The scope of a competitive grants scheme has been questioned after it was revealed university research and development supporting grants totalled $22 million less in 2012 than in 2011, despite the government’s heavy focus on this area.
According to the Australian Research Council website, linkage grants totaled $123.6 million in 2011, but only $101.2 million this year.
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The Linkage Projects scheme provides funding to eligible organisations to support R&D projects that are collaborative between higher education researchers and other organisations, including industry and end-users.
Funding proposals must include at least one Australian partner organisation, which is required to make a significant contribution in cash and/or in kind that is at least equal to the ARC funding.
A project may be applied for, and awarded funding, for a minimum of two to a maximum of three consecutive years.
While university leaders have raised concerns about the whereabouts of the Linkage funds, it’s understood some may have been redirected to the Industrial Transformation Research Program.
Announced in December 2011, the Industrial Transformation Research Program is a new component in ARC’s Linkage program.
The ITRP will see the Federal Government invest $236 million in R&D partnerships in a bid to help industries thrive in a “richer, fairer and greener Australia”.
The program consists of industrial transformation research hubs and industrial transformation training centres.
Up to 20 research hubs will be established nationwide, with initial funding for up to five years. Every year, each hub will receive up to $1 million, which will be matched by industry partners.
Meanwhile, the transformation centres are designed to encourage research in areas such as engineering, nanotechnology, communications, chemical engineering and biotechnology.
Up to 50 centres will be established nationwide, with up to $1 million per year provided for each centre for up to three years. The 50 centres will be selected over a five-year period.
Les Field, deputy vice-chancellor of research at the University of NSW, criticised a decision to change the project grant timetable from twice a year to once a year.
“Industry finds it difficult to understand how you can have one round a year, which effectively makes it an 18-month cycle between applying for a grant and actually getting the money,” Field told The Australian Financial Review.
“Industry moves at a much faster pace than that. The two rounds a year at least started to address that.”