The Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) is a separately constituted trust under the Science and Industry Endowment Act 1926.

The Fund invests in science that addresses issues of national economic, industrial, environmental and cultural priority and contributes to Australia’s sustainable future, including:

  • fundamental research for sustainable resource use, environmental protection and community health
  • tactical research, seeking solutions to national challenges
  • collaborative research between organisations working on solutions to national challenges
  • scholarships sustaining young researchers capable of working on national challenges.

The CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall is Trustee of the SIEF, and awards funding to parties across the national innovation system. The SIEF Advisory Council provides independent advice and recommendations on funding of proposals. CSIRO manages the Fund on behalf of the Trustee.

Some programs operate on a competitive basis, others by invitation on the basis of identified needs. SIEF funds the:

  • Experimental Development Program (EDP)
  • Joint CSIRO–Macquarie University Chair in Wireless Communications
  • Promotion of Science Fellowships and Scholarships Program (competitive)
  • Research Infrastructure Program
  • Research Project Program (competitive)
  • SIEF–AAS Fellowships to the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting, facilitated by the Australian Academy of Science (competitive)
  • SIEF STEM+ Business Fellowships, facilitated by CSIRO
  • Special Research Program.

The contribution of research to solving issues of national importance can only be measured long-term, but key performance indicators have been developed for early program stages. As the funds available for allocation diminishes and fewer new projects are commenced, some KPI results do not change from previous years.

Table 2.15: PERFORMANCE SUMMARY FOR PROGRAM 1.3
Criteria source: Corporate Plan 2015–16; 2015–16 Portfolio Budget Statements, Program 1.3 , PG 147

Performance criterion

Result against performance criterion

Proportion of projects aligning with SIEF purpose and strategic objectives

All research projects, research infrastructure and special research program activities align with the SIEF purpose – in particular, being of national benefit. Almost 90% of promotion of science scholarships and fellowships align with national priorities, and this figure has been increasing over time.

Proportion of projects involving more than one organisation

An emphasis on collaboration has seen the overall proportion of SIEF activities involving more than one organisation continue to increase. Preliminary bibliometric analysis indicates over 275 organisations representing over 35 countries are involved (through co-authorship).

Financial contributions of partners

Co-investment rates have increased steadily over time, reflecting the ongoing requirement of collaborators to indicate their commitment via co-investment.

Number of publications from SIEF projects

Publication numbers continue to increase, with preliminary bibliometric analysis indicating that the quality of science being reported is well above world average.

Number of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) funded through SIEF projects

ECR numbers have increased, albeit modestly, because several programs have concluded. The new STEM+ Business Fellowship program will add a further 25 ECRs over the next few years.

Analysis of performance

SIEF provides funding across Australia’s national innovation system via a comprehensive portfolio of activities, while maintaining independence and transparency. During the past year, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) conducted a performance audit on the Administration of the CSIRO’s Gift to the SIEF1. The purpose of the audit was to evaluate the design and implementation of the administration of the gift, and to evaluate whether the financial assistance from the gift had been administered effectively and the expected outcomes achieved. The audit found that CSIRO’s gift to SIEF was being transparently and efficiently managed. The audit process itself was rigorous, and required considerable time and effort from the SIEF management team to assist and respond to the ANAO auditors.

The monies gifted to SIEF in 2009–10 are finite and most of these funds have now been committed. Projects are now drawing to the end of their SIEF funding and the research teams are securing and consolidating the ongoing and alternative resources they will need to take their work to the next stage of development.

The SIEF Trustee, guided by the independent SIEF Advisory Council, has a role in identifying funding gaps across the national innovation system. The recently established SIEF EDP was designed to address the dearth of funding options available for progressing technology development to a stage suitable for attracting commercial investment and market uptake. This program opens a new pathway for publicly funded research agencies in the Industry Portfolio to progress their common goal of increasing the commercialisation of research.

Proportion of projects aligning with SIEF purpose and strategic objectives

One of SIEF’s primary purposes is to provide grants in support of research that is of national benefit. All SIEF research programs and most of our fellowships and scholarships are funded on this basis (see Table 2.16). In 2015–16, two new programs were added to the SIEF portfolio; these programs are designed to accelerate innovation, develop research outputs into commercial opportunities, and strengthen industry–research collaborations in order to develop solutions to national challenges:

  • STEM+ Business Fellowships: ECRs, research organisations and Australian small-to-medium enterprise (SME) businesses work together to develop innovative commercial solutions that build Australia’s national competitiveness. This program provides long-term, in-firm placement of R&D capability as well as practical experience in industry for ECRs, thus creating and sustaining a cohort of developing researchers capable of addressing national challenges.
  • Experimental Development Program: This program is designed to address a significant gap in current funding options available for progressing technology development to a stage suitable for attracting commercial investment and market uptake. Funding supports activities that translate research for commercial impact, move discoveries along the pathway to commercialisation, accelerate commercialisation and entrepreneurial activities, and reduce risks for future commercial investors.
TABLE 2.16: Performance indicators FOR PROGRAM 1.3
Key performance indicator 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16

Projects involving research in areas of national priority2

100% Research projects.

76% Promotion of science.

100% Research projects, research infrastructure and special research program.

83% Promotion of science.

100% Research projects, research infrastructure and special research program.

84% Promotion of science.

100% Research projects, research infrastructure and special research program.

84% Promotion of science.

100% Research projects, research infrastructure and special research program.

88% Promotion of science.

Projects involving more than one organisation3

>85%

>90%

>92%

>92%

>93%

Financial contributions of partners

Approximately 57%

Approximately 69%

Approximately 68%

Approximately 70%

Approximately 73%

Proportion of projects involving more than one organisation

More than 93 per cent of SIEF-supported activities involve more than one organisation (see Table 2.16), fostering communication, interaction and collaboration. Over 60 organisations are formally involved in one or more SIEF-funded projects, representing national and international research organisations as well as industry and end users. Many more organisations draw on SIEF-funded activities, particularly via the Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs, where development and/or availability of research infrastructure plays an important role in supporting Australian innovation for the future.

Further evidence of collaborative activity resulting from SIEF funding is shown by the over 275 organisations, representing some 34 countries, that co-author publications with SIEF grant recipients (by preliminary analysis).

Financial contributions of partners

Research Projects leverage an average of more than 60 per cent co-investment from partner organisations. The Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs have higher co-investment levels, indicating the longer term commitment to these activities by the partner organisations. The STEM+ Business Fellowship Program requires co-investment from the SME partner to demonstrate the commitment of the partners to work together to realise the potential impact of the research. Similarly, co-investment by applicants for experimental development activities must at least match the SIEF grant. The impact of these two new programs will be seen over the coming years.

The first Experimental Development Program supported research is investigating antivirals for black tiger prawns, potentially adding $2.2 million of value to the Australian prawn industry.

Number of publications from SIEF projects

Publication numbers continue to increase year on year (see Figure 2.5). However, it should be noted that the recorded publication numbers are likely to under-represent the true level of publications associated with SIEF funding. Publications resulting from grants in the Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs are not included and, once SIEF funding has ended, it is challenging to capture all subsequent publications.

Early indications from bibliometric analysis show that the quality of science being undertaken in the overall SIEF Portfolio is high. Citations are 105 per cent higher than the global average (substantially ahead of the national average, which is 39 per cent above global), and 3.1 per cent of SIEF publications appear in the top one per cent of publications globally4.

Early-career researchers funded through SIEF projects

Publications arising from SIEF funding, 2011–12 TO 2015–16:

  • 2011-12 = 79
  • 2012-13 = 158
  • 2013-14 = 226
  • 2014-15 = 276
  • 2015-16 = 388.

Figure 2.5: Publications arising from SIEF funding, 2011–12 TO 2015–16

SIEF has a remit to support ECRs and does this in several ways, through scholarships and fellowships, project funding and travel support. The number of ECRs has risen steadily over the past five years (see Figure 2.6). The geographical distribution of SIEF-supported ECRs shows a good spread across all Australian states and territories. This indicates funding opportunities available through SIEF are well known and sought after across the national innovation system.

ECRs work on SIEF-funded research projects and are associated with Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs5. The SIEF–AAS Nobel Laureate Meeting Fellowships continue to ensure that young Australian researchers have the opportunity to interact with Nobel Laureate scientists, as well as their top peers from around the globe.

ERCs FUNDED through SIEF, 2011–12 TO 2015–16:

  • 2011-12 = 23
  • 2012-13 = 42
  • 2013-14 = 131
  • 2014-15 = 241
  • 2015-16 = 290.

Figure 2.6: ERCs FUNDED through SIEF, 2011–12 TO 2015–16

The John Stocker Postgraduate Scholarship program and the Honours and Vacation scholarship programs are no longer offering new scholarships, and the final cohort of John Stocker Postdoctoral Fellowships commenced in 2016. Over the last five years, these programs have helped over 60 young researchers and scholars further their careers.

The SIEF STEM+ Business Fellowship Program offers young researchers experience working in industry and it is anticipated that projects funded under the new Experimental Development Program will also involve ECRs.

  1. The audit report is available at: www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/administration-commonwealth-scientific-and-industrial-research-organisations
  2. Data include research projects, research infrastructure, special research and promotion of science programs. Undergraduate degree scholarships are excluded because there is no expectation that the undergraduates will address national priorities, collaborate, co-invest or publish. The EDP was launched in May 2016 and, as at 30 June 2016, had funded one project, with several proposals under assessment.
  3. Cumulative for all projects awarded up to 30 June 2016.
  4. Data source: Web of Science, 2011–16.
  5. Early-career researcher figures are not collected for Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs.

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