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

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 priority and contributes to Australia’s sustainable future.

Objectives and deliverables

Recognising that science will remain a key driver of Australia’s economic, industrial, environmental and cultural development, the Fund invests in research that will contribute to Australia’s sustainable growth.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark is Trustee and awards funding to parties across the National Innovation System. The SIEF Advisory Council provides independent advice and recommendations on funding of proposals from across the National Innovation System. 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:

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

Program performance

The contribution of research can only be measured long-term, but key performance indicators are chosen for early program stages, with additional indicators as programs mature.

Key performance indicator 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
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.
Projects involving more than one organisation3 >85%  >90%  >92% 
Financial contributions of partners3 Approximately 57%  Approximately 69%  Approximately 68% 
Publications from SIEF projects3 79  158  226 
Early-career researchers funded through SIEF projects 23 4 42 4 131 5

Proportion of projects involving research in areas of national priority

A key selection criterion for funded programs is the project’s contribution to addressing national challenges.

This carries greater emphasis for the more substantial Research Projects, Research Infrastructure and Special Research program grants. All projects funded through these programs align with National Research Priority areas.

Recent grants include funding to develop:

  • The National Resource Characterisation Facility, which forms part of the globally significant National Resource Sciences Precinct in Perth, Western Australia. This facility will increase the amount and quality of geoscientific information gained from drilling. Such information forms the basis for higher ore deposit discovery rates and earlier, more accurate resource definition, facilitating a more internationally competitive Australian resources sector.
  • The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder. When fully commissioned, it will be the world’s largest, most sensitive survey radio telescope. It is also a precursor to the international Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

SIEF’s Promotion of Science Program supports early-career researchers, primarily through postgraduate scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships. An emphasis on collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects continues to result in a significant proportion (84 per cent) of Promotion of Science grants addressing national challenges, such as:

  • anticipating and combating insecticide resistance
  • systems biology for discovery of new cancer drugs
  • ultra-high capacity petabyte optical discs for low energy consumption big data centres.

Proportion of projects involving more than one organisation

Collaboration is a key (but not mandatory) selection criterion for most funded projects. Fifteen of 17 SIEF-funded Research Projects are collaborations. The number of partners ranges between one and seven (average 3.5), with a total 36 different partners involved in one or more Research Projects.

For the Research Infrastructure Program, key stakeholders must jointly submit a suitable proposal. Under the Special Research Program, funds may go to a single organisation, but facilities supported are designed to be collaborative. Most Promotion of Science Program scholars/fellows have co-supervisors from more than one organisation.

Over 60 organisations are involved in SIEF-funded projects, representing national and international research organisations and industry/end users. These partnerships assist SIEF-funded projects to be competitive globally, promote enduring collaborations and create multidisciplinary teams that will benefit Australian science.

Financial contributions of partners

In addition to research partner contributions, industry/end users have provided nearly $10 million in co-investments to a range of SIEF-supported projects. Over 90 per cent of SIEF projects have leveraged funds from other organisations.

Number of publications from SIEF projects

Publications are a lagging indicator. Projects generally have a three to five-year lifespan and most commenced relatively recently (2011–12). Publication generally occurs towards the end of the project. Publication numbers have continued to increase year-in-year. As early projects and the initial scholarship and fellowship recipients finish, the publication rate will better represent SIEF’s contribution to academic knowledge.

Early-career researchers funded through SIEF projects

In addition to direct funding through the Promotion of Science Program, early-career researchers are also supported by and play a significantly role in most other SIEF-funded projects. In 2013–14, we expanded this performance indicator to capture the number of early-career researchers working through the Research Projects Program. This year, 131 early-career researchers were supported (68 through the Promotion of Science Program, 63 through the Research Projects Program). Within the Promotion of Science Program this was an increase of 62 per cent on the previous year.

See Appendix 4 for more information on SIEF.

  1. For all projects awarded as at 30 June 2014.
  2. Data includes Research Projects, Research Infrastructure, Special Research and Promotion of Science programs. Undergraduate degree scholarships are not included: there is no expectation they will address national priorities, collaborate, co-invest or publish. Cumulative for all projects awarded up to 30 June 2014.
  3. Cumulative for all projects awarded up to 30 June 2014.
  4. Promotion of Science Program only (including undergraduate scholarships).
  5. Performance indicator expanded in 2013–14 to cover Research Projects Program.

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