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. All applications are considered against rigorous merit criteria. 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, including the Medium Equipment Program
  • Research Projects Program (competitive)
  • SIEF–AAS Fellowships to the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting and the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, 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. The SIEF has developed several key performance indicators for its programs. As the funds available for allocation diminishes and fewer new projects are commenced, some KPI results will not change from previous years.

This year the SIEF program continued to perform well. Table 2.17 provides an overview of the evidence against each performance criterion as published in the PBS, followed by a more detailed analysis and evidence.

Table 2.17: PERFORMANCE SUMMARY FOR PROGRAM 1.3

PERFORMANCE CRITERION

RESULT

Proportion of projects aligning with the Government’s Science and Research Priorities

All research projects, research infrastructure, experimental development and special research program activities align with the Australian Government Science and Research Priorities. Almost 90% of promotion of science scholarships and fellowships align with the national priorities.

Proportion of projects involving more than one organisation

Over 94% of SIEF activities involve more than one organisation. Since 2009, SIEF has successfully facilitated collaboration among 60 different organisations that have been formally involved in SIEF-supported research. These collaborators represent a mix of Australian universities, governments, industry and overseas organisations. Almost a quarter of these collaborators have come from industry, with a further quarter from overseas entities.

Financial contributions ofpartners

Co-investment rates continue to be strong at 73% for 2016–17 for existing and new programs. A condition of the new SIEF Experimental Development Program is that co-investment by applicants must at least match the SIEF grant. To date, collaborators have created a portfolio of research activities with a total investment of $500 million.

Number of publications from SIEF projects

Publication output continues to increase, with 506 publications by the end of 2016–17. Bibliometric analysis indicates that the quality of science being reported is well above world average.

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

Cumulative ECR numbers have increased to 337 at the end of 2016–17. The STEM+ Business Fellowship program has added 17 ECRs with a further 5 to commence in the next year.

Evidence of outcomes and impacts of funded projects as demonstrated by case study impact assessment, independent reviews and evaluations

In 2016, the SIEF Trustee commissioned an independent review1 of the impact being delivered by SIEF and SIEF-funded activities. The review established that the value of the benefits delivered by the activities are highly likely to be significantly greater than the total value of the Fund. SIEF has also delivered a range of benefits that, while difficult to monetise, are clearly making an important contribution to the future health of the Australian innovation system.

Analysis of our performance

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. Similarly, the SIEF Medium Equipment Program (launched in April 2017) is designed to address a gap in funding for equipment in the medium range ($500,000–$4 million) and, in so doing, enhance capability and capacity, and encourage national, international and industry collaboration.

Proportion of projects aligning with the Government’s Science and Research Priorities

A key objective of SIEF is to support scientific research that aligns with the National Science and Research Priorities2. All SIEF research programs and most of our fellowships and scholarships are funded on this basis (see Table 2.18). The alignment between SIEF funding and the National Priorities is extremely strong. Over 98 per cent of SIEF’s overall investment is aligned with the National Priorities. This result is higher than the Australian Research Council’s 94 per cent of investment aligned for the period 2010 to 20153, and CSIRO’s over 90 per cent of resources aligned with the National Priorities for 2011 to 2012.

All of the Research Projects, Research Infrastructure, Experimental Development, and Special Research Programs are 100 per cent aligned with the National Priorities. In the case of the Promotion of Science projects, 87 per cent are aligned with Australia’s Science and Research Priorities. The small number of Promotion of Science projects that do not align with the priorities are either undergraduate projects or projects in areas such as astronomy.

TABLE 2.18: PERFORMANCE DATA FOR PROGRAM 1.3

PERFORMANCE CRITERION

2012–13

2013–14

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

Projects aligning with Government’s Science and Research priorities

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.

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

87% Promotion of science.

Projects involving more than one organisation

>90%

>92%

>92%

>93%

>94%

Financial contributions of partners

Approximately 69%

Approximately 68%

Approximately 70%

Approximately 73%

Approximately 73%

Proportion of projects involving more than one organisation

Studies of innovation have shown that collaboration is critical for improving the effectiveness of translating research outputs into business innovation that delivers economic, environmental and social benefits. Collaboration helps Australian industry gain marketplace advantage by fostering creativity, developing new skills, transferring knowledge, managing risk and attracting aspiring investors and partners. One of SIEF’s primary objectives is to improve collaboration across the Australian innovation system.

More than 94 per cent of SIEF-supported activities involve more than one organisation (see Table 2.18), fostering communication, interaction and collaboration. Over 60 organisations are formally involved in one or more SIEF-funded projects. These collaborators represent a mix of Australian universities, governments, industry and overseas organisations. Almost a quarter have come from industry, with a further quarter from overseas entities. Many more organisations draw on SIEF-funded activities, particularly via the Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs, where development and availability of research infrastructure plays an important role in supporting Australian innovation for the future. Another good example of SIEF’s collaborative efforts is the STEM+ Business Fellowship program that enables ECRs to work with Australian SMEs for two to three years. This placement helps to break down the cultural divide between researchers and SMEs, which can be a barrier to innovation.

The number of publications co-authored with other organisations reinforces the strength of a collaboration as well as demonstrating that both parties recognise the value of the research outputs. A recent analysis of the authorship of publications arising from SIEF-funded activities provides useful insights into the impact on collaboration of SIEF funding. This study considered 417 publications arising from SIEF-funded activities (at October 2016) for which at least one author was a member of a team receiving SIEF funding. Almost 83 per cent of these articles were co-authored. Almost 69 per cent of these have Australian co-authors, while 46 per cent have at least one or more international co-author. This is at the upper end of the scale compared to the proportion for a range of other Australian research organisations. International co-authors are drawn from 43 different countries. The strong international connectedness of SIEF-funded research is evidenced by the large percentage of publications with international co-authors. It is also a strong indicator of the high level of regard that the international community has for the research.

Financial contributions of partners

Collaboration increases a research team’s ability to access the resources and capital it needs to complete a project. SIEF does not fully fund activities; rather it commits funds to help stimulate investment by partner organisations. To date, SIEF investment has supported the creation of a portfolio of research activities with a total investment of $500 million. Collaborating partners in this research have contributed 73 per cent of the total funding with SIEF contributing the remainder.

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 partner organisations. The level of co-contribution for the Promotion of Science Program is lower; however, this is to be expected as this Program involves relatively low-value grants, and there is limited need for co-investment as the research is still in its early stages. The STEM+ Business Fellowship Program requires co-investment from the SME partner to demonstrate the commitment 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 in the coming years.

Number of publications from SIEF projects

Reported peer-reviewed journal publication numbers continue to rise (see Figure 2.6). The recorded 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. To understand research quality, it is necessary to consider the quality of the journals in which the research findings are published. Bibliometric analysis conducted in October 2016 indicates that the quality of science being undertaken in the overall SIEF portfolio is high. Eighteen per cent of published articles appear in the top five per cent of journals globally, and four per cent of SIEF publications appear in the top one per cent of publications globally. Citations for SIEF publications are 108 per cent higher than the global average, substantially ahead of the national average, which is 30 per cent above global4.

Bar charts for SIEF publications and Early Career Researchers (ECRS) funded through SIEF from 2012–13 to 2016–17.

Publications from SIEF projects:

  • 2012-13 = 158
  • 2013-14 = 226
  • 2014-15 = 276
  • 2015-16 = 388
  • 2016-17 = 506.

Early Career Researchers funded through SIEF:

  • 2012-13 = 42
  • 2013-14 = 131
  • 2014-15 = 241
  • 2015-16 = 290
  • 2016-17 = 337.

Figure 2.6: SIEF publications and ECRS funded 2012–13 TO 2016–17.

Early-career researchers funded through SIEF projects

High-quality STEM training not only helps develop the nation’s future researchers, but also ensures an innovative and flexible workforce of STEM practitioners, and facilitates the development of knowledge-based organisations, communities and economies. 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 to 337 in 2016–17 (see Figure 2.6).

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. This opportunity has now been extended to support high calibre young researchers to attend the Heidelberg Laureate Forum.

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

The John Stocker Postgraduate Scholarship program and the Honours and Vacation scholarship programs are no longer offering new scholarships. The final cohort of John Stocker Postdoctoral Fellowships commenced in 2016. Over the last five years, these scholarships have helped many young researchers further their careers. A survey of ECRs funded under all SIEF activities, conducted in October 2016, provides strong evidence that SIEF support has helped ECRs address some of the structural barriers they face in the early stages of their professional careers. It has assisted them to gain new skills, work experience and opportunities for collaboration. This, in turn, has improved their prospects for securing further employment in the research sector, and has enhanced their longer-term career prospects. For instance, 68 per cent of respondents believe that the support they received through SIEF had an extremely high or high impact on their career progression. Also, 54 per cent of respondents reported that the support they had received from SIEF had helped them to secure further employment.

Evidence of outcomes and impacts of funded projects

In 2016, an independent review6 was conducted with ACIL Allen to assess the impact and value of SIEF’s activities. Five research projects were assessed, and additional case studies were developed on a Special Research Program and a Research Infrastructure Activity. The evaluation concluded that the value delivered by SIEF could easily be two orders of magnitude greater than the cost of the portfolio. It was also shown that SIEF is able to deliver a range of benefits that are crucial to the robustness of the Australian innovation system, including developing and fostering the next generation of Australian researchers, encouraging and promoting increased research collaboration both within Australia and overseas and developing and maintaining leading-edge research infrastructure. These outcomes are all important prerequisites to ensure Australian researchers continue to deliver high-quality research outputs that enable businesses to innovate and grow, and which allows Australia to address the environmental and social challenges it faces.

The Australian National Insect Collection is used by Australian and international researchers, industry, government and university students. The collection is growing by more than 100,000 specimens each year.

  1. The SIEF Impact Review is at: SIEF Reports.
  2. Government’s National Science and Research Priorities list is at: Science and Research Priorities.
  3. ARC Research Funding Trend Data 2002-2015 is at: ARC Grants Search.
  4. Data source: Web of Science, 2011–16.
  5. Early-career researcher figures are not collected for Research Infrastructure and Special Research Programs.
  6. The SIEF Impact Review is available at SIEF Annual Reports.

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