Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) Annual Report 2011-12.

Head and shoulders photograph of Dr Megan Clark.

Dr Megan Clark.

As the recipient of funds from CSIRO’s successful wireless local area network (WLAN) technology, the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) has taken seriously its responsibility to grow and leverage those funds, to ensure that the benefits to Australian science and the Australian community are maximised.

In times of economic downturn, the wisdom of setting aside funds to ensure that national challenges can be addressed by the best science teams in Australia becomes even more apparent. As most sectors of the Australian community, public and private, come under increasing financial pressures, SIEF has been successful in continuing to implement its strategic goals and expand its programs through the financial stewardship of the Fund.

In reflecting on the Fund’s activities over the past twelve months, I have been reminded of the faith invested in the Fund by Australians since its establishment in 1926. The government of the day expressed that faith as follows:

‘[Scientists] with reputations to uphold can generally be trusted to rise above the petty considerations which so often influence other people. I am prepared to trust them with sums of money, believing that they will use it in the best interests of humanity.’

It has been my endeavour, in partnership with the esteemed members of the Fund’s Advisory Council and Expert Panel, to uphold that historic ideal, and it is my pleasure to report on how this has been achieved in the foregoing year.

Use of investment proceeds

The availability of $10 million of investment proceeds derived from the Fund’s capital has enabled me to create an entirely new program responding to a need to invest in Australian Synchrotron Science. The program fills a gap in the National Innovation System by providing access for Australian Publicly Funded Research Agencies to the Australian Synchrotron and forms part of a co-ordinated funding effort that includes the government and university sectors.

Round 4 of SIEF’s Research Projects program, currently in the process of selection, has been supplemented by $4 million of investment proceeds to ensure that sufficient funds are available to appropriately support all meritorious proposals. The Australian Synchrotron Science program and extension of the Research Projects program are examples of the tangible benefits for Australian science that have arisen by virtue of prudent investment of SIEF’s capital.

The Fund also continues its support of the CREativity in Science and Technology (CREST) program out of the investment proceeds derived from the original 1926 appropriation of 100,000 pounds.

Leveraged funds

Equally important as prudent financial investment has been my determination to ensure that SIEF funds are used to attract additional funding for science from other sources.

For example, SIEF pledged $4 million of cash funding for the eReefs project, designed to provide tools for scientists and policy-makers with respect to our unique national resource, the Great Barrier Reef. This pledge was made conditional on the project securing additional support from other sources, and this approach resulted in the project attracting an additional $3.5 million.1

Another SIEF-funded project, investigating stem cells in relation to human blood, has enabled two of the collaborators, CSIRO and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, to direct resources to a further project investigating breast tissue stem cells. This is another example of the many ways in which SIEF funding has had a multiplying effect on Australian science.

Left to right: Professor David Ames, Dr Maria Carrillo, Ms Ita Buttrose and Dr Richard Head posing in front of banners of the CSIRO and SIEF logos.

Speakers at the CSIRO, AIBL and Alzheimer’s Australia public lecture, Professor David Ames, Dr Maria Carrillo and Ms Ita Buttrose, President, Alzheimer’s Australia, with Dr Richard Head, Flagship Director, CSIRO Preventative Health Flagship.

It is gratifying that SIEF-funded projects, such as the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) study, have used access to the SIEF funding to catalyse additional investment, including $8 million of industry funds from global healthcare and pharmaceutical companies; and $4 million in grants from federal, state and international funding agencies.

Investing in Australia’s science future

In addition to addressing a range of national challenges through targeted research projects, SIEF has continued to invest in Australia’s science future through a variety of scholarships and fellowships. At Parliament House, Canberra, in August 2011, recipients of those inaugural scholarships and fellowships, and the new SIEF-funded CSIRO Macquarie University Chair in Wireless Communications, Professor Stephen Hanley, were honoured.

At that event, Senator the Hon Kim Carr, then Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, noted the current challenges to the Australian economy afforded by the strong Australian dollar, and highlighted our nation’s history of thriving on ideas. The ability to harness this quality and to work with the best and the brightest around the world has been a unifying theme for the history of SIEF since 1926, and today’s economic conditions make this enterprise more relevant than ever.

Another means by which SIEF intends to invest in Australia’s science future is through its research infrastructure program. The Fund is actively investigating a number of Australian research infrastructure investments to shore up the future of Australian science. In this endeavour, we are honouring the conviction of the Australian parliament at the establishment of the Fund in 1926:

‘Money expended in fostering scientific research, and in the accumulation of scientific information, is well spent’.

Advisory Council, Expert Panel and Undergraduate Degree Panel

SIEF is guided by an Advisory Council, Expert Panel and Undergraduate Degree Panel of eminent persons, all offering their expertise and judgment to SIEF pro bono, see below table. I thank the members of these bodies for their guidance and support throughout the year, and their embodiment of the finest ideals to which the founders of SIEF aspired.

Advisory Council Expert Panel Undergraduate Degree Panel
Prof Alan Robson (Chair) Prof Tom Spurling Prof Margaret Sheil (Chair)
Prof Tom Spurling Dr Ezio Rizzardo Prof David Symington
Dr Ezio Rizzardo Prof Oliver Mayo Dr Terry Lyons
Prof Margaret Sheil Emeritus Prof John McKenzie  
Mr Nigel Poole Prof Elaine Sadler  
  Dr Trevor Powell  

In conclusion

It is a source of pride that in 2011–12, SIEF has continued to fulfil the aspirations of its forebears, by demonstrating that funds invested in science is indeed money well spent. Whether the value is judged by the outcomes of the science itself, or the inspiration it provides to others to join with SIEF in investing in science, as Trustee of SIEF I look forward to a continuation of achieving great outcomes for Australian science, and the community it serves, in the year ahead.

Dr Megan Clark
Trustee SIEF

Download the Independent auditor's report

The Science and Industry Endowment Fund Auditors 2011-12 report and financial reports [pdf · 2mb]

  1. The eReefs Project is a collaboration between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Queensland Government, supported by funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country, the Queensland Government, the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, and the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.

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