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FAQ: Global Centers

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency funded by the US Government to direct scientific discovery and technological innovation. Its FY23 budget was US$9.5 billion and it is the funding source for 25 per cent of basic research in America’s colleges and universities. A strategic partnership with NSF is the most direct way for CSIRO to connect Australian research institutions and the innovation ecosystem to top US talent, world-leading laboratories, facilities and collaborate with industry.

As the Australian agency that is making funding available for the NSF Global Centres through the National Missions Collaboration Program, CSIRO has determined the rules and criteria under which Australian participation would be funded in the program. To ensure that Australia’s participation in the Global Centers achieves maximum impact, CSIRO will support proposals that complement and deliver on the objectives of one of the clean energy and climate change related Missions that have been identified.

The following four missions have been identified as having the most potential for high impact collaborative work that is aligned with the Global Centres themes: Towards Net Zero, Smart Energy, Renewable Energy Powerhouse, and Hydrogen Industry. Applications are sought in the six focus areas that have been developed by these missions: Pathways to Net Zero, Net Zero Regional Transitions, Reducing Methane Emissions, Integrated Energy Systems Intelligence, Critical Energy Minerals and Energy Storage, Scaling Clean Hydrogen Markets. Applicants should note that the NSF merit review will take CSIRO preferred mission themes and proposal alignment into consideration as part of the assessment process and this process will operate at arms’ length from CSIRO.

Although proposals that are aligned with other relevant missions will not be excluded from consideration, and Australian applicants are very welcome to join other global centres applications, they will not be eligible for funding from the National Missions Collaboration Program.

In addition to the NSF in the US and CSIRO in Australia, the other partners in the Global Centers are Canada’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the United Kingdon’s UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

No money will cross borders to facilitate this program. For successful applications, the partner agencies will fund the activities of participants from their own country.

CSIRO is contributing a total of $AUD7 million over 5 years from 2023—24 to 2027-28 to the Global Centers program.

NSF anticipates making awards of up to USD $5 million each, with international funding agencies expected to support roughly comparable effort by their own researchers. The total funding from CSIRO will be at a maximum of AUD $7m over five years for Australian participants in the Global Centers.

Australian-based applicants are encouraged to participate in other programs that complement, support and/or contribute to the Global Centers program objectives, including other Commonwealth grants. However, grant funding through the Global Centers cannot be used to fund the same activities previously funded or currently being funded through any other Commonwealth grant.

For Australia-based applicants, cost-sharing and industry co-investment in Global Centers is encouraged. Seeking and securing industry co-investment in Global Centers demonstrates the capability to collaboratively develop and deliver impactful science and research outcomes that address areas of national interest, priorities, and challenges with key organisations across the innovation ecosystem. Applicants should detail any cost-sharing or industry co-investment in the budget only (provided as part of the application supplementary information, details via the NSF website).

At a minimum, Australian participants must partner with at least one U.S. institution. Partnerships involving the U.S., Australia and the UK or Canada, and multiple partners or constituencies are encouraged. Beyond these countries, proposals may also involve partnership with stakeholders in other countries around the globe, provided that researchers from countries other than FY2023 partner countries secure their own sources of funding.

Applicants will need to demonstrate IP arrangements between themselves as part of the application process. It is recognised that US-government funded entities will be subject to significant constraints and IP generated through projects with these entities may be significantly encumbered or (in line with NSF’s expectations) required to be disseminated.

Consortium applications are submitted by the eligible US-based applicant to the NSF. Australia-based applicants should consult the Global Centers Program Solicitation Document.

After the submission deadline (11 May 2023 AEST), NSF will share with CSIRO a list of Australian proposal titles, researchers, and their institutions, in order for CSIRO to undertake an initial eligibility check. The check is limited to determining eligibility as outlined Sections 5.2 and 5.3 of the NSF Global Centers Guidelines. The latest guidelines version can be found on CSIRO Global Centers.

Successful Australia-based applicants will enter into a grant agreement with CSIRO. The CSIRO grant agreement will specify the terms and conditions of grants. Details on expectations and requirements of recipients are available in the CSIRO Global Centers Guidelines.

The center may be completely virtual, or it may have a physical central location; however, the Global Centers Program will not fund the building of a new physical infrastructure.

The Global Centers program is an NSF-led effort, implemented in partnership with like-minded international funders. NSF will lead the application and selection processes.

CSIRO will define the Australian participation requirements for solicitation, contribute and administer funding to the Australian side of successful proposals and connect the Australian research ecosystem with this global science opportunity. CSIRO will also ensure ongoing post-award management to ensure continued alignment of funded proposals with CSIRO missions.

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