon dioxide.

More flexibility is allowed in the SIEF Promotion of Science (PoS) Programs which support early career researchers, primarily in the form of Postgraduate Scholarships and Postdoctoral Fellowships.

An emphasis on awarding collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects has also resulted in an increase in the proportion of PoS grants that address national challenges, such as:

  • Climate change-related projects that examine the functioning of coral reef networks under climate change; building better models for agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation; and understanding how vegetation allocates nutrient resources under different future climate scenarios.
  • Industry and manufacturing-related projects that include the recycling of e-waste metals and polymers for recovery of value-added materials, development of next generation biomedical materials, and looking at ways to mitigate the impending mobile network data volume crunch.
  • Medical-related projects that provide greater understanding of age-related neurodegenerative disease, and developing genetic algorithms for Alzheimer’s diagnosis and prognosis.

Proportion of projects involving more than one organisation

Reflecting the SIEF objective of bringing together organisations capable of working together on solutions to national challenges, collaboration is a key (but not mandatory) selection criterion for all funded projects.

Fifteen of the 17 SIEF-funded Research Projects are collaborations. The number of partners for Research Projects ranges between one and seven (average 3.5), with a total of 36 different partners being involved in one or more Research Projects.

The Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs are 100 per cent collaborations. Strong collaboration can also be seen in the PoS programs with over 90 per cent of scholars/fellows having co-supervisors from more than one organisation.

International partners (academic and industry) feature in both the Research Projects as well as Scholarships/Fellowships programs.

There has been a stronger emphasis on collaboration and industry/end-user involvement in later rounds of selection, resulting in an increase in the overall proportion of projects involving more than one partner.

These partnerships will assist SIEF-funded Research Projects to remain competitive globally, promote enduring collaborations and create multidisciplinary teams that will benefit Australian science.

Financial contributions of partners

Commitment to collaborations can be seen by cash and/or in-kind co-contributions by grant recipients.

A stronger emphasis on collaboration and industry/end-user involvement in later rounds of selection, and a greater requirement placed on co-investment for Research Infrastructure and the Special Research Program: Synchrotron Science has resulted in an increase in the overall co-investment rate for SIEF projects.

Number of publications from SIEF projects

Publications are a lagging indicator for the science excellence of the projects funded by the SIEF. Projects generally have a three- to five-year lifespan and most have commenced relatively recently (2011–12).

The publication of research findings generally occurs towards the end of the project. Although total publication numbers have increased from last year, these results are not yet mature enough to provide a true representation of SIEF’s contribution to the academic knowledge of the projects respective research disciplines.

  1. For all projects awarded as at 30 June 2013
  2. Data includes Research Projects, Research Infrastructure, Promotion of Science, and Special Research Programs. Undergraduate Degree Scholarships are not included as even though they support the development of potential early career researchers, there is no expectation they will address national priorities, collaborate, co-invest or publish
  3. Cumulative for all projects awarded since 1 July 2011 up to 30 June 2013

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