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ARC Mid-Career Industry Fellowships 2024

Results of the second round of the ARC Mid-Career Industry Fellowships (IM24) were announced on March 1, identifying 25 well deserved winners. With fewer applicants in 2024 than in 2023 (109 vs. 314), 2024 success rates were significantly higher (22.9% vs. 8.0%).



A picture is emerging of the characteristics these winners and their projects share with previous successful recipients. The following is a summary of publicly available data on successful IM24 fellows relative to the 4 key assessment criteria for the scheme. If you’re 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 successful application.


Track record


Let’s start by looking at the past track record characteristics of the winners. Applicant track record contributed towards Criterion 3: Candidate Capability, worth 25% of the total assessment score. To be eligible, fellows could apply if they have between 5-15 years research experience (taking career interruptions into consideration), however, most successful fellows were on the upper end of the scale, completing their PhD (on average) 15 years ago (min 9 years, max 21 years, Figure 1). This extra time translates into more opportunities to grow their research experience and portfolio, giving them a competitive advantage over more recent graduates. This is reflected in their impressive publication histories, ranging from 47 outputs all the way up to 335 (mean 140, Figure 2), with total citations ranging from 294 to 24,199 (mean 4,767, Figure 3). (All data obtained from Google Scholar.)


Figure 1. Publishing duration of IM24 fellows


Figure 2. Publishing outputs of IM24 fellows


Figure 3. Google Scholar citations of IM24 fellows


Fellow h-indices ranged from 9 to 78 (mean 32), with most falling within the 3 middle bands (Figure 4). This is relatively consistent with last year’s winners (mean 28, min 7, max 53). When benchmarking yourself against these statistics, it’s important to consider the conventions in your field – some disciplines have greater citation rates and h-index than others (e.g. engineering vs humanities), so make sure you are comparing apples with apples, not apples with oranges.


Figure 4. H-index of IM24 fellows


Prior funding success


The overall goal of the Industry Fellowship program is to foster two-way mobility and skill-building in collaboration, translation and commercialisation between academia and industry. It’s not surprising then that successful IM24 fellows showed strong evidence of previous experience and grant success in other industry-relevant funding schemes.


Most (20/25) had previously secured at least one type of Australian Government competitive funding, either from the ARC and/or NHMRC, with many securing multiple grants (Figure 5). Of these, the average number of Australian Government grants won was 4 (ranging from 0 to 15).


Figure 5. Previous Australian Government funding success of IM24 fellows


Further detail about IM24 fellows’ success in these grants:


- the greatest previous funding success was with ARC Discovery Projects (14/25). Most of these fellows (n=11) had secured more than 1, with 2 fellows holding 4 previous Discovery Projects

- similarly for ARC Linkage Projects, 12/25 fellows had previously won these partnership-based projects, with many having secured multiple Linkage Projects previously (n=9), and 1 fellow being involved in 6

- eight fellows were previous recipients of ARC DECRA or Future Fellowship funding, with 2 being awarded one of each

- ten fellows had previously held ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) funding

- seven fellows had been involved in larger, longer-term projects such as Industrial Transformation Research Hubs (ITRH), Industrial Transformation Training Centres (ITTC) or Cooperative Research Centres (CRC). These schemes are all strongly focused on industry-relevant research and collaborations

- two fellows had been involved with a Centre of Excellence to undertake innovative and potentially transformational research in collaboration with other researchers, government and business.


Fellows also showed a strong history of securing funding from other sources, specifically industry organisations (20/25) and international schemes (7/25).

Further indicators of their research having direct industry relevance was evidenced by some fellows producing reports for industry or stakeholders (16/25 ) or holding current patents, with 5 fellows holding between 1 and 10 patents, and one holding 33!


Evidence shows that past grant funding success is a strong predictor of future success, which was certainly the case for IM24 winners. All IM24 fellows showed evidence of prior grant success, with many of these clearly related to industry-focussed and collaborative schemes. These previous grant successes and project outcomes would have helped them address Criterion 1: Impact, by demonstrating their capability, experience and skills to generate commercially relevant outputs such as IP, form strong relationships with key industry bodies and undertake innovative and translational research with real world benefit.


Relationship with Key Industry Partner


An essential component of the Industry Fellowship scheme is the inclusion of at least one Key Industry Partner (KIP). Most fellows nominated between 1 (10/25) and 2 (9/25) KIPs, while 5 nominated 3 and one nominated 4. This is consistent with trends from IM23, where most (22/25) fellows nominated either 1 or 2 KIPs.

Fellows were required to demonstrate the strength of engagement between themselves and their chosen KIP as part of assessment Criteria 2 – Commitment and Alignment, including ‘previous projects (where applicable), and interactions to date on the proposed project’. Here’s what we found when looking for evidence of previous interaction between successful IM24 fellows and their chosen KIP, which is also summarised in Figure 6:


- many fellows (9/25) had secured Linkage Project funding involving their KIP, often in a similar area to their proposed IM23 fellowship. A further 3 fellows had been involved with an ITRH/ITTC with their KIP, and 2 had been involved in a Centre of Excellence. This trend is similar to what we saw with IM23 winners, where many had previous Linkage Projects or other ARC-funded projects with their KIP (9/25)

- fellows (5/25) had previously collaborated with their KIP on industry related projects, which included technology development/application. In some cases, the KIP had previously funded research projects completed by the fellow (2/25), or the fellow had provided consultancy/commission-based research for the KIP (2/25)

- collaboration with KIPs resulted in various co-authored outputs, including patents, publications and government submissions

- in some instances, the fellow was involved in the operation of the KIP, such as co-founding the company and serving as director, which was also evident in last year's successful fellows.


The evidence we found of the relationship strength between fellows and their KIPs varied, from weaker connections, such as being a speaker at a conference organised by the KIP, to more diamond strength relationships, such as collaborative projects spanning over 10 years. No clear relationship could be found between 2 fellows and their KIP, however, this may be a result of confidentiality restrictions on publicly available information or other limitations on what we could search for and find.


Figure 6. Word cloud of previous research activities and their frequency between IM24 Fellows and their Key Industry Partners


Project size


Fellows could apply for projects of 2-4 years duration, and up to $290k in project costs over the life of the project in addition to their salary. Most projects (18/25) were awarded for 4 years, 6 awarded for 3 years and 1 awarded for 2 years. This reflects a similar trend from last year’s IM23 fellows, where most (15/25) projects awarded were for 4 years.


Between 84%-100% of the maximum project funds were awarded, with the average project total per year being ~$279k, which includes salary and project costs. While there was no requirement for KIPs to contribute any cash to the project, most invested heavily, showing strong evidence of their commitment to the fellow and the project. In total, over $6.6M was pledged by KIPs in cash and $13.1M in-kind, representing an average of $267k cash and $526k in-kind. Administering organisations also made substantial cash and in-kind contributions to the projects, averaging just under $1.4M per project (average min $389k, average max $2.7M), showing strong on-going support for their fellows.


Feilds of research


As was seen with last year’s winners, several projects were awarded in traditional industry-focused disciplines, such as engineering (8) and agriculture (4). However, other disciplines, such as law and social sciences, were funded alongside STEM disciplines, such as IT, chemical and earth sciences, thus showcasing the industry relevance of a wide range of research areas (Figure 7).


Figure 7. Fields of research of IM24 projects


Summary


Our analysis over the past 2 years of the ARC Mid-Career Industry Fellowship program shows that successful applicants share exceptional academic track records, strong, mature relationships with their KIPs, reflected by successful Cat 1 or industry-funded projects, and various co-produced outputs, demonstrating their capability to undertake industry-relevant innovative and translational research with potential for commercialisation.


In addition to the fellow’s individual achievements and industry involvement, we know from projects we reviewed that successful fellows put together clear and logical applications that explained the significance of the problem they intended to solve and their innovative approach to solving it, as well as their expected outcomes and plans to translate project findings into industry relevant benefits (Criterion 1: Impact).


In their 2-page CV, they provided evidence of their ability to lead research projects in collaboration with industry and/or other research end-user groups (Criterion 3: Candidate Capability). Successful applications also showed strong evidence of being co-developed with their KIP, detailing the design, method and delivery of the research and involvement of the KIPs’ staff and resources (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 hello@thegrantedgroup.com.au to start the conversation.

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