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, by providing assistance:

  • to persons engaged in scientific research
  • in the training of students in scientific research
  • CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall is Trustee of the SIEF, and awards funding to parties across the national innovation system. The Trustee seeks independent advice and recommendations on funding of proposals. CSIRO manages the Fund on behalf of the Trustee.

SIEF was rejuvenated by a gift from CSIRO of $150 million, resulting from the Fast WLAN patent litigation in 2009 (CSIRO Gift). In June 2018, CSIRO supplemented this with an additional $10 million, specifically to extend the Experimental Development Program for up to eight more years, from 1 July 2018. Under the CSIRO Gift, some of the programs operate on a competitive basis, others by invitation on the basis of identified needs – all applications are considered against rigorous merit criteria. The CSIRO Gift to 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.

In 2017, the NSW Department of Industry endowed $25 million over 10 years to SIEF, with the aim of attracting, supporting, retaining and training NSW students in the areas of STEM – thus increasing the supply of STEM-engaged students for the future workforce. CSIRO Education and Outreach facilitates the development and implementation of programs for school students and those engaged in higher and vocational education.

The contribution of research to solving issues of national importance can only be measured long term, but SIEF has developed several key performance indicators for its programs. As the funds available for allocation under the CSIRO Gift diminish and fewer new projects are commenced, some performance results will not change from previous years. New performance measures for the NSW STEM Initiative will be added once the program is fully established and operational.

This year, the CSIRO Gift programs continued to perform well. Table 6.1 provides an overview of the evidence against each performance criterion as published in the Portfolio Budget Statements, followed by a more detailed analysis and evidence.

Table 6.1: Summary of Performance
Performance criterion Target Result
Evidence of outcomes and impacts of funded projects as demonstrated by case study impact assessment, independent reviews and evaluations Minimum 1 case study G An independent case study of the Distal Footprints of Giant Ore Systems: UNCOVER Australia Project has found that the Project has developed an innovative approach that could allow resource discovery rates to increase significantly, even in areas where the cover over the top of the potential source is relatively deep. It has also supported the further development of a research concentration in Perth that is leading to additional investment in Western Australia’s geological researchcommunity.
Proportion of research projects involving more than one organisation >93% projects involve more than one organisation G SIEF has reached its target of 93% of projects involving more than one organisation. Since 2009, SIEF has successfully facilitated collaboration among 105 different organisations formally involved in SIEF-supported research. Notably, the STEM+ Business program is highly cooperative, with collaborators representing a mix of Australian universities, governments, industry and SMEs.
Utilisation of the research infrastructure as measured through time allocations >60% operational time used, 20% usage in collaborative projects G Overall utilisation of scheduled operating time has reached 60% for SIEF-funded Research Infrastructure equipment that has been fully commissioned. Usage in collaborative projects is limited at this stage, but will increase as equipment is progressively installed andcommissioned.

Green shading indicates positive progress for the year and the target has been achieved.

Evidence of outcomes and impacts of funded projects

In early 2018, ACIL Allen Consulting updated an earlier case study of the economic, environmental and social benefits of the SIEF-funded Research Project The Distal Footprints of Giant Ore Systems: UNCOVER Australia Project (RP04- 063), a collaboration among CSIRO, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and the Geological Survey of Western Australia. The case study1 found that the project has developed an innovative approach that could allow resource discovery rates to increase significantly, even in areas where the cover over the top of the potential source is relatively deep. Direct economic benefits will flow from the potentially increased economic activity generated by new mineral exploration opportunities in previously unexplored areas. The project has also encouraged a research concentration in Perth that is leading to additional investment in Western Australia’s geological research community, facilitated by the information and techniques emerging from the project. While the results of the project will initially be applied in Western Australia, the information and techniques emerging from it may promote investment opportunities for explorers in other mining regions.

A cost-benefit analysis is illustrative of the potential impact of this project. From early 2012 to late 2014, on average approximately 1,411 million metres of mineral exploration holes were drilled in Western Australia every year. The average cost of this drilling was $382 per metre. It is assumed that the SIEF-funded research results in miners having access to information that allows them to more accurately target their drilling activities, and that this results in a 1 per cent reduction in the distance drilled per year from 2021 to 2022 onwards, and that 50 per cent of these benefits are attributable to SIEF. Using conservative net present value calculation, the benefit cost ratio of the project is 4.14, increasing to 20.71 if the SIEF-funded research enables a 5 per cent reduction in drilling distance per year in Western Australia.

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 SIEFs primary objectives is to improve collaboration across the Australian Innovation System.

Ninety-three per cent of SIEF-supported activities involve more than one organisation and these research relationships foster communication, interaction and collaboration. Since 2009, 105 different organisations have been formally involved in one or more SIEF-funded projects, representing Australian universities, governments, industry, SMEs and overseas organisations. SIEF-funded activities support collaboration and innovation through a range of activities including the commercial-focused Experimental Development Program and by providing access to the latest-generation research technology via investments in the Research Infrastructure and Medium Equipment Program.

Co-authorship of publications reinforces collaboration and demonstrates that all contributing parties recognise the value of the research activity and its outputs. The number of publications emerging directly from SIEF-funded activity has been increasing over the life of SIEF-funded programs. From 2016–17 to 2017–18, publications output increased by 37 per cent, reflecting the maturity of the research projects and the strength of the collaborative relationships they established.

Utilisation of the research infrastructure as measured through time allocations

Since 2013, SIEF has invested $40.4 million in three major Research Infrastructure projects with the aim of developing and maintaining leading-edge research infrastructure and fostering collaboration across the national innovation system. These projects are the Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility in Perth, Monash MedTech (formerly, the Biomedical Translation Facility) in Melbourne and the National Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Precinct in Canberra. The sophisticated and complex sets of equipment funded under the Research Infrastructure projects represent major infrastructure investments and have progressively been installed, tested and commissioned, with several now online. Initial results suggest that utilisation of scheduled operating time is accelerating and is on track to reach targets set for two years post-commissioning. Notable highlights include 100 per cent utilisation of the Perth nanoSIMs and 70 per cent utilisation of the AtomProbe within months of commissioning. Mass spectrometry equipment in Canberra has also been in constant use with over 90 per cent utilisation. For the MR-PET and Hot Lab at Clayton, several clinician-researcher and industry-researcher projects are underway. Other collaborative projects are pending outcomes of joint grant applications and/or the full commissioning of equipment.

An independent external assessment of the performance of SIEF2 published in 2017 noted that SIEF Research Infrastructure investment has helped catalyse a further investment of close to $174 million from six other organisations (four universities, CSIRO and the Pawsey Centre). In effect, SIEF’s investment in these activities encouraged four-and-a-half times more investment by other parties.

The SIEF Medium Equipment Program (MEP) was launched in 2017 and is designed to address a gap in funding for equipment priced in the approximate range of $50,000 to $4 million. Projects funded under this Program are in early stages of procurement and installation in various research sites across Australia, and include cutting-edge equipment in acoustics, geosciences, digital agriculture research, genomics, oceanography, signal processing and industrial chemistry.

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