Grants: UNSW tops state in ARC Discovery funding

Tuesday, 3 November, 2015
Myles Gough

UNSW scientists have contributed to the University winning the highest amount of Australian Research Council funding in the state, with more than $36 million awarded in the federal government’s annual grant programs.

The University has been awarded 67 ARC Discovery Project Grants worth $25.1 million, and 19 Discovery Early Career Research Awards, worth more than 6.5 million. In each category, the University ranks first in state, and third nationally.  

UNSW has also secured nine ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grants totalling more than $4.2 million, the second highest total in Australia (though the total income is distorted by a $13 million astronomy grant, administered by ANU on behalf of the entire country).

Four UNSW researchers have been awarded prestigious Discovery Project grants totalling more than $600,000, including Professor Oleg Sushkov, of the School of Physics, who is developing novel quantum materials.

“The Discovery Projects scheme allows researchers to take an idea and investigate—and while the impact of the outcome may not be evident for many years following, the initial support … is critical,” said Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, when announcing the funding outcomes.

The Group of Eight (Go8) and UNSW have continued to perform well despite a 20% decrease in the total ARC funding allocated for 2016 compared to 2015, which has resulted in fewer grants across the board,

Nineteen UNSW researchers have won Discovery Early Career Research Awards, which are given to the best and brightest young researchers. Seven of these grant winners came from the Faculty of Science, including chemist Dr Neeraj Sharma, who is developing sodium batteries, which essentially run on seawater.   

In the ARC Linkages scheme, Professor Chris Tinney and Dr Robert Wittenmyer from the School of Physics have partnered to win two LIEF grants worth a combined total of $1.35 million.

The first grant, valued at $800,000, will help fund the construction of MINERVA-Australia: a Southern Hemisphere multi-telescope observational facility that will help astronomers study extra-solar planets, likely to be discovered by future space missions.

The second grant will help fund the development of new instruments, which can determine whether these far-flung planets are earth-like and habitable.