With the announcement by the ARC of the Mid-Career Industry Fellowship (IM23) Fellows on April 24, 2023, we now have a better idea of the calibre and experience of successful awardees. So, what can we glean from looking in depth at the successful 2023 Mid-Career Industry Fellows? If you are considering an application in the next round, or unfortunately missed out this year, this information may help you benchmark your track record and put you on the right path towards a more successful application.
Who received these fellowships and what characteristics can we uncover from taking a deep dive into their track records?
University or industry-based researchers?
While the Industry Fellowship Program aims to ‘create a pathway to support academic researchers in establishing careers in industry, and industry-based researchers to work in university settings, with the aim of increased two-way mobility and skill-building in research collaboration, translation and commercialisation’ – all 25 IM23 awardees were university-based researchers.
Some researchers had strong industry backgrounds and at least one was funded in an industry-based position inside their university. However, at least in this first round, it appears that much of the mobility is from university to industry rather than the other way around.
Traditional outputs/publication metrics
Looking at the traditional metrics often used to assess the track record of academic researchers – their total number of publications, cites and h-index – we found a broad range among the successful fellows (Figure 1). The total number of publications ranged from 31 to 345 (mean number of 120), total cites ranged from 148 to 11,274 (mean value of 3,373) and h-index ranged from 7 to 53 (mean value of 28) – all values obtained from Google Scholar except for one fellow (data obtained from Scopus).
Although there was a wide range of h-index values for successful fellows (Figure 1), the data was normally distributed around the mean value of 28 (max 53, min 7) and there were no major outliers. These values are reasonably consistent with our evaluation of the equivalent mid-career ARC Future Fellows, which showed a mean h-index value of around 29, but with a much wider range (max of 108!). We will see below that some of the new Mid-Career Industry Fellows also experienced prior Future Fellow success.
Around half of successful fellows (13/25) had patents in their publication/track record– some had several.
In a scheme where Impact (worth 25%) is one of the key assessment criteria (and especially assessment of ‘the appropriateness, completeness and effectiveness of proposed pathways to impact, and related activities to support research translation, adoption and/or commercialisation, including IP management’), we would expect that past evidence of IP generation would be a good indicator of likely future impact from the current proposal.
However, not all research funded in the current round is in areas that would likely result in patentable technologies. For those fellows without patents, what evidence do we have of their potential for research translation, adoption and/or commercialisation?
For fellows without patents, we found that the majority had evidence of research reports, industry reports, commissioned reports or other industry-relevant outputs such as apps or research tools – often many reports and other outputs were listed. This indicates significant activity by successful fellows in this space.
There were few fellows for which we could not find specific evidence of either patents or industry reports in their publicly available information – we can only assume they probably have too many to list them all. Alternatively, some of these outputs may be confidential and not suitable to appear on public-facing webpages.
Prior funding success
A dive into the fellows’ previous funding success found:
Other fellowships and ARC grant success
Mid-Career Fellowship awardees often had success in other ARC Fellowship schemes – 8 of 25 had been DECRA or Future Fellows, while at least one had previous NHMRC Career Development Fellowship success.
Many (10/25) had prior ARC Linkage Project success, and most (17/25) had prior ARC Discovery Project success.
Three fellows were involved with other Linkage Scheme programs such as the Industrial Transformation Research Program – a scheme that supports university-based researchers and industry to work together to address strategic government priorities to transform Australian industries and to train the next generation of industry-focused research capability.
Three fellows were also part of ARC Centres of Excellence – these Centres support significant collaborations between universities, publicly funded research organisations, other research bodies, government and businesses in Australia and overseas to undertake innovative and potentially transformational research – well aligned with the Industry Fellowship objective of strengthening the (industry) collaboration skills of mid-career researchers.
Six successful fellows had previous success with CRC or CRC-P funding – CRC grants support short (CRC-P) or medium to long-term industry-led research collaborations to solve industry identified problems.
Many fellows (at least 12/25) had prior industry-specific funding – and in some cases, this was directly linked with the current proposal.
Several successful fellows had international funding – again, in some cases, this was directly linked with the current proposal.
In summary, the 2023 Mid-Career Industry Fellows had a wide range of prior success in traditional competitive Category 1 grant funding (i.e. ARC and NHMRC), and diverse engagement with industry-related funding ranging from industry-commissioned projects through to large-scale research centres (represented in Figure 2).
Relationship with the identified industry partner(s)
A key component of the assessment criteria is Criterion 2: Commitment and Alignment – exemplified by the ‘strength of engagement between the Fellow and the Key Industry Partner, including previous projects (where applicable), and interactions to date on the proposed project’.
We looked at what evidence we could find of past engagement of successful fellows with their identified Key Industry Partners. For most fellows this was only one industry partner (12/25), however, others had 2 partners (10/25), 2 fellows partnered with 3 organisations each, and one fellow had 4 partners.
Several fellows had either current or recent Linkage Projects with their proposed Key Industry Partner.
Several of the identified CRC or CRC-P projects were also with the fellowship Key Industry Partners.
Some researchers were involved with or had founded startup companies or organisations that are Key Industry Partners.
As mentioned above, a couple of fellows were employed as industry-funded researchers within their institutions or supported through industry fellowships – with these industry partners now supporting the Mid-Career Industry fellow as the Key Industry Partner. Some fellows’ institutions also have strategic partnerships with the Key Industry Partner – indicating a maturity of relationship between the institution and the Key Industry Partner.
Some fellows were involved in oversight of their Key Industry Partners, such as chairing or sitting on boards or committees.
In only 2 instances could we not find a direct link between the fellow and the Key Industry Partner, but this might reflect confidentiality restrictions on publicly available information or other limitations on what we could search and find.
Field of research
We looked at the range of research fields in which funding was awarded. Unsurprisingly, many (16/25) projects were in traditional industry-focussed research fields, such as engineering (9), chemical sciences (3), biological sciences (2) and environmental sciences (2). However, projects in other areas such as psychology, language, communication and culture, and human society also featured alongside ones inagriculture and physical sciences (Figure 3).
Overall, we found that successful IM23 fellows had exceptional academic track records and strong, mature relationships with their Key Industry Partners, reflected by successful Cat 1 or industry-funded projects. This reflects the potential of these fellows and their projects to build the relationship between the industry partner and research organisation, as well as extend these relationships to the wider research community (Criterion 1: Impact).
Presumably their applications, including the CV, described past projects and provided excellent evidence of their demonstrated capability to lead research projects in collaboration with industry and/or other research end-user groups (Criterion 3: Candidate Capability).
We know it was important and an expectation that the fellows worked closely with the Key Industry Partner in drafting the application–and that the application described the involvement of the Key Industry Partners’ staff and resources in the design, method and delivery of the research (Criterion 4: Research Quality and Innovation).
Are you thinking about applying for the next round of ARC Mid-Career Industry Fellowships? If you would like to discuss our strategic review service or learn about the range of services we offer, including our grant development coaching programs for grant submissions, such as the ARC’s Industry Fellowships Scheme, email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.